It was perhaps inevitable.
In this summer of a geezer fever dream — in which 81-year-old Harrison Ford swashbuckled his way back to the silver screen reprising his role as a grizzled archeologist in the fifth instalment of “Indiana Jones,” and Tom Cruise, 61, brought his devil-may-care attitude to the seventh go-round of “Mission: Impossible” — it was announced this week that “The Golden Bachelor” is en route to TV this fall.
A spinoff of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” the new show will star a 71-year-old widower from Indiana with an enviable head-of-hair, a spray tan to match and two grandkiddos. Named Gerry but pronounced Gary (my favourite part!), his time in the sun arrives at an interesting juncture for the reality TV franchise, which itself has become indelible pop culture. After 27 seasons of “The Bachelor” and innumerable international copycat shows, the franchise is now older than that chap, Carlos, who won Wimbledon a few days ago!
“When a 71 year old man looks better than the 20 somethings I see on Hinge,” one smart-aleck quacked on Twitter when the new star of “The Golden Bachelor” was unveiled this week. (Gerry, by the way, likes “barbecues, playing pickleball, cheering on his favourite Chicago sports teams, four-wheeling.” He lost his wife of 43 years back in 2017.)
An absurdist, addictive three-way-mirror, Bachelor Nation, as the fandom is sometimes called, has infiltrated the cultural conversation. Terms like “fantasy suite” come with loaded meaning, as does the dreaded “journey.” (Eeks.) The question, “Are you here for the right reasons?” is another trope that’s become a meme.
While it’s long been rumoured that a version of the show featuring an older demo was in the works, it’s clear that Hollywood’s industry kerfuffle bumped up the urgency. The writers’ strike, and now the actors’ strike, means there’s a scripted slow-roll across the networks. Why not go back to this well-trod well?
Still, some details of the new show are surprising. The worlds of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” have been historically focused on the young — Clare Crawley, 39, was the oldest Bachelorette in franchise history. While it remains to be seen how old the suitors vying for Gerry’s heart will be, choosing a 71-year-old star is a statement.
Gerry remembers the one-giant-leap-for-mankind moon landing. He was around for Watergate and disco. He remembers when people smoked on planes, and when seatbelts in cars became a thing. He lived through Yuppies and the ascent of fro-Yo. He remembers when they used to call the hashtag the “pound button.”
He’s decidedly different from the Bachelors who have come before.
Zeitgeist-wise, he’s also the right choice.
Older stars haven’t just maintained their box office and streaming supremacy — their ageless appearances have changed the way we think getting older can look and feel.
Fun fact: Brad Pitt, 59, is now more than a decade older than Archie Bunker was supposed to be in “All in the Family.” When “The Golden Girls” began, the sitcom stars were introduced as being in their early 50s, younger than the likes of JLo and Sarah Jessica Parker today. Just the other day, I learned that Alice — y’know, the maid on “The Brady Bunch” — was supposed to be in her 40s!
There’s a confluence of reasons why people looked older back then: less surgery and tinkering; less sunscreen; much more smoking. The biggest difference, though, may be an existential one: it was a time when the generations more clearly defined, and societal roles more fully prescribed.
“The Golden Bachelor” arrives at a time in the culture when age is particularly porous in the Hollywood action genre. In a recent Zoomer piece, my friend Nathalie Atkinson found that the average age of an action-movie leading man in 2023 was 55. In 2015, she reported, the average age was 47; in 1995, it was 39. Keanu Reeves was 58 in the latest “John Wick” instalment, and this September, Denzel Washington, 68, stars in “The Equalizer 3.” As the Star’s Peter Howell pointed out in a recent dispatch from Cannes, six of the biggest celebrities at the festival were over 60, including that swashbuckling Ford.
Frankly, my opinion is that stunts are all cool and all, but balancing a bunch of women you’re dating at the same time, who are also living in the same house? That takes more finesse than jumping out of a helicopter. You go, Gerry-pronounced-Gary.
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