In just 40 seconds, the promo introducing the lead of ABC’s The Golden Bachelor, which premieres on ABC this fall, squeezes in six punchlines relying on cliches about people of a certain age. “He posts his thirst traps in a leather-bound album,” a sultry narrator says. “He gets the early bird special anytime he wants.” Not only are many of the lines nonsensical (“Florida wants to retire and move to him”?? What does that even mean?!), but some just aren’t even true.
“He doesn’t have gray hair,” the narrator continues, “he has wisdom highlights.” But the fact of the matter is that Gerry (pronounced “Gary”), the 71-year-old widowed grandpa from Indiana, is barely gray at all. His trendy coif and Just for Men-tinted locks are indistinguishable from that of any of the bachelors who came before him. ABC missed its chance to cast a real silver fox as the leading man of this spinoff, the first red flag for how the rest of the series might play out.
What makes the idea of The Golden Bachelor exciting is that it showcases a demographic that isn’t normally given the chance to shine in a lot of media, least of all reality television, let alone reality dating shows. But the older folks who are usually afforded that privilege are the most conventionally attractive (read: young looking) among them — The Real Housewives series are some of the only reality shows that regularly feature people over 50, and their storylines often revolve around the procedures and habits they can financially afford to keep their wrinkles and sagging body parts at bay.
If The Golden Bachelor’s lead will barely let his natural hair color show through, what standard does that set for the women coming in to date him? The casting call didn’t feature any age requirements, only saying that the show was looking for “seniors,” and asked for up to six recent photos to be submitted, making it clear that looks would be taken into consideration. Will this series follow Hollywood norms and bring in younger women closer to 55 than 60 or 70 to serve as Gerry’s love interests? For that matter, why did ABC feel the need to make the lead a man at all?
The first casting call for this series went out in 2020 but was derailed by the pandemic — that gave creator Mike Fleiss, the man behind The Bachelor and all its spin-offs, and producers Claire Freeland, Jason Ehrlich, Bennett Graebner, and Andrew Frank (all Bachelor Nation alums) three years to refine the concept and make the show anything they wanted it to be, cast from a broader range of people for the lead and contestants. Given the franchise’s poor history with casting people of color and dealing with racism, this was a prime time to at least put someone other than a white man in the spotlight. But instead we get Gerry, who may be a perfectly nice man, but is an obvious and somewhat bland choice.
Those jokes in the teaser are troublesome, too. Hopefully they’re just a playful move to catch people’s attention early on, and not setting the stage for a season full of comments about 4:30 PM dinner dates or jokes about the sexuality of older people — we’re already bracing for the potential Viagra quips ahead.
The Golden Bachelor could do something really different and fun with the reality dating show format, bringing new perspectives to the genre. And at least the very concept is acknowledging that people over the age of 30 (which tends to be the cap for Bachelor Nation’s other franchises) deserve love too. But if it tries to cover up every gray hair in the process, it’s simply a missed opportunity.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.