‘The Golden Bachelor’: One for the Ages

The Golden Bachelor
September 28, 2023

The Bachelor premiered on ABC on March 25, 2002. That is so long ago, there will likely be contestants on the next season of The Bachelor who were not born yet when the first episode aired. More importantly, that is so long ago, the first season — and the second, and the third — predate MySpace, the first social network to really have any global reach.

I tell you this for a few reasons. For one, The Bachelor, which will air its 28th season this winter, is very long in the tooth. It’s still one of ABC’s most successful franchises (perhaps its most successful), but it long ago lost its novelty and the ratings have been consistently slipping as its core audience moves away from broadcast TV leaving only older viewers behind.

And second, The Bachelor itself has lost whatever sense of innocence and romance it might once have started with. Yes, when it first debuted, there was a certain lasciviousness involved with watching one man date dozens of women. But the show was ostensibly predicated on the idea that it was a fairy tale, a Prince Charming looking for his Cinderella in a kingdom of eligible potential brides.

And then social media came along. Before the onset of Facebook, Twitter, and most crucially, Instagram, contestants on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette didn’t really have much to gain from being on the show. Maybe some of them would stay in Los Angeles having left their Midwest or Deep South hometowns and try to break into show business on this wisp of reality television fame. Maybe if they were successful enough on their season, they might become the next Bachelor or Bachelorette themselves.

But then social media evolved to a place where attractive people with a social media presence could become their own form of celebrity, and make money (or believe they could make money) by becoming “influencers.” The Bachelor and The Bachelorette benefitted from having their contestants curate robust social media presences and being a contestant on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette was a surefire way to gain tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of followers.

But this begat the biggest internal conflict on both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette: were the contestants really there for “the right reasons,” i.e. finding true love with a stranger on TV, or were they there for some unexpressed wrong reason — social media celebrity being the unspoken bugaboo.

This inherent problem will persist as long as there is a Bachelor, a Bachelorette, and social media, but it does tarnish the brand, it does introduce a sense of cynicism, it takes away from whatever sense of romance there once was — especially when 80% of the couples that make it through the “journey” end up split within six months of their carefully choreographed proposals.

Enter: The Golden Bachelor. In an attempt to bring back a little of that original romance and even innocence (and let’s not kid ourselves here: most of all, ratings), ABC has delivered a new twist on an old game — or perhaps more aptly, an old twist on an old game — a septuagenarian Bachelor. Gerry Turner is handsome, he’s retired, he’s a widower, and his contestants are very unlikely to try to turn their appearance on this show into selling Tummy Tea on Instagram. Because these women are all in their 60s and 70s, there is a certain expectation that they are all here for the “right reasons” because, frankly, they’re too old to be there for any other. The hope, I think, is that they will all — Grandpa Bachelor and contestants alike — be too mature for the drama and histrionics and the social media clout and all that will be left is a sincere love story.

Honestly, I hope that’s true for everyone: for Gerry, for the women who have left their retirements and grandchildren to fly to Los Angeles to meet Gerry, for the families left back at home watching their mothers and grandmothers make themselves vulnerable for a chance at love. I’m not sure if it will make for exciting television, but I do hope it will make for compelling television.

And the series is off to a very sentimental start. As Gerry gets dressed for his first big night as The Golden Bachelor, Yusuf’s “The Wind” plays gently over the montage, and Gerry muses that he would be very lucky indeed to find a second true love in one lifetime. HANG ON TO YOUR HEARTSTRINGS BECAUSE THEY ARE ABOUT TO BE TUGGED.

@mattycordova19

#thegoldenbachelor #gary #dad #heartache #earcandy

♬ original sound – Matt Cordova

We then are shown the same video package that was shared on The Bachelorette‘s finale episode, telling Gerry’s lovely if heartbreaking story: married to his high school sweetheart, Toni, for 43 years; two daughters, a granddaughter; a lakefront retirement home that he and Toni move into only to have Toni die of a bacterial infection one month later. No one will replace Toni, but maybe someone can give him a second chance at love in his later years.

And so, Gerry arrives at the McMansion, and we getting on with it already because The Golden Bachelor will only be an hour a week, and there will be no stretching this nonsense out, Mawmaw needs to be in bed by 9. After the perfunctory exchange of pleasantries with Jesse Palmer, the first limo arrives:

Edith, 60, Downey, California: Edith is gorgeous with her silver hair and golden Grecian dress. She and Gerry pop some confetti to get the party started, but don’t get too attached: she doesn’t get the all-important biography video package, so her time is likely limited.

Ellen, 71, Delray Beach, Florida: Ellen, however, does have a video package. Upon arriving at the McMansion, she yells out “ROBERTA, WE MADE IT!” We learn in her video that Roberta is her best friend with cancer, with whom she watches The Bachelor. The two of them together decided she should be on the show, oh, and also, she really likes pickleball.

Sandra, 75, Doraville, Georgia: Sandra explains she’s a very soft-spoken woman before taking Gerry’s hands, taking a deep breath, and leading him in a “zen practice”: exhaling on what I can only assume is the word “FUUUUUUCK.” It’s bleeped so I can’t be exactly sure what she’s saying.

In a video, Sandra explains that she is a woman who speaks her mind, and very often her mind is filled with “F” words and “S” words.

Leslie, 64, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Leslie arrives in an old lady costume, complete with a walker. When Gerry is prompted to ask if she needs any help, she tosses the walker aside, and tears off a wig and housecoat to reveal that she does NOT look like Sophia from The Golden Girls after all! And that would be a fun reveal (I guess) if all the women who had gotten out of the limo hadn’t been gorgeous and defying the stereotypes of what grandmas are supposed to look like.

In a video package, we learn that not only is Leslie a fitness instructor, SHE DATED PRINCE AND HE WROTE THE SONG “SEXY DANCER” ABOUT HER.

She says other words but I stopped listening at the word “Prince.” I’m not saying I’m skeptical of this claim … I’m just saying we only have her word for it.

We then have a series of ladies whose introductions are hurried through, so don’t fall in love:

Marina, 60, Los Angeles, California

Christina, 73, Sierra Madre, California

Joan, 60, Rockland, Maryland

Natascha, 60, New York, New York

Peggy, 69, East Haven, Connecticut: She tells Gerry that after seeing him on Good Morning America, she couldn’t breathe for hours, which at her age seems like cause to at least pop into the urgent care. Have you had a stress test recently, Peggy?

Pamela, 75, Aurora, Illinois: Pamela here is bold and kisses Gerry right on the cheek. SAUCY TEMPTRESS.

Kathy, 70, Austin, Texas: Kathy tells Gerry that she first noticed the gleam in his eyes.

Nancy, 60, Alexandria, Virginia: Nancy tells Gerry that she, too, wears “ear candy.”

Theresa, 70, Shrewsbury, New Jersey: Theresa marches up to Gerry explaining that today is her birthday, so she thought it would be appropriate to show up in her “birthday suit,” before opening her garment to reveal — that she’s wearing nude shapewear. She pulls Gerry in for a kiss.

Theresa receives a video package in which she swings on a swing, talks about her dead husband, and says that she wants to be in love again.

April, 65, Port St. Lucie, Florida: April arrives with a basket of eggs, explaining that she grew up on a chicken farm, so her eggs are still very fresh. Which! OK! Solid joke!

Then, after a video package in which she explains that she’s an eccentric who loves ducks, April begins dancing around Gerry, clucking like a chicken and slapping her ass for some reason. Has she even seen a chicken?

Renee, 67, Chicago, Illinois: Renee, a former Chicago Bears cheerleader, shows up with her pompoms and in a sweatsuit, delivering a cheer that ends, “I hope I bring you lots of luck: because I’m the girl you want to … marry.”

Maria, 60, Teaneck, New Jersey: She tries to get Gerry to dance; fails.

Anna, 61, Summit, New Jersey: She tries to get Gerry to leave with her in the limo; fails.

Susan, 66, Aston, Pennsylvania: Susan announces that she’s going to marry Gerry, before showing him her heels, explaining that she’s “very comfortable with six inches.”

Patty, 70, Durham, North Carolina: Patty immediately reveals herself to be Matt James’ mother, explaining that she knows this could work because of his experience. Hope no one has been to any plantations recently.

Sylvia, 64, Los Angeles, California: Sylvia describes herself as Gerry’s Penelope Cruz. Um … I mean … they both appear to speak Spanish … which …

Jeanie, 65, Estill Springs, Tennessee: Jeanie tells Gerry that her mother married at 70, so she believes this can work.

Aunt Chippy, Jimmy Kimmel’s Aunt, Comic Relief: Aunt Chippy explains that she wanted to meet Gerry and that her nephew Jimmy made it happen. She’s not actually a contestant because, after all, she’s larger and less conventionally attractive than the other ladies who have arrived and therefore undeserving of love. Is that the joke here? Is that what we’re getting at? Huh.

Faith, 60, Benton, Washington: Faith arrives on a motorcycle, quipping that she’s proof that you can live fast and not die young.

In a video package, Faith rides horses, talks about being divorced, and describes herself as a “fun monger.”

Back in my twenties, some friends and I made a list of words and phrases that were forbidden to be said around us when we were hungover (think: moist, pustule, glug). I am adding the phrase “fun monger” to that list.

And with that, all of the women have been introduced, and Gerry heads inside to give the ceremonial toast and begin the Rose Ceremony Cocktail Party. He recognizes that the room is filled with “beauty and poise and intellect” and tells them that he is inspired.

Chicken Dance is the first to take him aside, where she gives him a homemade calendar featuring pictures of her in which every month is “April.” AND I DON’T WANT TO ADMIT IT BUT IT’S KINDA FUNNY. 

When Gerry speaks with Roberta’s Friend, she tells him that her friend encouraged her to go on the show when she wasn’t sure if she could do it, and insists to Gerry that they are entitled to love and be loved. After chatting with him, Roberta’s Friend notes how amazing it is that Roberta is watching this now, WHICH, SPOILER ALERT, IS FUCKING HEARTBREAKING BECAUSE WE LEARN AT THE END OF THE SHOW VIA A “IN MEMORY OF…” THAT ROBERTA DIDN’T MAKE IT.

I’M NOT GOING TO MAKE IT THROUGH THIS SHOW, FRIENDS.

Natascha makes Gerry sit on a yoga mat and do this completely insane laughing exercise? I don’t know what’s happening, and neither does Gerry? But he goes with it, laughing like a maniac. My Laughing Queen then quips that she won’t have to resuscitate him in an intimate moment, and she has my rose.

My friend the F-Bomb Zen Master asks Gerry if he was okay with their little sweary chant, but before he can answer a bug skitters by, and Gerry stomps on it. The F-Bom Zen Master then laughs that she didn’t say “FUCK!” which Gerry finds delightful.

Marina tells Gerry that her daughter told her to tell Gerry he was “dope” and Gerry laughs that his granddaughter told him he has “rizz.” And then they laugh and laugh because old people using teen slang!

Twice Photocopied Kris Jenner reveals that her favorite song is “At Last” which Gerry gasps is his favorite slow song.

And Biker Chick has brought a guitar with her. Well, great. Folks with guitars on these shows have always been trustworthy and on the up-and-up. She starts singing him some cheesy song and Gerry, he eats it up with a spoon.

@lach_mac

This feels like it would be Shawn mendes if he didn’t get famous #guitar #party #fyp

♬ original sound – Lachy McIntyre

Prince Groupie encourages Gerry to dance with her, and this turns into a group dance party, which is simultaneously adorable and incredibly awkward.

And then Jesse Palmer comes in with the First Impression Rose to ruin the funtime vibes.

Elsewhere, Jeanie gives Gerry a genie lamp and promises she can grant a wish.

As for our naked birthday girl, Theresa reads Gerry a letter her daughter wrote her. And in return, Gerry brings Birthday Suit a cupcake which he then takes a bite of first so that she will kiss the icing off of his face?  I don’t know, seems rude. Let her have her birthday cupcake, Gerry.

And then Gerry fetches the First Impression Rose and presents it to Biker Chick, explaining that he’s offering her this rose because she makes him feel very special.

With that, the sun is rising and it’s waaaaaay past time to line the Grandmas up for the Rose Ceremony:

Rose #1: Roberta’s Friend
Rose #2: Birthday Suit
Rose #3: Someone Named Joan
Rose #4: Laughing Queen
Rose #5: Prince Groupie
Rose #6: Someone Named Christina
Rose #7: Golden Goddess
Rose #8: Hearing Aid
Rose #9: Chicken Dance
Rose #10: F-Bomb Zen Master
Rose #11: I Dream of Genie
Rose #12: Someone Named Kathy
Rose #13: Dope and Rizz
Rose #14: Can’t Breathe
Rose #15: Twice-Photocopied Kris Jenner

Which means we must say goodbye to Someone Named Anna, Someone Named Maria, Someone Named Pamela, Matt James’ Mom, Cheerleader, and Penelope Cruz. Two of these ladies, Cheerleader and Someone Named Pamela, were the women who lived closest to Gerry, and who I pegged to be most compatible. Shows what I knows.

In any event, it was nice to meet you ladies, now go home, put on some comfortable shoes, and be grateful you’re not going to be thrown out of a plane or made to climb a skyscraper or whatever nonsense they have lined up for your colleagues. Gerry’s cute and all, but not bungee jumping at 75 cute.

Here are the ladies who have been eliminated along with their very not good nicknames:

Here are the women along with their dumb nicknames who are still “dating” Gerry:

The Golden Bachelor airs Thursdays on ABC at 7/8 p.m. and streams on Hulu.

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