Can "The Golden Bachelor" make seniors sexy?
ABC is counting on a 72-year-old grandfather from Indiana to revive its tired "Bachelor" franchise — and everyone from "granfluencers" to cosmetic surgeons is pinning their hopes on his ability to combat ageist stereotypes (and spur Botox sales).
Why it matters: The "Golden Bachelor," debuting Thursday, could spark a national conversation on the vitality of boomers, as seen through the lens of bachelor Gerry Turner and the 60- and 70-something women he's courting.
- Older people tend to be depicted on television as cutesy, clueless or crotchety — but seldom sexy.
- "If it's a hit, it will change people's ideas, even in Hollywood," AARP film and TV critic Tim Appelo tells Axios.
Driving the news: For the first time in its 21-year history, "The Bachelor" will feature a senior citizen — Turner, a retired restaurateur — choosing a potential mate from among 22 bachelorettes, whose average age is 67.
- While people over 60 drive network TV ratings these days, the viewers who seem most pumped to watch the love-smitten seniors are young women — the core "Bachelor" audience.
- "Even the people who swore off the 'Bachelor' franchise are saying they can't wait to check out Turner's season," reports Glamour, which caters to a younger crowd.
- The show "looks to me like the only slam-dunk coming up this season," Appelo says. "I think that it can't help but do some good for all concerned."
The big picture: Any conversation around older people's vitality could have spillover effects on electoral politics, at a time when many Americans have expressed concern about the ages of President Biden and Donald Trump.
- Plus, while ageism is still alive and well in the workplace and society writ large, there are signs of older people getting more respect — not just as wise elders, but also as still-hotties.
- Martha Stewart became a Sports Illustrated cover model earlier this year at age 81.
- And plenty of older Americans are seeking new connections — nearly 1 in 5 people over 50 have used a dating site or app, per the Pew Research Center.
Reality check: The reality of dating after 50 is grim — particularly for women, who vastly outnumber available men the older they get.
- "If Turner wasn't the Golden Bachelor, he would have a line of women at his door with homemade casseroles and offers of comfort," writes author Kerri Sackville, a self-avowed middle-aged person, for the Sydney Morning Herald.
- "He is an outlier among elderly single men, which is why it has reportedly taken years of casting calls to find him."
- Plus, "most young adults regard late-in-life dating with disinterest at best, and mild horror at worst," Sackville observes.
What they're saying: The biggest misconception about senior dating? "That people can't have sex," says Bonnie Winston, a matchmaker who specializes in finding partners for older women. "Thank you, Viagra — they 100% can have sex."
- Of note: There will absolutely be "fantasy suites" on Turner's show — places where "Bachelor" stars traditionally go for intimate moments with their dates — but Turner said he views them as a place to forge an "emotional connection."
The intrigue: Advertisers have traditionally targeted viewers ages 18-54, but there are signs that the "demo," or prime advertising demographic, may need adjustment, now that baby boomers are floating the traditional TV industry.
- "The industry is starting to recognize the power of our demographic," says Appelo, who reports on AARP's Movies for Grownups awards, honoring films for older audiences.
- When the awards debuted in 2002, "it was difficult to get enough great performances by people over 50 because they were so discriminated against," he said.
- Last year's AARP best picture was "Top Gun: Maverick," featuring 61-year-old Tom Cruise; Jamie Lee Curtis, who is 64 and won an Oscar this year, got a lifetime achievement award.
The bottom line: Whether or not "The Golden Bachelor" makes gray hair chic, it could help dignify the emotional needs of older people — and get their adult children to coax them into dating again, as Turner's daughters reportedly did.
- "I just think this should have been done a while ago," Winston says.