Partway through Thursday night’s long-awaited premiere of ABC’s The Golden Bachelor, America’s first gray-haired Bachelor, Gerry Turner, cracked up the room with a joke: “Ladies, do you realize this is the latest I’ve ever been up in my whole life?”
Gerry, a 71-year-old retired restaurateur from Indiana, is the first senior to lead the franchise’s new spin-off. By all accounts, he’s already a huge hit. Thank the gods of romance for that, because longtime citizens of Bachelor Nation and newcomers alike have seemed to be rooting for this show from the beginning—even in spite of the fact that the broader franchise is starting to feel a little creaky in its second decade. Even just a couple minutes into the premiere, it’s easy to see why.
Gerry’s openness is undeniable as he tearfully recounted his wife Toni’s tragic, sudden passing after 43 years of marriage. Gerry and Toni shared a “real typical but beautiful life,” he said, and now, “I yearn for the second chance in life to fall in love again. The person who can lay down beside you at night, not have to say anything, and you feel it. That’s love. That’s what I want.”
Three minutes and 30 seconds into this thing, and I’m already crying—help!!!
But Gerry and these extraordinary women aren’t just here to make us sob. Once they started dating, they also proved they’ve still got the moves. As 64-year-old fitness instructor Leslie put it Thursday night—after showing up in an “old lady” costume that she quickly stripped off—this season is “breaking the stereotypical view of what a senior looks like or acts like.” That starts with the idea that older people aren’t lively, fun, and, well… let’s call it “frisky.”
Anyone who thought that this season would be any less horny than previous seasons was both sorely mistaken and clearly has not heard of The Villages, a retirement community and “STD capital of America.” Still, the sheer brazenness of some of these women is not to be underestimated.
Theresa, a financial services professional from New Jersey whose 70th birthday happened to fall on the show’s first day of filming, showed up to the mansion in a robe and flashed Gerry her “birthday suit.” (She might’ve been wearing a nude leotard underneath, but still, that’s bolder than anything I’ve ever done to open a first date!) April, a 65-year-old therapist from Florida, says she grew up on a chicken farm “and my eggs are still very fresh.” She even did a suggestive, ass-patting chicken dance to prove it. And then there was Susan, a 66-year-old Pennsylvanian wedding officiant and Kris Jenner-lookalike who showed off her stilettos before telling Gerry, “I’m very comfortable with six inches.”
… And then, just in case there was a shred of doubt left about this group’s collective sultriness, Gerry later revealed that his favorite slow song is Etta James’ “At Last?!” Case closed!
This season includes two familiar faces ABC devotees might recognize: former Bachelor Matt James’ mom, Patty, and Jimmy Kimmel’s Aunt Chippy. Other early stand-outs include Sandra—a 75-year-old retired executive assistant from Georgia who told Gerry upon meeting him that her favorite meditation practice involves closing her eyes and slowly chanting the word “fuck” very slowly—and Faith, who wound up snagging the first impression rose.
From the moment Faith pulled up on a motorcycle, the other women could tell that the Washington high school teacher meant business. And when she grabbed her guitar (decked out with sparkly heart stickers) and sang Gerry an original song? He was visibly mesmerized. Faith is a self-proclaimed “fun-monger,” which seems in keeping with Gerry’s adventure-filled wishes for his future.
Did this Golden Bachelor defy the statistical odds and find his perfect match on Night One? Maybe! Either way, the way he explained his choice to Faith was downright swoon-worthy. “I want you to know that you made this impression not because you rode in on a motorcycle,” Gerry said. “And not even because you have a beautiful voice and you sang a song to me—but because of what you’re doing right now. You’re making me feel very special.”
Dammit—where did I leave that tissue box?
Needless to say, Gerry has developed greater emotional intelligence over the years than some of our previous young Bachelors, who shall remain nameless. (Cough—Peter—cough.) But what’s perhaps even more refreshing is how the episode itself unfolds. Gone are the doom-and-gloom vibes that often accompany Night One. While some of the women realized that there wouldn’t be time for everyone to meet Gerry, the anxiety didn’t seem to morph into rivalry. The premiere even included a brief montage of women complimenting one another—further bolstering the idea that this season will be about something a little different and more sincere than your typical Bachelor outing.
Best of all, to top it all off, the episode clocked in at a graceful one hour—a welcome deviation from the two-hour norm that I’d welcome for all Bachelor shows and spin-offs in the future. ABC evidently decided that older folks don’t want to stay up that late to watch anyone’s “journey to find love,” and, frankly, neither does this 32-year-old. (Although, let’s be real, I always will.) If that’s not worth a champagne toast over an early-bird special, I don’t know what is.