Last night, ABC premiered a new spinoff of The Bachelor: This time, the Bachelor is, wait for it, “old.” Wow! The Golden Bachelor stars Gerry Turner, a 71-year-old widower hoping to find love among 22 mostly retired female contestants ages 60 to 75. Won’t this be wacky?! the ads for the new series seemed to say. Well, no. The Golden Bachelor is not really played for laughs any more than the original iteration ever is. In fact, the premiere episode hewed extremely close to the formula Bachelor producers have spent 20-odd years perfecting. Bachelor Gerry (pronounced “Gary”) may be several decades older than usual, but he plays his part much like his 20- and 30-something predecessors.
The episode opened, like so many past Bachelor premieres, with the Bachelor getting ready for his first night in the mansion. Instead of filming him in the shower, however, to show off his rock-hard abs, producers showed him putting on his hearing aids — the one “old man” gag of the episode. After that, the show reached its usual weepy emotional register in record time as Gerry told the camera about the passing of his wife, Toni, six years ago, while James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” played softly in the background.
And then it was on to the Bachelor mansion, where host Jesse Palmer — who has officially settled in as Chris Harrison’s much-less-obtrusive replacement — was waiting to ferry Gerry through his big night. We learned through a series of cut-together footage that in addition to being pretty hot for a 71-year-old old, Gerry is a #GirlDad (he has two daughters and two granddaughters), an active pickleball player, and a generally happy retiree who lives in a lake house in Indiana. Bring on the ladies.
Producers chose not to mess with the classic night-one limo entrances at all. Just like in the original franchise, the women huddled together in black stretch limos, dressed like they were going to prom, and introduced themselves to Bachelor Gerry in front of the mansion one by one. The entrances were just as cringeworthy as usual, and gimmicks abounded. One bold contestant, a 70-year-old financial-services professional from New Jersey named Teresa, exited the limo wearing a silk black robe. She announced to Gerry that it was her birthday, so she had chosen to wear her birthday suit — something I swear I’ve seen a 23-year-old gal do on every previous season of The Bachelor.
A 65-year-old blonde contestant named April, going for the “wacky” entrance, showed up with a basket of eggs and clucked like a chicken to underline for Gerry that she … grew up on a farm. Then Leslie, a 64-year-old dance-and-fitness instructor, exited the limo in full institutionalized grandma gear — short gray wig, hospital gown, walker — before throwing it all off to reveal a sexy black dress underneath. She used to date Prince, she told the camera, and he wrote “Sexy Dancer” about her. It is clear that almost all of the women have seen the show before — and perhaps watched it obsessively — as they played their parts with stunning enthusiasm and accuracy. The entrances looked so familiar, only the names were different: Instead of a collection of Kaylees and Ashleighs, we got Peggy, Nancy, and Kathy.
Gerry responded to all of the entrances with the practiced poise of his younger forebears. He already speaks the language of The Bachelor fluently and told the camera, “The women that I have met tonight, they’re poised, they’re elegant, every one of them exudes a youthful spirit.” The women, too, know what they’re supposed to say. Dancer Leslie alluded to the competition element of the show right off the bat and told the camera, “When I found out Gerry was the Bachelor, I was like, ‘Move over, bitches!’”
Teresa, the birthday-suit hopeful, whined about getting “time” with Gerry from the moment she walked into the mansion, playing the insecure, love-obsessed caricature to perfection. “I seriously want to be in love with him,” she told the other women, who looked at her sadly. Luckily, producers gave Gerry a cupcake to present to her for her birthday, and they ended up making out. Gerry made out with several women, actually, which leads me to believe that producers will not hesitate to invite these seniors to the Fantasy Suites later in the season.
There was even a first-impression rose, which Gerry delivered to Faith, a 60-year-old brunette who showed up on a motorcycle and played Gerry an original song about finding love on her acoustic guitar. Then came the rose ceremony, which unfortunately seemed to occur at dawn. The ceremony proceeded like so many before, as a somewhat tearful Gerry whittled down the pack to 16 Champagne-clutching hopefuls.
The one welcome change to the formula: pace. The whole episode concluded in record time, in just one hour instead of two, and yet nothing seemed to be missing. We got the classic Bachelor intro, the wacky entrances, the “Can I steal you for a second?” drama in the mansion, the rose ceremony. Producers should consider speeding things up accordingly in the next season of the Not-Old Bachelor.
Based on the preview for the coming season, we can expect The Golden Bachelor to stick to what has worked in the past, even in halftime. We saw Gerry going on dates that involved riding ATVs, repelling down the side of a mountain, taking in a nighttime fireworks spectacular, and sitting in at least one outdoor hot tub. The preview also promised plenty of drama: In one clip, Gerry sat crying in a stairwell; in another, he told the camera he’s “done” with the show. Sure, Ger, we’ve heard that one before.