For most of my life I’ve had a hard and fast rule: No television during the day. Obviously we made accommodations for Kate’s childhood, but once she was off to school, I went back to my old habits. No talk shows, no cooking shows, no Oprah. Needless to say, no soaps, either. But I usually spend at least an hour, hour-and-a-half watching nighttime TV, and man this is the long way around to admitting that yesterday I found myself watching the first 20 minutes or so of “The Golden Bachelor,” and boy oh boy do I regret it.
“The Golden Bachelor” represents network television basically giving up. No one under 50 watches it anymore, so they might as well lean into who’s left before they all die off. The show is an elderly twist on the successful franchise, and what I watched was…horrifying. I’ve only watched snippets of the original Bachelor, but you’d have to be dead not to know the gimmick: One man (or woman) is allegedly looking for love, and a dozen or so potential candidates for loving are presented to him or her, reality TV-style, with one eliminated every week in a cornball “rose ceremony” until only two or three are left, and they scratch each other’s eyes out until s/he chooses one.
The so-called golden bachelor is a Hoosier dork named Gerry, previously an Iowan who, in the intro, tearfully tells how the love of his life, Toni, his wife of many years, died after a sudden illness five years ago, and now he’s ready to love again. He’s 72, looks very good for his age, and if the dizzying array of elderly women presented to him are any indication, he’s not going to find it on this show.
Not that they were all horrible. Some seemed more or less normal, but a fair number were the usual reality-TV narcissists. One arrived disguised as Estelle Getty hunched over a walker, then flung it and her dowdy housecoat aside to reveal her gym-toned body in a short lace dress. Others made quips about “being able to take six inches” and how much they wanted to find someone to have sexytime with. And there were more than a few that I could tell were absolutely not going to enjoy life in LaGrange County.
Yep, this Hoosier is a northeast Indiana Hoosier. After he and Toni retired to their dream house on Big Long Lake and she died, he was left to rattle around in it alone. Maybe he’ll want to sell, depending on who he chooses. But he should choose wisely, because the sunbelt bachelorettes in particular are going to throw in the towel after one wonderful summer (the Amish! so quaint!) and one enchanting fall (the colors! the sweaters!) bleeds into the gray, overcast, unending Hoosier winter. A few long weekends in Chicago (similarly gray/overcast/unending, but with theater and restaurants) aren’t going to do it.
You know, if I were inclined to watch this show, I’d like to see evidence of a few lives well-lived. If you’re going to marry in your life’s final chapter(s), you’re going to bring enough baggage with you to fill a 747 cargo bay. Best find out early if your suitcases and garment bags match. But truth be told, I’m not going to watch it to find out. That Estelle Getty act scarred my brain.
Meet the bachelorettes, and shudder.