Los Angeles drivers heading north on La Cienega Boulevard these days may notice a bronze gentleman smiling down at them from the billboards that line both sides of the street.
He is Gerry Turner, an Indiana retiree who used to work in the food distribution industry. But as one of the billboards explanation, those weren’t the qualifications that led to her becoming the star of the latest “Bachelor” spinoff.
“She’s hot. She’s sexy. She’s 72.”
Assessment is taken from a recent headlines about Turner, who as the first “Golden Bachelor” is at the center of a new spin on the franchise featuring singles 60 and older.
“This is definitely the first time in a ‘Bachelor’ campaign that we’ve used a quote from AARP on our billboards,” said Shannon Ryan, who oversees the show’s marketing.
That “The Bachelor” is trying a slight variation on a tested formula is no revelation. The show’s numerous spinoffs include “The Bachelorette,” “Bachelor in Paradise,” Canada’s “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelor” in the winter season“the young man” with a cash prizeand “The Bachelor” featuring people who work in the music industry.
But with all those variations on the theme, most eligible singles are young, fresh-faced 20- or 30-somethings looking to get married for the first time. On “The Golden Bachelor,” which airs Thursday, the nearly two dozen women vying for Turner’s attention are between 60 and 75 and include divorcees, widows, mothers and grandmothers.
Sitting in the show’s Mediterranean-style mansion in Agoura Hills, Calif., last month, hours before a night of filming began, Bennett Graebner, one of the showrunners, recalled the exciting introduction of the new cast to the luxurious home , with its eternity. pool and Jacuzzis overlooking tree-lined hills.
At first, he said, the contestants’ reactions were similar to those he saw during his 15 years as a producer of “The Bachelor.”
“They ran and looked in their rooms and yelled from the balcony, and we said, ‘OK, it’s like “The Bachelor,” Graebner said. “And they went down to the kitchen and had mimosas and they toasted , and we said, ‘OK, it’s like “The Bachelor.”’”
“And then,” he said, “a woman said, ‘Let’s toast Social Security!'”
He had never heard of that one before.
With “The Golden Bachelor,” ABC recognizes that a key segment of its audience — the network’s median viewer age is 64 — has so far been largely ignored in the ever-growing lineup of dating shows. (The median age drops to 42 for ABC shows streaming on Hulu.)
In recent years, some programs have experimented with older participants, though not on this scale and with little success.
In “Dating Around,” Netflix’s first original dating series, which debuted a year before “Love Is Blind” became a global phenomenon, the fan favorite is Leonard, a 70-year-old private investigator. During their dinner dates, he reminisces about doing LSD in his youth and dancing the Lindy Hop with a woman on the sidewalk.
Last year, the executive producers behind the popular dating show “Love Island” introduced a new show called “My mother, your father” on HBO Max, where college-aged people watch their parents date each other from a secret viewing room. The show didn’t last long, but an adaptation in Britain beckoned “My mom, your dad” just finished.
And then there’s “MILF Manor” on TLC, in which eight mothers in their 40s, 50s and 60s find themselves in a Mexican hotel in a dating pool made up of their grown children.
Howard Lee, the president of TLC, said “MILF Manor” intrigued the network because of its age bracket, which stuck with the deluge of dating show pitches he’s been featuring people in their 20s and 30s.
“For the first time, it’s a series that doesn’t go in that direction,” he said. “MILF Manor” had a viral moment on social media — partly driven by its similarity to a “30 Rock” gag — but it’s not yet clear if it will get a second season.
On “The Golden Bachelor,” where the contestants are as young as 60, the idea is to take its tryout into a completely different league. More than two decades later, the “Bachelor” franchise remains a reality juggernaut, and “The Golden Bachelor” will be one of ABC’s biggest releases this fall, in part because of the network’s narrow slate of offerings during the Hollywood writers and actors. strikes.
If “The Golden Bachelor” succeeds, expect more opportunities for senior singles to find love on television.
The showrunners say the broader cultural shift toward embracing, rather than hiding, aging helped pave the way for this show.
“Martha Stewart is on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 80 or so,” said Jason Ehrlich, one of the three “Golden Bachelor” showrunners. “John Stamos has been posting pictures of himself in the shower naked for his 60th birthday. There seems to be an appetite moment here.”
“Bachelor” producers have been talking about a show like this for nearly a decade. Their efforts to make it a reality began in earnest in 2019, and they started circulating advertisements to recruit “seniors looking for love” in 2020. But Covid-19 put the idea on hold. (“This is not the show to do in the middle of a pandemic,” Graebner said.)
When producers revisited the concept earlier this year, they rediscovered Turner’s audition tape. In it he explains that he is ready to find another partner after losing his wife of 43 years, whom he met in high school, to a sudden infection.
In an interview, Turner, a father and grandfather, said he was “very, very grateful, not only for myself but for people my age, that this show came about and that it came to fruition.”
The ladies of “The Golden Bachelor” brought to the mansion a certain self-deprecation that comes with age, the show’s producers say. For example, the cast debated for days whether it was Susan’s meatballs or Edith’s guacamole that gave the house gas. And in Thursday’s premiere episode, when one of the women gets out of the limousine and greets Turner, she turns on something they both have in common: a hearing aid.
The fun facts about women include that Christina’s first concert was the Beatles in 1964 and that Kathy was “OBSESSED” with Christmas. Several of the contestants, including Turner, share a passion for pickleball. And some of the women also have long careers behind them; Marina, 60, has three master’s degrees.
“When we cast for other shows, some of the younger kids come up to us and they feel like they need to show a version of themselves that we want to see,” said Claire Freeland, the third “Golden Bachelor” showrunner. “These girls are just them from the jump.”
When dating shows have included older people in the past, it’s often been a gimmick. The original “Dating Game,” which aired in 1965, once featured Kathryn Minner, an actress known for playing “little old lady” characters on TV, movies and, most famously, in a ad campaign for Dodge vehicles.
“The Bachelor” has always loved puns and stunts, and the golden edition is likely to have many age-related bits. At the mansion, there’s a supply of Werther’s Originals — just like in your grandmother’s living room — and the show’s promo introducing the female contestants. including footage of a woman cleaning her glasses and another slipping on pantyhose, to the tune of Cher’s “Believe”.
But the producers tried to let the age-related humor be driven by the contestants themselves.
“We’re not laughing at them, but we’re definitely laughing at them,” Ehrlich said. He said he studied the sitcom “The Golden Girls” to find interesting topics of conversation to bring up when things got dull.
Showrunners insist it’s not just a show for older viewers of “The Bachelor,” about 43 percent of whom are 55 and older, according to a 2020 YouGov poll.
They think “The Golden Bachelor” has the potential to bring generations together to watch a more wholesome version of the franchise. They’re also hoping that a different kind of cast will entice lapsed “Bachelor” fans back into the fold and bring in new audiences who may have been crazy about the brand long ago.
The ads, for example, won’t have the typical reality show snippets of scream-and-cry dramas, instead opting for more uplifting messaging, said Ryan, the president of marketing for Disney Entertainment Television, which includes ABC.
Even Eileen Zurbriggen, a feminist social psychologist who has argued in his research that dating TV shows like “The Bachelor” actively harm young viewers’ ability to start healthy relationships, in part by reinforcing the perception of dating as a type of game, she said she saw the potential for the show to work against gender clichés.
“It’s refreshing, in a culture that’s still obsessed with youth, to see older women portrayed as interested in sex and still sexually desirable,” Zurbriggen said.
April Jayne, an actress, singer and fitness trainer who is one of the contestants on “MILF Manor,” said she spent most of her acting career hiding her age. Now at age 61, she’s seeing more job opportunities than ever since she appeared on reality TV.
“When you reach middle age, it doesn’t mean you’re falling apart,” Jayne says, though she notes that the 40-year age gap between her and the young man she’s dating on the show is perhaps too great.
By the way, he added, if ABC happens to be casting for a “Golden Bachelorette,” he’s interested and available.
Callie Holtermann contributed reporting.