Gerry Turner, 72, never imagined he’d be headlining a gig at L.A.’s Mel’s Drive-In, the retro burger joint immortalized in American Graffiti, on the Sunset Strip near a billboard that recently featured Mick Jagger, 80. But Turner, a tall, fit, handsome, genial widower who looks 10 years younger than his age and rocks a discreet hearing aid, is the star of a TV phenomenon as significant as the Stones’ new album is to music: The Golden Bachelor (premiering Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. on ABC), the reality show on which 22 women with a median age of 67 will vie for his hand.
Bathed in bright klieg lights in Mel’s parking lot, which had been converted into a Golden Bachelor diorama festooned with the show’s trademark roses, including roses dipped in gold paint on cocktail tables, as The Crystals’ 1963 tune “Then He Kissed Me” blared over loudspeakers, Turner was asked if he would watch the show if he weren’t its star.
“Oh, I absolutely would!” Turner told AARP. “It’s a concept with a message that can be sent to America that just because you’re a certain age, it doesn’t mean you’re not relevant. It doesn’t mean you don’t still have enthusiasm. It doesn’t mean you’re not still open for romance and love with someone. All those things. And when they watch the show they will hear that.”
What’s his type? As he jokes in a video promo for the show, “The best-case scenario is that I find out that Helen Mirren is on the market and she’s really happy to be on The Golden Bachelor.” But some of his 22 potential lovers evidently match Mirren’s allure, because he has confessed that in taping the show, he did not take his daughters’ advice not to kiss any of the women the first night he met them. “I failed!”
Turner’s show is a welcome reprieve from the relentless ageism that disgraces American popular culture and is also a shrewd pivot by ABC, whose typical prime-time viewer is 61. In fact, it’s proof that grown-up stars and viewers are a source of rejuvenating new blood in our culture. With Mirren, 78, starring in five big films and a TV show this year, Martha Stewart on Sports Illustrated’s cover at 81, Steve Martin, 78, and Martin Short, 73, riding their hit Only Murders in the Building, and hits like The Equalizer 3, 80 for Brady, Elvis and Top Gun: Maverick driven by the clout of audiences over 50, Hollywood is suddenly giving the AARP demo some new respect.