“The Bachelorette” Hannah Brown made a shocking final decision.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – It’s been quite the summer for Chris Harrison, and it’s not even close to over. 

The “Bachelor,” “Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise” host is still getting to experience firsts with the reality dating franchise, more than 17 years into its run on ABC. This summer was the first year that “Bachelorette” was the No. 1 show on TV among young adults as Hannah B., Tyler, Jed and the rest of the men had a wild ride and deep conversations about bad behavior and toxic masculinity.

As if that wasn’t enough, the current season of “Paradise” features the franchise’s first same-sex relationship, as Demi Burnett, who came out as “queer,” falls for another female contestant. 

USA TODAY caught up with Harrison at a Television Critics Association event, and he shared his reactions to Hannah B.’s season, the importance of Demi on “Paradise”  and whether Tyler can really be the next “Bachelor.” 

Chris Harrison and Lauren Zima arrive at ABC’s TCA Summer Press Tour Carpet Event. (Photo: Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

Question: Were you surprised by how big and popular this season was? 

Chris Harrison: A lot of people maybe underestimated Hannah and the draw, and I think that’s where as producers you kind of have to trust your gut and go with what you think is the best TV. Because you think back on the time, and people were clamoring for Hannah G. and we kind of made a controversial decision and went with Hannah B., and obviously it turned out to be pretty successful. Because we knew what an incredible woman she was, the layers and the stories that were there and the depth we’re going to get to. 

Q: Were you surprised that there were conversations around toxic masculinity on the show?

Harrison: That’s one of the things I love about the show. I know it’s fun, I know it’s entertainment, I get it: I have a lot of fun with the show as well. But over the years, if you look back, we have pressed a lot of social issues, whether it’s slut-shaming, race, gender, double standards, you name it. And we’re about to dive into same-sex relationships on ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ with Demi. We don’t create these issues. We don’t drive them. But I think our show evolves with these social issues, and then it becomes a topic of conversation. If nothing else, that’s pretty cool. 

Q: How was filming ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ with Demi? Was it just business as usual?

Harrison: It was a big deal for us. There are people behind the scenes, who I won’t out specifically, who are in same-sex relationships, and so it was a big deal. We took a lot of pride in how we were handling it, that we were going to embrace this. We’re not so naïve as to think there’s not going to be backlash, but we’re really proud of what we’re going to represent and how we’re going to tell Demi’s story. 

Q: Do you have any wishes for a future ‘Bachelor’?

Harrison: I think there’s a pretty solid list we have going. There’s the usual front-runners, Pilot Pete, Big Mike – who is in “Paradise” right now, we’ll see how he does – Tyler, although, we’ll see what Tyler’s life is like as we get closer. But that’s one of the reasons, in all seriousness, why we wait to make a decision. We don’t need to make a decision right now. Because what matters is, are they ready? Are they sincere? Are we going to find someone like Hannah who is going to give themselves up to this process and be really open and honest and vulnerable, and give us a great season?

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