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When the first casting calls for the seniors-only spinoff of The Bachelor were unleashed in early 2020, the franchise was in desperate need of a life raft. Ratings were low, interest was waning, and fewer people seemed inclined to tune in to watch a 20-something influencer wannabe cry over her broken heart.
At the time, neither The Bachelor nor The Bachelorette had produced a lasting relationship in years. In nearly 50 seasons of both shows, only 7 couples are still married. The advent of Bachelor in Paradise in 2014 made the idea of getting cast and then eliminated from the show—and extending your reality television tenure on this spinoff—wildly appealing. A hot, young, popular contestant could ultimately emerge from their stint on the reality dating show with, if not a ring, a podcast hosting gig and a massive social media following.
Finding true love, the promise of which made millions (myself included) tune in to The Bachelor premiere in 2002, became an afterthought to the like-and-subscribe livelihood that came with being a member of Bachelor Nation.
So the concept of The Golden Bachelor had to be another gimmick. But to Gerry Turner’s daughters, who submitted his application, it was a second chance for their grieving dad to find his forever partner. Within the first two minutes of the premiere, it became very evident why Gerry had been chosen to carry the show into its gilded age. And it also became clear that this spinoff needs to be here to stay.
I was a mess of tears within the first few minutes of episode 1.
It was almost impossible not to get misty-eyed while listening to Gerry talk about the life experience that had brought him to this frayed and grayed corner of the reality TV universe.
His high school sweetheart and the great love of his life, Toni, had passed away in 2017, and now-72-year-old Gerry longed for a partner with which to share the rest of his days. There are plenty of reasons to want to be on TV, but for some reason, I didn’t get the sense Gerry was there to build an IG following so he could sell hair vitamins and promote new wellness hacks. (It helps that he didn’t even have a social media account until ABC made one for him.)
Each of the 22 women who exited the limo to meet Gerry told their own captivating stories, and getting to know them over the course of the season felt like watching a master class in aging gracefully.
Some connected with Gerry over their own experiences losing partners, while others talked about love and loss in other ways. The women, who ranged in age from 60 to 75 years old, all seem to have lived enough life to not only know exactly what they want, but also how they want to communicate that need.
Many are mothers, and some grandmothers, who were finally putting themselves first. It felt genuine because, frankly, these women know they don’t have time to waste on bad intentions. And in clip after clip, Gerry listens intently to their worries, woes, and wins, never shying away from expressing real, true emotion. Gerry and his ladies make aging seem liberating instead of defeating.
The contestants felt different this time around.
These women knew what they wanted: A long-term partner. It wasn't about the sex or the clout, it was about a second chance at love. And it was refreshing to see women support each other and form genuine friendships while sleeping in bunk beds and dating the same man.
They processed each complex emotion with maturity, and for the most part, cheered each other on before and after dates—even if that meant they got less time with Gerry. It was like they intuitively understood their shared, painful position as older women looking for love and connection in a world that seemed uninterested in their stories.
In fact, several of the women reference this very feeling during their confessionals. “As you get older, you become more invisible,” contestant Joan shared. “People don't see you anymore. Like you are not as significant as when you are young."
And at The Women Tell All, an episode designed to reignite bitter feuds between contestants, the ladies instead created an utterly joyful reunion moment together. As it turns out, watching strong female friendships blossom can actually be the most compelling television of all.
Of course, the show is not without its drama.
Producers still made sure to catch the women at moments of weakness, having petty fights with each other (looking at you, Kathy and Theresa) or complaining about not getting a one-on-one date. And as it stands, Gerry has told at least two women that he loves them, which made me cringe just as hard as it did in 2016 when Bachelor Ben Higgins introduced the concept of a double-“I love you” moment. But these are just good reminders that The Golden Bachelor is also a human one.
Despite falling victim to some classic Bachelor tropes, there were still some real, meaningful moments of humanity for Gerry and his ladies, including during the Women Tell All episode, when Gerry addressed a noticeable shift in confidence among the eliminated contestants in the room.
“At our age, we're not invisible,” he declared. “We have meaning, and we have many things to offer. We made history together.”
It’s not clear yet whether a Golden Bachelorette will be coming down the pipeline, but there are so many easy-to-root-for women who would fit perfectly in the role. Multiple contestants have expressed feeling hopeful for the future thanks to their experience on the show, and I’m personally invested in seeing them get their happy endings. Even Gerry has said he's on board with a Golden Bachelorette.
"I have no say in it, just to be clear, but I think it would be exciting because it's going to continue the theme that we've started of being hopeful and being visible at our age,” he told People. “So hopefully it happens.”
I have fully abandoned Bachelor in Paradise since The Golden Bachelor came into my life.
Truth be told, watching two hours of clout-chasing, flip-flopping drama immediately after this wholesome gem of a show gave me whiplash, and it also made me realize the magic ingredient the OG Bachelor shows seem to be missing these days: real, human connection.
And fans seem to agree: The Golden Bachelor is currently bringing in record ratings for the franchise, hitting multi-year viewership highs within the franchise, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
It feels fitting that after more than 20 years,The Bachelor franchise is finally hitting its stride—like its contestants, it’s only getting better with age.
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