"The Bachelor" is a huge hit, but the franchise also has a huge problem: the reality dating show has been slammed for years for its lack of diversity.
With over a decade of "The Bachelor" (which just entered its 20th season with white leading man Ben Higgins) and 11 seasons of the female-led "Bachelorette," only one non-white lead has been featured in Season 18 of the flagship series with the Latino Juan Pablo Galavis — and he put the show at the center of controversy with anti-gay remarks.
Critics and fans have been highly vocal of the lack of diverse leads, namely a black "Bachelor," but on Saturday at the Television Critics Association, ABC boss Paul Lee teased a change may come in the franchise's next season.
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"We're doing a whole lot of tweaks," Lee told reporters after his executive session at the Pasadena, Calif. press tour. "We have the farm team, right, which allows us to then pick the next one. But I'd be very surprised if 'The Bachelorette' in the summer isn't diverse. I think that's likely ... The tweaks that Mike Fleiss has put in place will get us where we want to go."
The "farm team" Lee referred to is the crop of more than 25 contestants per season, which has always featured diverse casting — but for the current season, only three women of color are in the cast. Typically, the next "Bachelor" or "Bachelorette" is chosen from the previous season's "farm team."
Earlier this week at TCA, Lifetime's scripted dramedy "UnReal" — which famously pokes fun at reality dating shows, like "The Bachelor" — presented a panel in anticipation of the series' second season. At the panel, it was revealed that the star of Season 2 will be a black "Bachelor"-type, and casting is currently underway.
"There are few things more pressing than this conversation," "UnReal's" exec producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro said at TCA. "I've heard appalling things about race all the time."
The announcement for the next "Bachelorette" likely will not come until after "The Bachelor" wraps its current season in March.