Renton’s Katie Thurston is the star of the newest season of “The Bachelorette,” debuting 8 p.m. Monday, June 7, on ABC. Here are four things to watch for when her season starts.
#1: There’s back-to-back Bachelorettes! Normally, one season of “The Bachelorette” is followed by a season of “The Bachelor,” nominally led by a rose-less lad from the previous “The Bachelorette.” But this year, Thurston’s season will be followed by a second “The Bachelorette,” led by Minnesota teacher Michelle Young, the runner-up on Matt James’ season earlier this year.
#2: No Chris Harrison: One of the big stories of James’ season was the departure of longtime host and franchise stand-in dad figure Harrison, who announced he was “stepping away for a period of time” after a controversial interview with former “Bachelorette” star Rachel Lindsay. Harrison was attempting to defend then-current contestant (and eventual winner) Rachael Kirkconnell against criticism of racial insensitivity after photos surfaced of her at an antebellum party and dressed in costume as a Native American, and for some past social-media behavior. (Kirkconnell later issued an apology.) Harrison heatedly called those critics “the woke police” and yelled at Lindsay, the first Black lead of the entire franchise, when she tried to explain her perspective. (Harrison later apologized.)
#3: Two, two, two hosts in one: ABC’s creative solution to losing such an embedded franchise member, at least temporarily, was to swap in two others: former “Bachelorette” leads Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe, who will co-host both Thurston’s and Young’s seasons. “I can see Katie opening up more naturally to Kaitlyn and Tayshia,” says “Baby Got Bach” podcast host Brett Vergara. “I think, too, that they’ll be able to give her advice that’s more intimate and accurate.”
#4: “The Bachelorette” will likely be more socially aware: A franchise that once had a near-naked bungee-jumping date wouldn’t be expected to be a leading light in social discourse. Yet “The Bachelor” shows have had to respond to the fallout from Harrison’s comments and the controversy surrounding Kirkconnell (who has since reunited with James), as well as general ongoing dissatisfaction among some fans with the handling of racial issues. Harrison was replaced in the “After the Final Rose” special last time with former NFL lineman and “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” host Emmanuel Acho for a very uncomfortable conversation with James and Kirkconnell. Casting Young, who is biracial, as the year’s second Bachelorette, and a diversity among Katie’s suitors, implies at least a surface acknowledgment of change.