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How ‘The Golden Bachelor’ Changed TV

Watch the final Nov. 30 episode of the landmark show that changed what we’ll see — and how we see ourselves

spinner image "The Golden Bachelor" Gerry Turner smiles during "The Women Tell All" special.
Gerry Turner, 72, is a retired restaurateur, father and grandfather from Indiana.
John Fleenor/Disney

The Golden Bachelor airs its final episode Thursday, Nov. 30, when Gerry Turner, 72, will be forced to choose to give a fateful rose to one of the remaining women on the reality competition show: fitness instructor Leslie, 64, for whom Prince wrote the tune “Sexy Dancer,” or homemaker turned financial services pro Theresa, 69.

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“This is an impossible task,” Turner wailed in the penultimate episode. “If I’d known this would be how much pain I would cause, I would have never taken the first step in this journey!” But the last step will involve the thrill of victory for one woman, the agony of defeat for another, and sweet relief for the guy who finally decided whom he could not live without.

The show has been historic in several ways.

spinner image the golden bachelor gerry turner standing with the 22 women contestants on the reality dating show
Craig Sjodin/ABC

‘Golden’ injected new blood into the sagging 'Bachelor' TV franchise.

How? By doing something TV seldom does: treating people over 50 as if they were still sexual beings. In fact, in 27 seasons, there was never a female contestant in any of the Bachelor shows over 40, and folks in their 30s were rare. The result: The Golden Bachelor’s sexy sexagenarians and septuagenarians were the talk of TV. Its premiere was the most-watched episode of any ABC series since a 2021 episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

Paying attention to the 50-plus generations was simply good business. ABC’s median viewer is 64, and more than 40 percent of the audience for earlier, youth-centric seasons of The Bachelor was older than 55, according to a YouGov survey. Grownups are the champion TV watchers of America, and they also have a lot more money than younger generations.

It showed that when Hollywood execs get desperate, they can actually get innovative.

After many years when the grownup version of The Bachelor languished in development hell, the suits at last aired it, because strikes by writers and actors left them with few if any new scripted shows for the fall season.

“Ordered as programming to fill the void created by the [Writers Guild of America] strike, The Golden Bachelor helped usher in a new era for the franchise to appeal to a new and underserved demographic of ABC’s audience: adults over 50,” The Hollywood Reporter West Coast TV editor Lesley Goldberg tells AARP.

It struck a thunderous blow on behalf of 50-plus representation on-screen.

A-list movie stars like Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren are increasingly present on scripted hit TV shows, but reality TV — whose audience skews older — has been resistant to casting grownups. Now that Gerry Turner and his ladies are the buzziest new stars of the fall season, expect to see more new beautiful faces on reality TV with a few wrinkles. “The Golden Bachelor will encourage some of the 30-something execs in Hollywood to reconsider their previous prejudices about doing a television show about love within the Social Security set," says Pepper Schwartz, 78, a relationship expert on Lifetime's Married at First Sight. "Love between two people who have loved and lost over a lifetime might be even more profound than seeing younger men and women search for love."

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spinner image Gerry Turner gives a rose to Leslie while they're both in an outdoor hot tub on "The Golden Bachelor."
Gerry Turner and Leslie together in the hot tub.

It showed that grownups on TV can score on streaming, not just old-school TV.

The Golden Bachelor wasn’t just watched on broadcast TV — it set records on streaming too, becoming the most popular Bachelor show in years and the most-streamed ABC show ever on Hulu. The over-50 audience is looming ever larger in the streaming audience as well as keeping broadcast TV in business.

It proved that older viewers aren’t the only ones interested in older faces on-screen.

“We have this idea that, oh, a show about young people young people will watch, a show about old people old people will watch, and that's not necessarily the case,” says Robert Thompson, trustee professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Communications. “Golden Girls [whose characters were in their 50s] was a huge hit before Friends [with a 20ish cast] was, and at schools where I’ve taught, sororities had Golden Girls viewing parties, after it was in reruns five days a week.” The Golden Bachelor won fans young and old right away.

spinner image the women contestants of the abc reality series the golden bachelor
The women of "The Golden Bachelor."
Ricky Middlesworth/ABC

It may spin off a ‘Golden Bachelorette’ show.

Given how well they did as love-seekers, it’s hard to imagine that ABC won’t cast women over 50 as the object of a bevy of silver-fox bachelors’ attention. More than one contestant told AARP she would eagerly volunteer to be on such a show.

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spinner image Some of the women of "The Golden Bachelor" sitting on a bench together on the pickleball court.
John Fleenor/ABC

It made reality TV nicer.

Bachelor shows and reality TV in general are famous for cruelty, but with a very few exceptions, The Golden Bachelor featured exceedingly kindly people. There was one big spat, when Kathy gave Theresa a tongue-lashing for making Kathy feel like Theresa thought she had Gerry in the bag. But Gerry sent angry Kathy packing, and it was the ultra-nice Theresa who made it to the final showdown episode. The women clearly had a ball being together even when Gerry was away — sometimes they even had more fun together than when they were on dates with him.

Gerry’s lovers weren’t as shallowly appearance-focused as past, youthful Bachelor contestants, nor was he. “What I look for at the age of 70 is different than what I looked for in high school and college,” he sensibly said.

It made everybody feel better — even (after a tear or two) the losers.

Contestant Sandra, 75, said she treasured meeting not only Gerry, but also her ostensible rivals: “I made friendships, relationships. I have ‘sister wives,’ pen pals, phone pals now that I didn’t have before."

spinner image Gerry Turner with Theresa sitting on a bench at an amusement park on "The Golden Bachelor."
Gerry Turner with Theresa, one of the two finalists of "The Golden Bachelor."
John Fleenor/Disney

It made everybody over 50 feel like romantic happiness is still in the cards.

“It actually changes people’s perspective about aging,” contestant Natascha, 60, told AARP after leaving the show. “I love the whole time that I did it. I have no regrets. I’m just so happy.”

“I can move forward,” Sandra told AARP after Gerry sent her home roseless yet with a spring in her step and a renewed appetite for love. “I’m more motivated now. I know that if there’s one great guy out there, there are others and my time will come. You can find love after 80 — I mean, what’s the limit? The limit is within yourself.”

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