A new era of The Bachelor is upon us. After more than two decades at the helm of ABC’s reality dating show juggernaut, creator Mike Fleiss and his franchise are breaking up. The news arrives a day after the conclusion of Zach Shallcross’s season of The Bachelor, which had an uneven, albeit happy ending.
“First and foremost, congratulations are in order for Zach and Kaity [Biggar]. I wish them a long and happy life together. I want to thank WBTV and ABC for 21 extraordinary years. They’ve found the perfect creative team for me to entrust The Bachelor franchise and keep this lightening in a bottle bold and moving forward. Let the journey continue,” Fleiss said in a statement to Deadline. (Vanity Fair has reached out to reps for ABC and Fleiss for additional comment.)
Fleiss is passing the baton to Claire Freeland, showrunner of Canada’s The Bachelor; Jason Ehrlich, showrunner on multiple seasons of the series and its spinoffs; and Bennett Graebner, a veteran executive producer on the series. The next season of The Bachelorette, starring Charity Lawson, is currently filming and premieres in June.
Before creating The Bachelor, which debuted in 2002, and The Bachelorette, which followed a year later, Fleiss was a creative mind on reality series including Who Wants To Marry A Multi-Millionaire and High School Reunion. “I like to take a topic that someone says, ‘You can’t put that on TV,’ and then I put it on TV,” he told Vanity Fair in 2003. “I want to feel a little bit dangerous, a tiny bit irresponsible probably, and that usually equals controversy, and that’s sort of my stock-in-trade.”
If controversy is what Fleiss sought, then his reputation with The Bachelor franchise was successful. The colorful creator, a second cousin of renowned former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, has weathered his fair share of professional and personal scandal. Over the years, he feuded with the Kardashians, his own talent, and even fellow ABC stalwart Kelly Ripa. After the Live host criticized his series, Fleiss replied with a scorching tweet: “The Bachelor franchise pays your salary.”
When asked about the show’s glaring lack of diversity back in 2011, he told Entertainment Weekly, “We always want to cast for ethnic diversity, it’s just that for whatever reason, they don’t come forward. I wish they would.” During the same interview, Fleiss said of The Bachelor that “the romance space is ours”—a statement that holds far less weight in 2023 as evidenced by the show’s waning ratings and critical reception. If anything, Fleiss’s legacy may be the scores of hit reality dating series that now compete against The Bachelor, including Love Is Blind, Married at First Sight, Temptation Island, and Love Island, to name just a few.