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ABC is gearing up for its next season of The Bachelor.
The 26th season of the long-running reality dating show has yet to be officially renewed by the network, but the search for the franchise’s next leading man has already concluded.
The star for season 26 is a contestant who will compete on the upcoming season of The Bachelorette with Michelle Young, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. Production is set to start at the end of September, with the season expected to air in January 2022.
ABC and show producers Warner Bros. TV declined to comment.
The decision to cast a yet-to-be-known suitor from Young’s season before it even premieres — on Oct. 19 — will come as a surprise to Bachelor Nation. This year brought about two seasons of The Bachelorette and, with Katie Thurston’s season having already aired, viewers of the franchise had thrown their collective social media support behind season standouts Andrew Spencer, Michael Allio and controversial runner-up Greg Grippo, all of whom ended up self-eliminating during Thurston’s run.
Both Spencer and Grippo, as well as several men from Thurston’s season, were on the shortlist for Bachelor 26, sources say. However, the story of one of Young’s soon-to-be exes is said to have resonated most with producers, who leaned toward giving the newcomer a second chance.
With The Bachelor readying to go into production, Bachelor Nation should also expect a host announcement in coming weeks. After Chris Harrison’s departure, former leads Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe stepped in to host both seasons of The Bachelorette, while franchise alum Wells Adams expanded his role from bartender to “master of ceremonies” on the currently airing seventh season of summer spinoff Bachelor in Paradise. Meanwhile, the search for a more permanent host of the valuable ABC franchise has continued.
When Young’s season launches, the runner-up from Matt James’ season of The Bachelor will become the third female lead of color. Her season also brings about a milestone for the franchise, as season 18 will cross the show over its 200th episode.
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