It appears The Golden Bachelor is not so golden, after all. A recent Hollywood Reporter expose detailed some major inconsistencies in the persona Gerry Turner has presented on the primetime show versus who he is in real life.
Recently, women have come forward to set the record straight on all the reasons he may not be who he’s hyped himself up to be. Despite the lengthy vetting process in order for him to land the role as the show’s main squeeze, it appears as if the producers didn’t quite fact check his wholesomeness.
“I had to send my fingerprints to the FBI, there were numerous background tests. There was a psychological evaluation that was like 360 questions and then another hour of interview,” he said during a recent appearance on Justin Long’s Life Is Short podcast. “The vetting process is ridiculously thorough.”
There is an entire laundry list of inconsistencies. First, the idea that he hasn’t dated in 45 years, a claim he made to Entertainment Tonight, is reportedly untrue. And second, he was referred to as a retired restaurateur, when in reality, he worked his way up in a Mr. Quick burger joint where he had worked since high school until ultimately selling it nearly 40 years ago. After selling the restaurant, he did sporadic work doing hot tub installations and maintenance work.
It was during his maintenance work that he met a woman he would go on to date. And despite a teary-eyed Gerry during the episode of the show where he recounted how he became widowed, he began pursuing this woman just one month after the death of his beloved wife, Toni.
It’s no crime to look for love after loss, but after dating for just shy of a year, she became his live-in girlfriend, which directly contradicts his claim that he hadn’t dated in 45 years. And even beyond this particular relationship, a server at a bar close to the lake house he shared with his late wife informed THR that he had dated quite a few women over the years and had frequented the restaurant with them.
The other allegations, a bit more facetious in nature, suggest he used the same pickup lines on women on the show that he did with women in real life, and encouraged his live-in girlfriend to move in with him before letting her know what her share of the expenses would be. (Also, she would pay her half of dinner outings in advance and he would cover the bill in the restaurant). But most damning is probably the fact that when his live-in girlfriend gained 10 pounds, he uninvited her from attending his high school reunion, which she claims ultimately led to their split.
Despite being a Bachelor fan, there was something about this particular show that I just couldn’t get into. I like cat fights. I like bikini-clad women and chiseled men and I love to see how alcohol heats things up. I had a feeling that with this show, I would get none of that. But with all of this coming to light, part of me wishes I had tuned in so I could make my own judgements about how this could’ve possibly come to be. But at the same time, it’s the Bachelor. If there’s any show revelations like these might come to light on, this would be it.
The thing about this entire franchise is that it’s predicated on vanity. I haven’t seen a stretchmark or hardly a crooked tooth in all the years I’ve watched it. And as we know, and which I often write about, reality TV can be anything but real. So it doesn’t surprise me that fans were misled.
The question for me is whether this is on Gerry or on the producers. As a former producer myself, I can attest to the rigor of vetting a guest for a 5 or 10 minute slot on a news or talk show, let alone the subject of an entire season of a show like this. So in a way, it does surprise me that the producers didn’t hone in on the things only now coming to light.
At the same time, though, I think producers knew there was a need for a show like this. By all measures, it was wholesome. He came off as wholesome. And most importantly, it directly confronted the age bias that is so prevalent in reality TV – but also in dating.
Recently, Shannen Doherty revealed that despite a cancer diagnosis that has metastasized to her bones, she is interested in finding love again and even becoming a mother. The story has made headlines, and I think the first reason it’s become such a hot topic is because whenever cancer is mentioned, it automatically implies morbidity and death. The idea of pursuing love and motherhood while you are sick or may be dying is puzzling to a lot of people. And the second reason it’s such a big story is because Shannen is over 50. Anytime women over 50 speak about love, sex or fertility, people talk about it.
When I think about how many different dating shows have come out over the years, I can’t think of any show that has provided an opportunity to find love to women or men belonging to the age demographic we’re seeing on The Golden Bachelor. And even on the shows where it might make sense to include older cast members, The Ultimatum being a perfect example, we still don’t see it. What do I care for a bunch of whiny 24-year-olds thinking they’re ready for marriage because they just graduated university and they haven’t dumped the guy they’ve been dating for a year yet? Particularly when there are tons of older people who have been dating for years, where one partner is really pushing for marriage?
Even a show like Married At First Sight, which certainly does a better job of matching people who may be in their late thirties or early forties, but still doesn’t go much beyond that, really caters to young people. When you’re only seeing love shared among 20-somethings, of course there’s a stigma and a bias around dating and finding love, particularly as a senior, or in Shannen’s case, a person experiencing a cancer diagnosis.
For all those reasons, it’s especially disappointing that these revelations are only now coming to light. Because it clouds the entire experience and the groundbreaking nature of this show. And to me, the blame falls just as much on Gerry as it does the producers. Like, what is the point of getting the FBI involved if you can’t even fact-check the fact that he has, in fact, been dating and smooching and charging women for their half of the dinner bill before they even step foot in the restaurant? And what does he gain from being dishonest, or at least misleading? I think it would’ve made him more charming, really, to have presented himself as a widow that looked for love after losing his wife and just couldn’t find it.
But that is reality TV. It’s a fantasy. And the fact that he was able to maintain that fantasy up to this point tells us that some of the blame falls on us, the viewers, too. Because we get so swept up in it that we don’t ask the tough questions. We see a handsome, older white man who lost his wife, we hear the sob story, we buy the sob story, we watch the show, and the show goes on.
It’s unclear what this means for future seasons of this spinoff, and whether there will be one at all. But perhaps if there is, the producers will actually do their due diligence this time, the star of the show might feel more inclined to be their true self, and the audience will be more a little less gullible in believing that all that glitters is gold.