‘The Bachelorette’: ABC Names Two of Matt James’ Exes As Stars of Next Two Seasons

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead, if you have not watched the finale of “The Bachelorette,” which aired on Monday, Mar. 15.

Bachelor Nation is getting two new seasons of “The Bachelorette” this year.

Katie Thurston and Michelle Young were revealed to be ABC’s next leading ladies in “The Bachelor” franchise, with each starring in their own respective seasons of “The Bachelorette,” both planned to air in 2021.

Thurston is “The Bachelorette” for Season 17, and Young is the lead for Season 18. Both women are exes of “The Bachelor” Matt James, and Young was the runner-up on his season, which culminated with a dramatic finale tonight.

The double seasons is a twist for the franchise, which has never aired two “Bachelorette” seasons in the same year.

As Variety previously reported last month, Thurston was an early favorite of the network who was selected as the frontrunner to be the next “Bachelorette” by executives, in the midst of James’ season. Although she was cast off the show fairly early (when most leads are typically in the final four), execs were so impressed by Thurston, they had their eye on her to be their next leading lady.

Thurston became an early fan-favorite for her sex-positive storylines (she showed up on night one with a vibrator), and for supporting fellow women on her season, which was filled with a fair share of unnecessary “mean girl” drama.

After Thurston was reported by Variety to essentially be the next “Bachelorette,” Young popped on the show, becoming a major stand-out among fans — and executives behind the franchise. One source says that Young was such a star, the network couldn’t imagine not having her lead her own season of “The Bachelorette.” But since Thurston was already all-but-chosen, the “Bachelor” team did not want to back-pedal, so ended up giving both women their own separate seasons.

Young being selected as a new “Bachelorette” also comes as the franchise has been hit by a major racist scandal that has left longtime host Chris Harrison temporarily on the bench, sitting out of Thurston’s season of “The Bachelorette,” which goes into production next week. Young, who identifies as BIPOC, will become the third woman of color to star in the leading role, following Rachel Lindsay and Tayshia Adams, who is biracial. As the controversy surrounding Harrison has escalated, many have questioned reports of Thurston’s casting, noting that James’ season of “The Bachelor” had the most diverse cast in the franchise’s history with many women of color who would certainly be prime for the starring role as “The Bachelorette.”

Thurston’s journey as “The Bachelorette” is set to premiere in summer 2021, and Michelle’s season will air fall 2021.

While the network has not made any further programming announcements regarding “The Bachelor” franchise, people familiar with production tell Variety that “Bachelor In Paradise” is still expected to air this year, and the next season of “The Bachelor” is still planned to film in the fall, per usual, and air in the new year. However, insiders say that the senior citizens spinoff that’s been kicking around will likely be put on hold for now, so that there’s enough time to air both seasons of “The Bachelorette.”

No word on Harrison’s longterm future with the show, though sources say the situation remains fluid with executives taking a “wait-and-see” approach. Ever since news broke of Harrison not returning for next season of “The Bachelorette,” reaction among fans on social media has been split with some applauding ABC and Warner Horizon for having Harrison sit out (while actually calling for his permanent firing), and others blaming “cancel culture” for Harrison’s departure from the upcoming season, stating that they will no longer watch the show without him.

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