It's hard to believe that it's been nearly a decade of roses, tears and broken engagements, but Chris Harrison, who's been the face of "The Bachelor" franchise since it began in 2002, promises that the upcoming Season 16 will be the best yet -- with a little help from a grandmother named Sheryl, of course.
"We might have outdone ourselves this season," Harrison told The Huffington Post. "I will say this about the grandmother that gets out of the car: It made for a fun, sensational ad, and obviously, it worked because people are talking. But people should know that we would never take up a spot on the show as a cocktail joke. It definitely was funny, but it has much more meaning than you see in the ad. There's something very sweet and romantic about it."
After a decade of tearful drama, Harrison switched it up in November and debuted a new feel-good game show, "You Deserve It," where each week, a contestant tries to win money for someone in their life who they would like to reward. Okay, so maybe there will still be some tears.
I have to say, the last time I ever got really into a game show like this was "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"
I think that if you're a game show fan, I think that the game carries itself and it's fun to play, and I think that you'll be satisfied. But it's much more than a game show. It's almost more of a reality show. It's driven by the stories, and that's what sets it apart from other game shows.
Last week, I was actually screaming Betty White at my TV like I thought the contestant could hear me. I wanted her to say Betty White so badly.
That's the thing! The people playing aren't playing for themselves, so that changes the pressure. I think it's so easy to gamble when it's you and it's your loss. But when you're losing for someone like [that contestant's] brother Randall, who has given so much for our country, it just changes everything. She knew a couple of the answers, but she took an extra clue just to be safe. It just gets in your head, and you don't want to disappoint them.
If I'm a wreck watching the show, you must be biting your tongue throughout the entire show.
As the host, I definitely have a tough time trying to walk that line of helping them, but not helping them too much, and you didn't get to see a lot of the game play. I'll walk them through the clues, trying to help them paint that picture. It's frustrating to me, too. I got Betty White very quickly. I don't know the answers going in, but that was one that I got right away, after the Snickers clue. It hit me very quickly, but -- and this is what I love about the game -- that clue didn't mean anything to her. She didn't know there was a Snickers commercial. It's funny that one clue could totally solve everything for you, but it through her for a loop. I had to use everything in my power not to scream, 'Betty White!' I just want them to win too.
Did you have to play the game before you got the job?
I knew about the game beforehand, but I remember sitting in a boardroom with the producers, and they had me play the game. I felt incredible stupid, but at the same time, I loved it. I left that meeting, saying, 'Guys, tell me when and where and I'm there.' The game was fun, and I also knew the concept behind the game, which made me want to do it even more. One of my answers was Central Park, and it took me forever to get it! I knew that it was going to be fun if it took me that long to answer Central Park. At the same time, sometimes my kids get it quicker than I do, like 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua.' I like that it depends on your age and your walk of life. It keeps things interesting.
Well, I thought so too until it took me 30 minutes to answer Lady Gaga in the first episode. That was ridiculously hard!
I didn't get it until "Meat Dress" either! As a host, I have just as much fun playing along with these people. I sometimes forget that I'm hosting and just start playing along. I totally get caught up into it as well.
But I suppose all of the stress is worth it at the end of the show when you surprise the family member.
Yeah, I love it. It's like this Publishers' Clearing House moment. Randall or Mama Hatley or the mother that we're playing for this week, these are people who would have never come on the show with their hands out, begging for money. They would never do that. That's not the type of people that they are, and I think that's why they're so great. They would never be a victim. So it takes people in their lives to say, 'Stop, you deserve this.' We can't pay Randall enough for his service to our country, but at least we got to help a little bit.
Do you foresee a celebrity episode?
I don't know. We only did six episodes for the holidays, and then we'll see where it goes, but I would love to see a celebrity-driven episode, where the celebrity has to play for somebody else who is not a celebrity. You have to play for someone off the street, an incredible person who deserves it. Then the celebrity will have to go through the pressure of playing for somebody else. I would love that.
Who do you think would be really good at it?
Well, I know that Alec Baldwin could use some good PR right now, and acting like he cares about normal people, so maybe Alec Baldwin. I don't think anybody would buy it, but ... he should play for the flight attendent on American Airlines!
Now, tell me a little bit about 'The Bachelor' this season. I'm hoping that Sheryl is just one of the contestants' grandma who wants to meet Ben.
Yeah, it's much more along those lines than it is her being on the show. Here's the thing: Of all of the stunts and twists-and-turns, we'll never forsake a spot on the show. We really want Ben to have as many choices and as much of a possibility to find love as he can, so to ruin that or to make light of that by bringing in someone he would never have a relationship with, you can't do that. It's funny, but it's also a sweet, kind of romantic story.
What's going to be in store for Ben this season?
It's an emotional, wild ride. He's a catch. The women knew he was 'The Bachelor' ahead of time, so the show was cast for Ben. These women get out of the limo, and it's on. You'll see tears and drama on the first night. It's going to be a little crazy for him, but for me, it was fun to see him evolve this season. Ben and I got to be really good friends, and we spent a lot of time together, and we include that relationship in the show. This season is a lot less formal. I would just walk in, be casual and just talk. That was our deliberation. The show has become a lot more organic these past few years, and I hope our viewers have noticed that. In the end, I really do want Ben to be happy and find love because I really do believe he deserves it.
"You Deserve It" airs Mondays at 9PM ET on ABC. Look for 'The Bachelor's' triumphant return to ABC on Mon., Jan. 2.
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