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'The Bachelor' host Chris Harrison talks about Ben Flajnik's season


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/13/2012 

The Bachelor star Ben Flajnik ended his second search for love on TV by rejecting Lindzi Cox and proposing to controversial bachelorette Courtney Robertson during Monday night's finale broadcast of the ABC reality dating franchise's sixteenth edition.

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During a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, The Bachelor host Chris Harrison reflected on the conclusion of Ben's season and the life-altering decisions he has made in selecting Courtney amidst media scrutiny and public outcry. In the call, Chris talked to Reality TV World about whether he could see Ben and Courtney having a lasting relationship and if he was surprised they chose to get re-engaged, why he didn't press Ben on his alleged cheating scandals and published promiscuous photos, and how The Bachelor's producers decided to make Emily Maynard the next Bachelorette instead of any of the high-caliber girls in Ben's current season.

Below is the first half of Chris' interview. Check back with Reality TV World on Wednesday for the second portion.  In the meantime, also read our separate interview with Lindzi.

Reality TV World: Now that the season is over and you got to talk to both Ben and Courtney during the After the Final Rose special, do you think Courtney and Ben have a good chance at lasting and eventually getting married? And based on all the drama they went through together, were you surprised that Ben put the engagement ring back on Courtney's finger when you offered it to them?

Chris Harrison: No, I mean, I guess yes and no. I didn't know which way it was going to go. I didn't know if he was actually going to put the ring back on her finger. I thought they would, at the very least, continue to see each other and try and make this work. Again, you go back to that big question of, "Will it work?" And who knows. Maybe it is crazy enough to work between the two of them.

The easy thing to say is "no." It's a low-hanging fruit and it's very simple to say that any couple anywhere in the world will never last. It's an easy thing. The more bold and daring thing to say is, "Maybe they will work. Maybe they'll have a chance at making it." It's really up to them now and that's where nobody can if it's going to work or not, because it all depends on the effort they give.

What are they going to put into this now? How hard are they going to try to see each other and be in the same city? Because if they are apart a lot, then the tabloids, the stories, and all that, they'll drift apart again. So, it's kind of up to them to write the rest of the story and it's really up to them to put the effort in.

Reality TV World: During the After the Final Rose special, you asked Ben about the Us Weekly photos in which he was shown kissing other women and he gave a kind of hard-to-believe answer that what was shown in the photos wasn't kissing even though that seemed to be very clear in at least some of the photos. So had you not actually seen the photos before you talked to Ben about them or was there some other reason why you didn't ask him to elaborate on his explanation -- or did you actually ask, but it was cut during the editing process?

Chris Harrison: So sadly enough, and maybe I probably should have, but I don't -- and maybe this is a bad thing to admit while I'm on a conference call -- I don't really look at those magazines. I don't read any magazines, especially tabloid stuff. Honestly, I read like Men's Health and Golf Digest, and that's about it (laughs) as far as magazines go.

So I never saw the pictures. I don't really -- I didn't care. I've seen them since. Someone gave them to me when I hosted Access Hollywood Live the other day and it did. It looked very compelling and it looked -- it put him in a bad light. I could see why everybody was so upset, but I also know that -- and I don't know the explanation, whether it's true, false or not -- I'll take Ben at his word.

But I also know that one picture in a moment of time captured is -- God, I mean there by a gracious God, it could have happened to me a million times over the last 10 years while I've been hosting the show. Apparently she was a very good friend of his -- is what he said and whatever explanation that he gave.

So, I'll take his word for it, but no. I finally just saw it well after the show. I didn't know about the wedding dress pictures either. I mean, I had heard about them, but I've never seen them.

Reality TV World: How did you discover that Ben and Courtney had already broken up once during the season, and were you shocked or not when you found out?

Chris Harrison: I wasn't shocked. I was a little disappointed and I was disappointed to hear that, first of all let me back up because your first question was, "How did I find out?" The producers told me.

They keep in touch and they're the ones who help with the rendezvous and put everything together. Somebody called and told me that they're not doing very well and they maybe were kind of -- Ben wasn't responding very well -- and that was really my question, was, "What's going on?"

They said, "Ben's really the one that backed off and is the one not really responding to her." And I was definitely surprised and a little bit disappointed to hear that he was the one that had backed away.

Although understandable, I know he got caught up in it all and he was listening to Courtney's -- and watching the show and watching what Courtney was saying and they were reading the tabloids and it was tough for him too.

I just wished he had chosen to go in the opposite direction and let it bond them together and circle the wagon, and unfortunately, they went their separate ways in the middle. But he apologized and he's seen the error of his ways, and hopefully, they'll be stronger for it later.

Reality TV World: During the After the Final Rose taping, Ben said a big issue he had during the season was that he wasn't able to talk his problems out with Courtney face-to-face, but now that they're going to remain together, we didn't see anything about whether Courtney plans on moving to San Francisco. So could you clarify that now? Are you aware of any plans like that?

Chris Harrison: Yeah, no. Their plan right now -- this is where the big question comes in -- they're not moving in together per se. He's keeping his place because obviously he works up in Sonoma/San Francisco and she's in Santa Monica.

And so, they're going to kind of go back and forth. When she's in Santa Monica, he'll be down there a lot and when he's up in San Francisco and has to work, she'll be going up there. So they're going to kind of split between the two cities.

Again, the big question is that's fine, but as long as they're going to put in the work and the time and the effort and actually be together, then this will work and they have a great shot. Again, if they take time and spend it apart and keep separating, then they'll drift apart and drift further apart than they are.

So, again, it's kind of up to them to write their own story and see how bad do they want this? We'll see. Only time will tell.

Reality TV World: It's unprecedented what The Bachelorette is doing next season in choosing Emily Maynard as the next star of the show instead of a girl from the most recent season. What made you decide that Emily would make a better bachelorette than Lindzi, Kacie Boguskie, Emily O'Brien, or one of the other girls from Ben's season?

Chris Harrison: When we made the decision, we really weren't comparing them to a Lindzi or Kacie B., because at the time, we didn't even know who the big stories or who the frontrunners would be for Ben, because we made this decision a long time ago.

It was really just knowing that Emily was lightning in a bottle. She is just such a compelling story, an amazing woman and has so much to offer in the way of just great storytelling. I think it is going to be very telling for -- and I don't know if it's for the reasons that people see -- I think that people see this beautiful blonde and she was on [Brad Womack]'s season.

But what I see is this single mom and we've never done that before, and that's really what I find interesting -- the double standard. When you have Jason Mesnick and all of the fans go, "Oh, look at the sweet single dad. It's so cute!"

Well, Emily's not really getting the same reaction. Why doesn't she deserve the "Ooh's and Ahhs." Instead it's, "Oh, what is she doing coming back?" And "What's she doing with her kid and night parenting?"

So the double standard against the single mom is very compelling to me, and as we head into these dates, these guys are going to have to realize, "This isn't a frat house. This is a single mom. This is a family," and we're going to incorporate that into the show -- like her daily life and what she has to do.

It's not always pretty. I mean, I have two kids and I'll tell you right now, it's not always sexy and it's not always fun. So it'll be interesting to see if some of these guys get into this and say, "Hey, this isn't what I signed up for. I'm out of here!" And I'll be interested to see if we don't have some fallouts this season.

Also in the call, Chris told reporters how awkward it was to offer Ben and Courtney the bachelorette's engagement ring back and why he believed so many Bachelors tend to pick the "bad girl" over the sweet, nice girls.

Are you rooting Ben and Courtney to stay together as a couple or do you think they're not right for each other?

Chris Harrison: No, of course I'm rooting them on, you know? Why wouldn't you? I know that she wasn't the most popular choice and if you put it to America's vote maybe she wouldn't have been it, but I think the important thing and the great thing about this show is that it's Ben's choice.

And so, why not respect that? Who am I not to respect that? And so, of course I wish them the best. And the million dollar question of, "Will they make it?" Who knows. Who's to say which couples make it in life, but I do. I wish them the very best.

Was it awkward for you to take out Courtney's engagement ring during the After the Final Rose special?

Chris Harrison: Yeah, in 10 years of doing this show, that never happened before. Usually the couples are either broken up or they're together and you know definitively one way or the other. And really, for the first time, I did not know how the show was going to go. So it was very awkward holding that ring and handing it to them. But even in handing it to them, I wasn't sure what was going to happen.

It was a really awkward moment. I think it was a pivotal moment and showing them their proposal again and getting them back in that space and remembering what it was all about and how happy they were -- but putting the ring back on her finger, it turned out to be a beautiful moment. But I guess it could have gone in the opposite direction.

There tends to be a pattern on The Bachelor in which the final two women consist of one bad girl and one sweet girl. However, the guy most often picks the bad girl, so why do you think that is and do you think picking the bad girl will ever work out in the end?

Chris Harrison: Maybe because guys are dumb. I think we've been found out that we're not very smart animals. (Laughs)

No, you go back to [Jake Pavelka] and [Vienna Girardi]'s season and I'm trying to think if there were any others on the top of my head who were kind of the "good girl" versus "evil" so to speak, but this season, I think more than that, when you look at Ben and Courtney, the kind of profound moment in the interview is when we both kind of talked about how quirky they are. They are.

They're both kind of quirky people and in a weird way, they very much fit. He really liked the way that Courtney challenged him and she never took what he calls "the Ben pill" and just went with the status quo. She always challenged the whole thing and he really liked that about her.

I think it was something that didn't quite come across on television, and obviously we were all kind of caught up in the emotion of Courtney and what she was doing.

What was it like to attempt to conduct the interview with Ben and Courtney when there was so much tension in the room between Courtney and the women in the audience?

Chris Harrison: Man, that was a really interesting situation. When you bring someone out, you kind of just assume that there's going to be the obligatory applause and there was more applause -- I mean, there was more smattering of booze than there were applause. So, it was really awkward.

I felt kind of bad for her, you know? -- Not that maybe she didn't deserve it to a certain extent and she brings it on herself -- but you still feel bad when the "happy couple" or the "supposedly happy couple" walks out and people are booing them. It's tough and it just goes to show what accord this show strikes and how emotional it is for everybody involved -- not just people on it but the viewers as well.

(Photo credit ABC)


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