Three years after ABC started running casting promos for “seniors searching for love,” the very first episode of The Golden Bachelor is finally here. And from the adorable grandmas to the surprisingly naughty jokes, it did not disappoint.
There’s an appropriately golden glow over the city of Los Angeles as Gerry Turner, our first-ever Golden Bachelor, prepares to meet 22 potential wives. He buttons his shirt, fixes his collar, and then dons the most important accessory of the night:
Hell yeah, get those hearing aids in place, sir! “I’m Gerry, and today is the first day of the reset of my life,” the 72-year-old widower says. (Note: Gerry turned 72 a few days after production started.) The Golden Bachelor takes a photo of his late wife, Toni, from the mantle and gazes at it solemnly.
Dammit, between this and Yusuf/Cat Stevens’ “The Wind” playing on the soundtrack, I’m already getting teary — and we’re less than two minutes into the episode! I’m gonna need a Costco-sized pallet of Kleenex to get through this season.
This montage of photos from Gerry’s 43-year marriage to Toni isn’t helping me get it together. Nor is listening to the tragic story of how that wonderful marriage ended. When Toni retired in 2017, she and Gerry bought their “dream house” on a lake in Indiana. “She became ill, and her situation got worse over a couple of weeks,” Gerry explains. One month after they closed on their dream house, Gerry took Toni to the emergency room… and she succumbed to a bacterial infection a few days later. “I took my wife to the emergency on July 7,” says Gerry through sobs. “And she never came home.”
WHY CAN’T WE HUG PEOPLE THROUGH THE TELEVISION, DANG IT??? I’ve seen Gerry tell this story several times since he was announced as the Golden Bachelor, and it still wrecks me every time.
Now, six years later, Gerry is open to finding a new love — and his daughters, Jenny and Angie, are wholeheartedly on board. Time to stop crying, rose lovers. Don’t you hear that upbeat, Ready to Find Love Again™ music? We now shift gears to a montage of Gerry meeting his adoring public, including a young woman at an arcade who declares, “You will find your person! I believe in you!”
And look, here come those potential “persons” right now!
Gerry arrives at the mansion and gets a warm greeting from host Jesse Palmer. Though he’s feeling “a little anxious and a little nervous,” Gerry is excited to meet the woman of his dreams. Bring on the limos. It’s time for this “journey” to begin!
And the first bachelorette out of the limo is…
Look at that vision of golden glamour! Gerry lets out a “Wow!” as Edith makes her way over to his spot on the driveway. The gorgeous 60-year-old suggests that they celebrate this momentous moment in reality TV history by setting off some confetti canons. Congrats, you history-making hotties!
Ellen, 71, arrives next. Stepping out of the limo, the petite blonde tilts her head to the sky and shouts, “Roberta, we made it!”
Who is Roberta, you (and Gerry) ask? She is Ellen’s best friend and Bachelor-watching buddy who is battling cancer. Ellen says Roberta encouraged her to take this “journey” into Golden Bachelor territory, and she’s feeling hopeful. “He could be the one!” Gerry is clearly delighted by Ellen’s energy. “Oh, Ellen, you are great!” he raves. She is! Is it too soon to start campaigning for Ellen to be the first Golden Bachelorette? Probably.
Now here comes Sandra, a 75year-old retired executive assistant with a sultry voice. “Hi Gerry,” she purrs as she strides over to him in a striking red dress. Sandra says she’s “awfully nervous,” and informs Gerry that she’s going to take a moment and perform her “Zen practice” to calm down.
That’s right, rose lovers — we’re just about 15 minutes into the series premiere of The Golden Bachelor and the contestants are already dropping f-bombs. (Is it too soon to start campaigning for Sandra to be the first Golden Bachelorette? Probably.) “I’m a woman who speaks her mind,” Sandra says in her intro package. “I really do need someone to step into my golden years with.”
Time for some prop comedy!
After tottering out of the limo in a muumuu and pushing a walker, Leslie, 64, makes her big reveal: She’s what the younger male Bachelorette contestants would call a smokeshow! Oh, and by the way, Leslie dated Prince when she was younger — “and he wrote ‘Sexy Dancer‘ about me,” she adds with a giggle. “When I found out Gerry was the Bachelor, I was like, ‘Move over, bitches!’ No, I’m just kidding!” Whatever you say, Leslie. Go on with your bad self!
Uh-oh, this show is only an hour long. It’s time to speed up the arrivals! Please say a brief hello to Marina, 60; Christina, 73; Joan, 60; Natascha, a 60-year-old dancing queen; Peggy, 69, who tells Gerry she “could not breathe for two hours” after seeing him on Good Morning America; and Pamela, 75, who greets Gerry with a cute peck on the cheek. Kathy, a striking 70-year-old, compliments the Golden Bachelor’s smiling eyes, while Nancy, 60, reveals that she, too, is wearing hearing aids.
Twelve eligible senior women down, 10 to go! Theresa, 70, arrives next and informs Gerry that it’s her birthday. “So, I thought, why not come in my birthday suit?” She begins to unwrap her sheer black robe, and…
Don’t let the sleazy, faux-porn music fool you, rose lovers. Theresa isn’t nude — she’s wearing a flesh-colored slip under her wrap. It’s sexy senior humor! Theresa’s husband died almost nine years ago, and now she is ready “to be in love again.”
In keeping with the PG-13 theme, April, a 65-year-old therapist, arrives carrying a wicker basket. “I grew up on a chicken farm,” she announces. “And…”
Debatable, April, but A+ for the joke, which makes Gerry cackle. “I like somebody who is playful,” says April, who proceeds to cluck like a chicken and then waggle her tiny tush in Gerry’s direction. Whatever happens with Gerry, this woman is already a Bachelor Nation icon. Send her to Paradise!
Renee, a 67-year-old former “Chicago Honey Bear” Cheerleader, brings her pom-poms with her and performs a chant for Gerry that takes a slightly naughty turn at the end. “Hope to bring you lots of luck, because I’m the girl you want to…”
Phew. Maria, 60, asks Gerry to show her his dance moves, while Anna, 61, pulls him to the limo and jokes that they should “get the hell outta here.” Then comes Susan, a brassy, 60-year-old wedding officiant who makes a joke that is truly one of the top-five dirtiest things ever said on this franchise. Lifting up her dress to show Gerry her high heels, Susan drops this blue bomb:
DAMN, Susan! You kiss your grandchildren with that mouth? But Gerry LOVES it, and he applauds her risqué quip.
The mansion is getting more and more crowded, but the women inside are feeling festive, not freaked out and competitive. “I love your dress!” someone yells to Susan when she strides inside. “This is exciting!” adds Maria. “The different dresses and the different energy. All the fun things that women like to do, they’re on display.”
Oh, everyone be quiet! Matt James’ mom (Patty, 70) is here, and we don’t want to miss her six seconds of screen time!
Sorry, Patty, but I don’t think that really means anything to this Bachelor. Sylvia, a 64-year-old public affairs consultant, shows up next. “I hear that your celebrity crush is Penelope Cruz?” she asks Gerry. “Well, here I am!” (Wait… is saying that she looks like Penelope Cruz? They are both brunettes, I suppose.) Moving on to Jeannie, 65, who informs Gerry that her own mother found love at 70, “so I believe it can happen for all of us!”
That’s everybody, right? Nope. It wouldn’t be a Bachelor franchise show without a little ABC/Disney synergy — which explains the (very mildly) amusing cameo from Jimmy Kimmel‘s Aunt Chippy.
Oh, but there is one more actual contestant, too. And here she comes now, roaring up on a motorcycle.
“There’s no way she’s over 60!” whispers Kathy, who is watching this grand entrance from the mansion doorway. Indeed, she is! Meet Faith, a 61-year-old high school teacher. “I’m proof that you can live fast and not die young!” she tells Gerry. “And, if you leave here with me, it’ll be the ride of your life.” Loving the puns, Faith! Keep ’em coming.
With the arrivals over, Gerry heads into the mansion to greet his potential (second) wives. And the Golden Bachelor is already feeling supremely grateful for the experience. “Watching all the women arrive today was the most fantastic experience that I will ever have,” he gushes. “Every door that opened was like the best Christmas ever!”
This man is just too pure. Don’t you DARE mess with him, Team Bachelor! Okay, Gerry — time for your first night toast. Bonne chance!
“In this room there is beauty and poise and intellect,” Gerry tells the women. “You’ve really inspired me.”
April pulls Gerry for a chat first, and she’s brought him a gift. No, not more eggs — it’s an all-April calendar, meaning every month is a picture of April, and every month is (you guessed it) April! ABC, please track down whatever FedEx/Kinkos clerk helped April make this calendar and bring them to the Women Tell All.
Ellen sits down with the Golden Bachelor next, and they bond over their shared belief that older people can, in fact, find love again. Ellen says her dear friend Roberta told her, “Never say never” when she was nervous about being on the show, and now she is grateful for that advice. “I think we’re capable at this age to do it, and everyone’s entitled to love and be loved,” she continues. Mr. Gerry Turner absolutely LOVES it.
“I haven’t felt this giddy and excited in years,” Ellen confesses. “It is the best day of my life in so long!” Ugh, this woman is so sweet. She must find love! Dang it, I want them all to find love with Gerry — but polygamy is illegal. We need more Golden Bachelors, stat!
Let’s also take a minute to discuss Natascha, who is a freaking delight. For her sitdown with Gerry, they literally sit on the mansion floor (on yoga mats) and do a sort of laughing exercise. And Natascha’s laugh is INCREDIBLE! It’s like a combination screech-cackle-guffaw, and the two of them on the floor laughing their hearts out just makes me very, very happy.
“Gerry is in great shape,” purrs Natascha. “I’m not going to need to resuscitate him if we have an intimate moment.” Funnily enough, that was one of the questions Gerry had to fill out on the Golden Bachelor application: “In the past five years, have you required the assistance of a defibrillator after an ‘intimate moment’?” (Kidding. Kind of.)
Sandra’s time with Gerry is interrupted by some kind of giant bug, but she claims a small victory nonetheless: “I didn’t say f—!” Gerry lets out another guffaw. This man is just having the time of his life, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.
Marina wants Gerry to know that her daughter thinks he’s “dope.” The Golden Bachelor chuckles and replies, “My granddaughter told me I had rizz!” They share a big laugh over those wacky Gen-Z terms, and Marina comes away from the conversation feeling like she could take a swim in Gerry’s “beautiful blue eyes.”
Oh dear. Looks like Faith brought her guitar. I was really hoping we’d get through the whole night without having to watch somebody sing an original composition. No such luck.
Nothing against Faith. She has a very nice voice, and the song is pretty. But I will never not feel like Liz Lemon listening to Criss sing “Your body is my Garden of Eden” whenever I’m forced to watch someone serenade someone else. (“I hate you!”)
But this isn’t about me, rose lovers! It’s about Gerry. And not only does he think Faith is “very attractive,” he’s also a big fan of her song. When Faith asks him what he wants from his next relationship, he gazes into her eyes and says, “A little bit of this would be just about right.” Ooooh, are we witnessing Gerry’s first Golden love connection?
We interrupt this recap for a senior citizen dance break.
“Nobody has fun like we have fun, right?” Gerry hollers. Oh snap, did the Golden Bachelor just wink at someone from across the room? This man is smooth. Later in his confessional, Gerry tells producers that he’s feeling very hopeful: “I believe my forever partner is in this house.”
The night wears on, and when the women aren’t complimenting each other (genuinely, I might add!) on how nice they look, they’re worrying about getting time with Gerry before the rose ceremony. Especially now:
Oh snap, the First Impression Rose is here! “There’s only one?” someone asks. (Bless these women.) Ladies, the clock’s ticking and the moon is moving across the sky. If you want to make a move, do it fast! Nancy shoots some hoops with Gerry in the driveway, while Jeanie gives the Golden Bachelor a genie lamp. “Since I’m a real Jeanie, I can grant a wish!” she says.
Theresa heads outside with Gerry and reads him a letter that her daughter sent to her before she left for the show. “Dear Mom,” she begins. “This is going to be such an amazing experience. I can’t believe I won’t be able to talk to you every day, and I won’t be able to tell you when you have food in your teeth.” Gerry gets a good chuckle out of that, and then he tells Theresa that he has “a little something for her.” Could it be the First Impression Rose? Not quite.
She blows out the candles, but then it’s Gerry who makes his move. “If I were to take a bite of that and then were to have a whole bunch of icing [on my face],” he asks, “would you help clean it up?” I’ll say it again: This man is SMOOTH. Naturally, Theresa happily agrees to this arrangement. Cut to:
Rose lovers, I am not joking when I tell you that I yelled, “Get it, Theresa!” out loud at my screen. The first real kiss of The Golden Bachelor season! I’m swooning.
Naturally, Theresa thinks she’s got a great shot at the First Impression Rose, but instead that goes to Faith. “It’s not because you rode in on a motorcycle,” says Gerry. “It’s not even because you have a beautiful voice, and you sang a song to me. It’s because of what you’re doing right now. You’re making me feel very special.” Awww, congrats Faith!
Lord help us, it’s time for the rose ceremony. How are we going to handle seeing any of these fabulous women sent home? April, for one, is not ready to say goodbye to Gerry: “I didn’t even get to, you know, first base!” The Golden Bachelor admits that he’s “dreaded” this moment for months. Ugh, let’s just bite the bullet. Rose ceremony roll call!
Ellen, Theresa, Joan, Natascha, Leslie, Christina, Edith, Nancy, April, Sandra, Jeanie, Kathy, Marina, Peggy, and Susan join Faith in the Circle of Safety™. Alas, that means we must say goodbye to Anna, Pamela, Patty, Maria, Renee, and Sylvia. If there is a God, we’ll see some of them on Golden Bachelor in Paradise next summer.
Poor Gerry is crying as the rose ceremony comes to an end, but fortunately producers do not make us watch the women give tearful exit interviews. Honestly, I’m not sure how I’m going to handle watching all these senior stars cry as the season progresses. The preview — which featured a lot of tears and one very brutal break-up along with multiple make-out shots — almost killed me. Hearing Gerry say, “The only time I ever felt worse in my whole life is when my wife passed away, and this is a goddamned close second” was gut-wrenching.
I don’t mind watching foolish twenty-somethings have mental breakdowns, but seeing a bunch of sweet grandmas and grandpas brokenhearted and weeping is going to be rough. But we’ll get through it together, rose lovers. Speaking of things that are absolutely heart-wrenching…
The first-ever episode of The Golden Bachelor is in the books! Which women do you think would make the best match for Gerry? If you’re a lapsed Bachelor fan who came back for this senior spinoff, are you glad you did? And do you think Aunt Chippy is still sleeping on the couch at the mansion? Let me know on Twitter @KristenGBaldwin!
The Golden Bachelor airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly‘s free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.