As TV experiments go, introducing the first-ever senior Bachelor was a bold one. But producers clearly knew what they had in Gerry Turner. From the moment Bachelor Nation met the 72-year-old widower, they knew he was there for the right reasons. Instead of recycled storylines, The Golden Bachelor has brought real emotions back to the franchise, and an earnest search for connection.
Audiences have embraced Turner, making the show the most-watched series within the Bachelor franchise since the peak of Matt James‘ season in 2021 — but it almost didn’t happen. Turner explains to Us Weekly that he nearly turned down the offer.
It was a big adjustment for Turner when he arrived to meet his 22 contestants at the Bachelor Mansion. In addition to having to “give up a lot of my personal freedoms,” he wishes he would have surrendered himself earlier to the process. “Don’t wait a few days, don’t wait a week. Do it tonight,” he says. “Do it right now and life will be easier.”
Once he relaxed into the process, Turner refined his ideas of what he was seeking. “It wasn’t so much a specific question that I was looking to get answered, but more a reaction from them — a look in their eye, the feeling of connection and warmth,” he says. And while he went into the show thinking it wasn’t possible to fall for more than one person at the same time, to his surprise, he found “it was easy to look at someone and tell them that you loved them.”
If you’re among the fans who have tuned into The Golden Bachelor, you know there’s been a lot of emphasis put on Turner’s past. Turner’s high school sweetheart, Toni, died suddenly in 2017 after 43 years of marriage.
Of the three episodes that have aired so far, there have been plenty of tears shed by contestants and viewers at home, but it wouldn’t be the Bachelor without a little tension in the house. During the October 12 episode, Kathy Swarts accused Theresa Nist, who received the first one-on-one date, of bragging about her connection with Turner. But Turner, who gave both Swarts and Nist roses, downplays the conflict.
“There was what I would consider an insignificant amount of drama,” he says. “Nothing like what is seen in some of the other seasons with the Bachelor and The Bachelorette. I think really the people that were involved were just simply speaking a different language. And as far as me refereeing, that’s not a problem. My second career was in mediation, so getting people to talk to each other and find agreement is one of the things that I was trained to do.”
Still to come on the season are the infamous fantasy suites, a Bachelor franchise staple when the lead and his/her finalists get time away from the cameras. Turner tells Us that his two daughters and two granddaughters still “raise their eyebrows and talk in a more hushed tone” when it comes to the overnight dates.
“The reality is I kept trying to explain to them that as you get older, the priorities for a situation like that are more intellectual, more emotional rather than physical. And indeed it did turn out to be exactly that,” he says. “I was happy with how it turned out. Being able to have a conversation off camera was critically important.”
So does he get engaged at season’s end? Turner initially ruled out the idea of proposing with a Neil Lane ring. “As I was dating [before the show], I was looking for the person that I would spend the rest of my life with regardless of the label,” he says. “And as I got closer and closer to the process started in the show, I really kind of came to realize that I did indeed want to be married, that I wanted that commitment, that two-way street. And so as I got into the show, that was my objective.”
Turner adds that Toni would be “excited” about the “good conclusion” of his journey.
The Golden Bachelor airs on ABC Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET. For more with the Reality Stars of the Year, pick up the new issue of Us Weekly, on stands now.