It’s often said that the longtime host of ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘Bachelorette’ has a cushy gig, but after running the numbers, you know what? That’s absolutely true.
Chris Harrison is an excellent TV host. He is a wellspring of gravitas, capable of seeming suave and composed in any potential reality show scenario. He is handsome, but not so handsome that it distracts from the handsome men who are supposed to be the focus of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, the shows that have made him famous. His stilted but television-perfect method of speaking makes me think he’s actually a robot designed by a mad scientist who was attempting to create the ideal TV host. His hosting prowess has now grown past the franchise: In addition to The Bachelor and its budding slew of spinoffs, he’s also become the host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and the Miss America pageant.
One problem, though: The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have never really needed a host. Most reality competitions require a central authority figure to function. Take Survivor: Jeff Probst is everywhere. He explains the complicated challenge formats to the cast; he leads discussion at the tribal council meetings; he reads the ballots that reveal who has been voted off; and he is the one to dramatically snuff each player’s torch when they leave the show. But in the Bachelor universe, the lead — the titular Bachelor or Bachelorette — is the one who leads the action. The lead is generally the one who explains what’s going to happen on dates, the one who talks to contestants to gauge their emotions, the one who announces who’s staying and who’s going, and ultimately the one who says the final goodbye to those eliminated. The lead does many of the things a host would do; so Chris Harrison becomes an auxiliary guide who occasionally aides the lead with logistical aspects of their journey.
There simply isn’t a lot for Harrison to do. He barely shows up in most episodes — in some, he doesn’t show up at all. If Harrison shows up outside of the rare situations in which he’s expected, it’s a major surprise for contestants:
Harrison figures more prominently on Bachelor in Paradise, where there is no lead character to give the show direction. His most prominent on-air job is on the Tell All and After the Final Rose specials, where he’s tasked with coaxing discussion amongst former cast members. But for the most part, his job is doing voice-overs. He is to the Bachelor universe what Kristen Bell was to Gossip Girl. (Honestly, The Bachelor would be better if the voice-overs were done by Kristen Bell in her Gossip Girl voice.) (Honestly, all shows would be better if they featured voice-overs by Kristen Bell doing her Gossip Girl voice.)
Thus, the hypothetical face of the Bachelor franchise is rarely on screen. Which makes me wonder: Does Chris Harrison have the best job in the world?
To answer that question, I present to you the Chris Harrison Salary Calculator. I watched every minute of every episode of this season of The Bachelorette to tally how often Harrison appears on screen and how much he does once he’s on screen. I counted every second he appears and every word he says — and then calculated how much money he got paid for each of those seconds. After the most! dramatic! rewatch! in Bachelorette history!, I learned a few things.
(A quick explanation of methodology. My tally does not include Harrison’s voice-overs — just the times he actually appears in the show’s plotline. For calculations of Harrison’s screen time, I started counting at the first evidence of his presence in a scene — whether it was his actual image in the frame, or merely the clacking of his approaching shoes during a rose ceremony — and stopped counting at the last evidence. As for Harrison’s salary: Multiple posts point to a TV Guide rundown of reality TV host salaries that indicate Harrison made $60,000 an episode in 2011, although the TV Guide post has been scrubbed from the internet. It’s probable Harrison’s salary has increased over the past six years — the show is much more popular now, and episodes are two hours instead of one — so it’s reasonable to assume Harrison makes significantly more per second than I was able to estimate.)
In nine episodes of Season 13 of The Bachelorette thus far, Harrison has been on screen for 36 minutes and 33 seconds. The average episode features a little over 84 minutes of non-commercial programming, and Harrison averages 4 minutes and three seconds per episode. In total, this season Harrison has been featured in 4.83 percent of the show’s airtime.
If we ran all of Harrison’s segments back-to-back-to-back and aired them concurrently with every full episode of the show back-to-back-to-back, Harrison’s segments would only stretch to the point in the season premiere when the 18th of the 31 contestants emerged from a limo. (In case you’re wondering, that was Jonathan, the “tickle monster.”)
The Rose Ceremonies …
I get why Harrison shows up for the rose ceremonies. He’s the show’s host, and the rose ceremony is the show’s big ritual, the moment around which entire episodes are based. But have you ever thought about what he actually does at rose ceremonies? Because, of course, he’s not the one to give out the roses — it would be really weird if this guy in a suit handed out symbols of another person’s love.
So instead, he waits until one rose is left and enters the room with as much pomp as he can muster to announce that one rose is left. Buddy, we know: One is the easiest number to count to. It’s an obvious and needless interjection, like the show’s creators reverse-engineered it — they wanted Harrison to arrive at this moment to provide extra weight to the show’s most dramatic moment, but couldn’t figure out what he would say. (Either that, or ABC believes we struggle at differentiating between “one” and “numbers higher than one.”)
His rose ceremony appearances are pointless, but still make up a significant amount of his work. The repetition of his rose ceremony mantra (“Rachel, gentlemen, the final rose tonight. When you’re ready …” and “Gentlemen, I’m sorry, if you did not receive a rose, take a moment, say your goodbyes.”) accounts for 10.38 percent of the total words he has spoken thus far this season. And his rose ceremony screen time accounts for a whopping 20.79 percent of his total appearances. (I had a bit of a philosophical crisis counting this screen time — technically, he leaves the room in between announcing the final rose and addressing those eliminated, but I left the clock running even when he was out of the room since it was part of the same scene.) That means of the $540,000 he’s earned across these nine episodes, $112,284.54 was earned just for these formulaic scenes.
… And the Times Outside of Rose Ceremonies
If you thought Harrison was unnecessary in the rose ceremonies, he’s significantly less necessary outside of them.
Harrison was mildly important in the first four episodes of this season. In the season premiere, he introduces Rachel to the audience and eases her into her role as Bachelorette. In Episode 2, he explains the concept of the one-on-one date to the men, hands them a date card, and later assists with an unexpected situation when DeMario returns to the house after being eliminated. He continues assisting with the DeMario situation in Episode 3, and again talks to the men about their week. But Episode 4 was his biggest role by far: He offers his assistance to Rachel when she gets emotional — “Everybody’s here to help you. You just have to tell me what you want. I can facilitate anything.” — tells the men that Rachel has decided to cancel the rest of the evening’s cocktail ceremony, and later appears on a group date for the only time all season as host of “The Bachelor Nation Spelling Bee.” The spelling bee alone lasts for over nine minutes; in the total episode, Chris says 466 words and appears on screen for 659 seconds.
In the five episodes since, Harrison has not appeared outside of the context of a rose ceremony, totaling just 249 words and 371 seconds on air. That’s an average of slightly under 50 words and 75 seconds per episode. In episodes 7 and 9, Harrison simply didn’t appear — in the former, Rachel eliminated two men on a group date; in the latter, nobody was eliminated. Harrison did greet Rachel at rose ceremonies in episodes 6 and 8 to briefly discuss her mindset, but only after skipping entire weeks worth of activities. (“You look solemn,” he tells her after she arrives to the rose ceremony in Norway, a nice thing to say to someone who you know just spent hours on hair and makeup. Fellas, use this on dates.)
Part of the reason for Harrison’s drop-off has to do with the flow of the season. Harrison’s role is to make everybody — from Rachel to the contestants to the viewers — feel like they understand the situations in play, and by the time the season is half-over, everybody is familiar with everybody and everything. But it’s worth noting the direct correlation between the amount of time the show spends in Los Angeles and the amount of time Harrison spends on screen. He did travel overseas — he was at rose ceremonies in Norway and Denmark — but he’s unlikely to do anything more than the bare minimum once the show shifts locales.
Chris Harrison is not the highest-paid person in show business. Not by a long shot. For example, that same TV Guide report that revealed Harrison’s salary as $60,000 an episode said Jeff Probst makes $200,000 an episode. But Harrison’s value for his time is off the charts. He gets $343.73 per word and $246.24 per second, or $14,774.28 per minute. LeBron James made $30.96 million playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers last year, but if we divide that over his 2,794 minutes played, he made just $11,082.12 per minute. Therefore, Harrison’s time is more valuable than LeBron’s.
As I note how minimal his job is, I should add that he’s really good at it. But we’d also probably love The Bachelor and its spinoffs if Harrison wasn’t there. A replacement-level host would do fine. The show might even be fine with no host, so long as the premise and contestants remained ludicrous. And yet Chris coasts along, getting paid handsomely for a small job he doesn’t really need to perform. He gets to fly to exotic locations, awaiting a call that sometimes doesn’t come. And if he doesn’t appear, the check still clears. I salute Chris Harrison, owner of the world’s perfect job.