When Chris Harrison attended Lake Highlands High School in the 1980s, he had no idea how far his broadcasting skills would take him. In fact, he didn’t even know he had broadcasting skills.
Now, however, he’s enjoying success as the host of ABC’s hit show, “The Bachelorette,” which premiers this month. He also balances other projects, including stints in sports broadcasting and as host of HGTV’s “Designer’s Challenge.”
Graduating from LHHS in 1989, Harrison recalls being the emcee for the school talent show, but says show business was far from his mind back then.
“To be honest, the only aspirations I had in high school were playing soccer and hanging out with my buddies. I did a pretty good job at both,” he says.
His high school soccer success led to a scholarship at Oklahoma City University and a job in college sportscasting, which developed into a career at CBS in Oklahoma City. While there, Harrison says he looked forward to returning to Dallas.
“My goal was to move back home and be a sportscaster in Dallas until I turned gray,” he says.
His future took a different turn, however, when he landed a job as host of a horse racing show in Los Angeles and found other opportunities waiting for him there. Most recently among them was the offer to host “The Bachelor.”
The show’s success, not to mention its subject matter, are something entirely new for Harrison.
“I know [the show] seems like a departure, and it is in some respects, but what they wanted was a down-to-earth family man who could host but also come across as the guy next door.”
Harrison’s wholesome family image – he has been married to wife Gwen for nine years and is father to one-year-old Joshua – helps a show with a premise that involves some bickering, some tears and even more competition. Each week, the bachelor distributes roses to women he wishes to continue courting, leaving others empty-handed and headed home.
“The rose ceremonies are the most uncomfortable situations for me,” Harrison says. “When I see a girl like Christie from this [last] season, and I know she’s not going to get a rose, I’m looking at her thinking: My God, what is she going to do? Cry, scream, get up and beat both of us up?
“Luckily, she just gave that scary ‘I’m going to boil your bunny look to Aaron and went home,” he jokes. “Seriously, though, it’s a great study in human behavior. After the girls are rejected and leave, I have the choice to go see them and say goodbye. If I have had a chance to get to know them a little, I usually say something to them. The best part is I always get to play the nice guy.”
The show’s popularity surged last season, even beating “The West Wing” in the Nielsen ratings its final episode. It also achieved what some might call the ultimate in pop culture: a parody on a “Saturday Nigh Live” episode.
“I loved it,” Harrison says of the skit (in which he was portrayed by Chris Katan as providing over-the-top commentary on the romantic conflicts).
“I actually was hanging out with Aaron that day, and we watched it together. I think I thought it was funnier than he did. As one of my family members said: You must be somebody if you were spoofed on ‘Saturday Night Live.’”
Harrison’s family and friends also are enjoying his success. Mary Beth Harrison, Chris’ mother and a Dallas real estate agent, watches the show each week with a group of friends.
“At first you think: I cannot believe I’m watching this. But then you really get caught up in it. We have great discussions after each episode is over,” Harrison says. “We have so much fun with it!”
More than his professional success, however, his mother takes pride in his character.
“I’m most proud that he gets up every day and works hard at whatever he does. He has a precious son and a beautiful wife, and I’m proud that those things are important to him.”
Harrison has several more career goals, including becoming host to a version of a Regis and Kelly show or a morning network news program. But for now, he will join a third season of “The Bachelor” and is looking forward to “The Bachelorette” premier.
“The show has really taken on a life of its own, and I am extremely happy to be a part of it,” Harrison says.
“As long as they’ll have me, I’ll be hanging out at the Bachelor pad.”