‘Golden Bachelor’ is finally here. Our writers discuss the premiere and charismatic Gerry Turner
This article contains spoilers for the premiere of “The Golden Bachelor.”
Arguably the most hyped series of the new fall season, “The Golden Bachelor,” ABC’s new twist on its hit “The Bachelor” franchise, has finally arrived. One of the biggest questions revolves around whether a large audience, particularly regular members of the Bachelor Nation fan base, will enjoy seeing a story about senior citizens falling in love.
The show features Gerry Turner, a 72-year-old widower from Indiana who is looking for a partner to share his “golden years.” He is introduced to 22 women in their 60s and 70s, many of them hoping for a second or third chance at love.
Although “The Golden Bachelor” carries over many of the touchstones of the franchise, producers are counting on attracting viewers who are not familiar with the show.
So does “The Golden Bachelor” live up to expectations? Senior writers Greg Braxton — who has written numerous stories about “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” — and Meredith Blake, a relative newcomer to the franchise, weigh in.
The latest spinoff in ABC’s romance franchise, premiering Sept. 28, features widower Gerry Turner, who joins Bachelor Nation in an attempt to find a second chance at love.
Braxton: Welcome to Bachelor Nation, Meredith!
I will start by admitting that I have never gotten a lump in my throat or felt any surge of emotion when watching “The Bachelor.” But resistance was futile while watching “The Golden Bachelor.” The premiere was a heady mix of humor and heart, a definite departure from the usual bombastic kickoff, which typically promises all kinds of sexy fun and games in exotic locations as the leads start their journey for love. This chapter starts almost with a whisper — a Cat Stevens tune scores Gerry’s introduction as he recounts his devastation losing his wife, Toni, his high school sweetheart and the love of his life, to a bacterial infection seven years ago. It’s impossible not to be moved as we see both his deep grief and his hopes of finding a new partner. It’s hard to imagine folks tuning out after those moments.
Blake: Someone must have been chopping onions because I, too, found myself tearing up while watching this episode, which was such a pure delight that I can’t believe it’s taken ABC this long to give us a “Golden” spinoff.
I agree that there probably will be a lot of curiosity seekers checking out the premiere — and that they’ll probably stick around. To state the obvious, Gerry makes an absolutely superb “Bachelor.” He’s handsome, kind, funny, self-deprecating, big-hearted and open-minded. Listening to him talk about Toni and their 43-year marriage, it’s impossible not to root for the guy.
However, I do wonder whether the ruthlessness of reality TV — even a kinder, gentler version of it like “The Golden Bachelor” — will take a toll on our hero over the coming weeks.
I was also impressed by the ladies, who were vibrant, fun and seemingly as eager to compliment each other as they were to win Gerry’s approval. They were all well-versed enough in “The Bachelor” to know that making a memorable first impression was essential, with Leslie (the freakishly fit aerobics instructor who disguised herself as a hobbled old lady) winning my vote for best entrance. Since this is a competition, I’m already starting to wonder if any of the early standouts — like Faith, who rode in on a motorcycle and won the first impression rose, or Theresa, who shared a birthday kiss with Gerry — will go the distance.
Greg, as a seasoned viewer of “The Bachelor,” are you ready to make any predictions yet? What are your impressions of the ladies so far?
Braxton: Before I get to the ladies, I have to do my own salute to Gerry. I don’t know how a retired restaurateur from Indiana can have such a natural presence and charisma perfect for TV. I interviewed him over Zoom about a week after he started filming and liked him instantly. Believe me, most of the other Bachelors in recent years should take lessons from Gerry about being real and genuine. He’s so down-to-earth, and seems so far up to the considerable challenge of being the face of this very popular and expensive show.
As for the ladies, producers and the casting department deserve their own bouquet of golden roses. The women are so elegant and vibrant, with an unquenchable spirit. They’re also very open and comfortable with their sexuality, a real revelation for those of us holding on to the stereotype that older people have little interest in getting it on.
Another refreshing departure from the usual “Bachelor” dynamic is that Gerry and the ladies all seem to be there for the right reason, and not interested in portraying an outrageous character or competing for camera time. These folks are not trying to increase their social media followings. There’s a real desire for connection and honesty. When Gerry and the ladies he’s talking to look into each other’s eyes, the warmth is palpable. You just don’t see that kind of genuine feeling on most reality dating shows.
And no, I’m not making any predictions yet.
The controversy that erupted around the series this week drew in contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, host Chris Harrison and former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay.
Blake: I am not ready to make predictions, either, except to say I think this spin on “The Bachelor” is going to be a hit and will probably generate more positive chatter than the last few seasons of the show combined. Who knew the best way to reinvigorate a 20-year-old franchise would be to cast a retired senior citizen with a hearing aid in the lead role?
But as you noted, in an era when we’ve grown accustomed to watching fame-thirsty people do insane things on reality TV, often for dubious reasons that have more to do with building a social media presence than forging real human connections, it is lovely — revelatory, even — to see people earnestly looking for romance later in life.
And in a culture that worships youth, it’s refreshing to see a show that centers aging and experience and deals with issues like grief and loss in an unflinching manner. It was striking to see Gerry dissolve into tears as he recalled his wife’s passing, and equally moving to hear from the women as they spoke about the events that shaped their lives and compelled them to sign up for “The Bachelor” — from Ellen, egged on by a best friend battling cancer; to Theresa, whose husband died nine years ago; to April, who longed to get back in touch with who she was before she became “a caretaker and matriarch.”
I know you will roll your eyes at me for saying this, but one of the most redeeming qualities of “The Real Housewives” franchise — my reality TV drug of choice — is that it shows women over 40 living full (if chaotic) lives. I’d be thrilled if “The Golden Bachelor” ushered in a new era of older-skewing reality shows. How about a season of “Love Is Blind” featuring residents of the Villages? Sign me up.
Braxton: Meredith, my hope is one day deprogramming you away from those horrid “Housewives.” Meanwhile, I’m putting ABC and every studio and network on notice that I have already thought of an idea for a show that features older people dancing to current hits. So the IP belongs to me. That scene with Gerry and all the ladies dancing to “Little Boo Thing” was priceless, and my pick for the water-cooler moment of the hour. When else have you seen such unbridled joy and spontaneity on a reality show?
Of course, one tradition of the franchise is showing the lead encountering difficulties as the field narrows, and as his feelings for the front-runners vying for the final rose grow deeper. There always seems to be a preview scene where the lead threatens to quit the show, and it’s suggested that Gerry had some raw and emotional moments as the season progressed. Those clips are designed to heighten viewer interest, or course.
But it seems like ultimately Gerry’s search for love has a happy ending. He deserves it, and I’m rooting for him.
Blake: Me too, Greg. Me too! I suspect the previews were edited for dramatic effect, but I also expect this process will be hard for Gerry — as it would be for any normal person who suddenly found himself simultaneously dating multiple women on national television. All we can hope is that the pain is worth it and Gerry finds the next great love of his life.
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