ABC Is ‘Very Confident’ ‘Bachelor In Paradise’ Will Return This Summer (EXCLUSIVE)

“Bachelor In Paradise” was a television casualty of 2020. With production halted across the industry in the height of the pandemic, ABC’s fan-favorite summer dating show wasn’t able to shoot its seventh season last year.

Now, with coronavirus numbers surging once again, TV shows and film productions are shutting down, once again, and non-essential travel is discouraged. But, good news for Bachelor Nation: ABC is set on getting “Bachelor In Paradise” back on-air this summer, and is now prioritizing the show after shelving it last season, Variety has learned exclusively.

“We are hell-bent on figuring out how we make ‘Paradise’ work,” Rob Mills, senior vice president, alternative series, specials and late-night programming, ABC Entertainment, tells Variety. “Unless something horrendous happens, I feel very confident that ‘Paradise’ is coming back on this summer — how and where it’s going to be, it’s still to early to tell.”

“Bachelor In Paradise” typically films in Mexico. At this point, ABC isn’t sure if shooting in Mexico will be possible, but regardless of the location, the network is willing to get creative to ensure a new season can be produced — even if it has to film in a bubble, just like the last season of “The Bachelorette” and the current season of “The Bachelor” with Matt James, both of which filmed at sequestered resorts at which the cast and crew lived on-site and quarantined for the duration of production.

In addition to a new season of “Bachelor In Paradise,” ABC is currently at work on the much-buzzed-about senior citizen “Bachelor” spinoff, which gained considerable momentum when the network put out a casting call before the pandemic. The potential show was put on the back-burner when COVID-19 shut down the entire industry, as ABC needed to prioritize its flagship shows, “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” But now that a safely-working system has been put in place to shoot the reality dating shows, the network is re-focusing on the more mature offshoot.

“In addition to ‘Paradise,’ the other thing we want to get serious about revisiting is the older ‘Bachelor’ spinoff. We’re actively working on making it happen,” Mills shares, adding that the network is further along than just the ideation phase.

Here, the ABC executive discusses plans for “Bachelor In Paradise,” including which alums might be cast on the next season, as well as that new spinoff.

Where does “Bachelor In Paradise” stand?

Everything is day-to-day. Right now, unfortunately, we’re at a place, especially in Los Angeles, where all the productions are getting shut down — you know, [Jimmy] Kimmel is back doing his show from home. But conversely, in a couple of months, this could all change. We could have a massive rollout of vaccinations and that would make it easier to travel and shoot places. Who knows. We’re looking at different permutations and scenarios. Will the vaccine be widely available? Obviously, we don’t want producers and cast members to be getting vaccinated early just for the show, but if people can get vaccinated, then maybe we’re back in Mexico. If not, maybe there is a bubble situation in Mexico. We will figure out something — I never know what will happen, but I feel very confident in saying that you will get “Bachelor In Paradise” next season.

So, even if you can’t shoot in Mexico, you’re committed to making it work to have a new season of “Bachelor In Paradise” this summer?

If there is some different type of way we have to do it, we want to do it. As wonderful as it is being in Mexico with that type of setting, it really is about people we have come to love — or love to hate — finding a second chance at love. And there are so many of them now because we have four seasons worth of people. I think we can tell that story in almost any setting, even if we have to find another bubble.

You’re actively at work on the senior citizens spinoff. Why is the network so hot on this show?

The casting was amazing and anytime we ever talk about it, it gets a massive response.

When are you looking to shoot that show?

If “The Bachelorette” starts shooting in March after “The Bachelor” airs, like normal, and if we can figure out “Paradise” soon, then perhaps we can figure out how to do this as soon as the fall, in between cycles of “Paradise” and shooting the next season of “The Bachelor.”

So, even if there are production precautions with the pandemic, you would be looking to shoot that senior citizens show this year?

Part of the problem was that during the whole year of the pandemic, obviously the most at-risk group was older citizens. Now, the fact that we’ve found a way to shoot in a bubble, if we have to do it in a bubble, we would be able to figure that out. We love this idea and the fact that people have really responded to it, we want to try to make that happen.

Did you feel like it was a major loss not having “Bachelor In Paradise” on the schedule last season?

Ten months ago, the first thing that was important to us was to get “Bachelorette” done, and that was a monumental effort — I cannot give production enough credit; it was a Herculean effort. And then you had to get “Bachelor” done. Since we’ve done that, the absolute most important thing now is “Bachelor In Paradise.” We take a lot of pride in how much this show means to people. This show really gives people comfort and hope. Even something as silly as “Bachelor In Paradise,” it really means a lot to people, and we know that, so we will do what we can to get it done.

Have you spoken to any cast members or made any offers for “Bachelor In Paradise”?

It’s still early. We have to figure out how it’s going to work first before we ask people to get time off from their jobs. The biggest problem we’re going to have is that we have probably about 150 potential people we can have in the cast between the four seasons that haven’t been able to be on “Paradise,” and then other people who have been on previous seasons. How do you make that in to 15-18 cast members? It’s going to be really tough.

With so many Bachelor Nation alums, how will go about deciding who gets to be in the cast?

The silent producer on the show is the audience so we’ll see on Twitter who people say they want to see. And then also, we’ll look at people who went home too early and were great and didn’t have enough time to shine. Sometimes the pond is really dry — this season will be the opposite case. The pond is overstocked.

Ben Smith was a big standout on Tayshia Adams’ season of “The Bachelorette.” Are you eying Ben?

I can see him being one of the massive success of “Bachelor in Paradise,” like he will meet his wife there. If Ben would do us the privilege of being on “Paradise” it would be fantastic.

Would you consider Ben to be a lead on “The Bachelor”?

Absolutely. [The next season of] “The Bachelor” isn’t for another year; we’re focused on Matt right now. But just because you’re on “Paradise,” even this summer, doesn’t mean that you can’t be the Bachelor — if anything, you have a better chance to be “The Bachelor” if you’re someone like Ivan [Hall] or Ben because your story is more fresh. Now, I don’t want them to see this and go on “Paradise” just to become “The Bachelor” because you should go on “Paradise” hoping that you’ll find your soulmate. But obviously yes, Ben would be in consideration to be the next Bachelor. But there are a lot of guys that would be in consideration to be the Bachelor.

How about Bennett Jordan? He was another standout — perhaps for different reasons — but would you consider him for “The Bachelor?

You know, right now, everybody is in consideration because we’re going to have a whole other season of “The Bachelorette” [before the next season of “The Bachelor”] so there will be other “Bachelor” candidates there, too. One of the lessons we’ve learned is to really think of everybody to potentially be the Bachelor. In the past, I think we’ve maybe made mistakes because we’ve overlooked people for whatever reason — maybe they’re too controversial or they weren’t that popular on their season, but there is no right or wrong so we should just talk to everyone and the right person will present themselves.

Then, is Bennett perhaps a better option for “Bachelor In Paradise,” rather than “The Bachelor”?

I think right now, everybody is in consideration for “Bachelor In Paradise,” and certainly Bennett is on that list.

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