There's no handbook for how to proceed when a reality show contestant passes away and there certainly hasn't been much precedence for how to handle it if it happens while the show is still filming. When Eric Hill tragically died shortly after his exit from The Bachelorette, it wasn't a question if it would be addressed, but producers were faced with whether or not they should film and subsequently broadcast the remaining cast learning of the horrific accident.
On Monday's episode, following Andi's hometown dates with Marcus, Josh,Nick and Chris, host Chris Harrison sat the five down in his living room to explain what had happened. Viewers watched as the group was given the shocking news and as Andi broke down remembering her last conversation with Eric. Eventually, the episode turned to a one-on-one with Andi, followed by a melancholy rose ceremony in which Andi again wondered how to celebrate the next phase of her journey amidst such tragedy.
Talking about the show's decision to film Andi and the guys' reaction to the news, Harrison says he has no doubt they did the right thing.
"After watching it all back and seeing how it was edited together, I stand by it even more," he tells TVGuide.com. "There were people within the show that didn't want us to shoot us talking to Andi and the guys and those that didn't want it to be televised at all, but I vehemently disagreed and fought like crazy to shoot it and eventually use it."
At the time, Harrison admits, he didn't think the footage would make it to air. "We thought, 'Let's shoot it so we'll have it, deal with it and go from there,'" he says. "We weren't sure we'd ever use it anyway and were pretty sure we wouldn't. [Creator] Mike Fleiss called me and said, 'I'm sorry we shot this,' and I said, 'We had to.' I 100 percent backed him up. I don't think you get to pick and choose when you shoot things and when you turn the cameras off. This show is built on the fact that we show you everything and just because something is uncomfortable for me or the producers, we all of a sudden turn the cameras off? It seems hypocritical." The cast, he says, agreed. "None of them came back and said, 'Why did you do this?' They knew this wasn't a contrived moment."
Regardless of how it was handled, Harrison knows they'd get heat for it either way. "I know we'll catch flack for it, but I knew that going in to the Andi interview [ in Week 4], which I thought was well handled. To have acted like Eric didn't exist and this tragic event didn't happen would have been incredibly disrespectful. If you watched the show knowing this was when he passed away and we didn't say a word about it and went into the rose ceremony and acted happy go lucky, to me it would've been in poor taste. I'm not saying I'm right, and people will disagree and be angry or feel we took advantage of it. But I stand by the fact that we didn't milk it and didn't sensationalize it. I'm proud that we had the guts to show it. Again, maybe I'm wrong, and I'm not saying I'm the smartest guy in the world, but it's what felt right to me."
Do you agree with the show's decision to air what happened?
For more of Harrison's take on the hometown dates, head here.
The Bachelorette airs on Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.