‘The Golden Bachelor’ divorce will hurt the franchise

by Admin
'The Golden Bachelor' divorce will hurt the franchise

Last week Gerry Turner and Theresa Nist, the boomer couple who charmed millions by falling in love on “The Golden Bachelor” last fall and getting hitched in a live, two-hour special on ABC in January, announced they were planning to divorce after just three months of marriage.

The news earned the septuagenarians the dubious honor of having the shortest marriage in the history of “The Bachelor,” which is hardly known as a launching pad for stable relationships. Even by Hollywood’s low standards, the Golden Marriage, lasting exactly 100 days, was noticeably short-lived, with less staying power than Lisa Marie Presley’s ill-fated union with Nicolas Cage (107 days) — and most of the condiments in my fridge (you don’t want to know) .

The whiplash-inducing split also marks an abrupt reversal of fortune for “The Golden Bachelor,” which became a breakout hit and cultural sensation after premiering in September, breathing new life into an aging, scandal-ridden reality TV brand. After years of controversy over issues like race and cultural insensitivity, “The Golden Bachelor” was just the wholesome, heartstring-tugging love story the beleaguered franchise — and a divided country — needed.

Their romance was informed by tragedy: Turner and Nist were both widows who were previously married to their high school sweethearts and instantly connected over their shared loss. If their wedding in January seemed a little hasty, it was easy to understand why they didn’t want to waste any time before starting their next chapter — and to believe they knew what they were doing. Alas, their race down the aisle, rather than revitalizing “The Bachelor,” has created what may be the biggest embarrassment in the franchise’s already checkered history.

It doesn’t help matters that the former couple — who walked the red carpet at a Disney event barely a week ago — have, thus far, offered head-scratching explanations for the breakup. They broke the news in a joint interview Friday on “Good Morning America.” Clutching hands throughout the segment, Nist and Turner insisted they were still in love and were only splitting up because of logistical complications stemming from the fact that he lives in small-town Indiana and she lives in suburban New Jersey.

“The thing that strikes me the most in our conversations has been how dedicated both of us are to our families,” Turner, 72, told ABC’s Juju Chang. “I think we just feel like it’s best for the happiness of each of us to live apart.”

Nist, 70, said they considered moving to South Carolina, and even looked at houses in the state, “but we never got to the point where we made that decision.”

Whatever the cause for the breakup, it was breathtakingly fast: Hours after the “GMA” segment aired, Turner reportedly filed for divorce in Indiana.

The news prompted a huge outcry. On social media, a predictable chorus of cynics proclaimed, “Gee, what a surprise.” On “The View,” co-host Ana Navarro shredded the reality show, saying it was “manufactured and a complete crock.” Her co-star, Sunny Hostin, also weighed in: “I’m upset. I thought since they were older, they knew better.”

Many fans wondered why Turner and Nist hadn’t tried harder to make it work, particularly given the enormous pressure they probably faced. Especially if they still loved each other, as they claimed, why not stick it out until May, when they were scheduled to go on a honeymoon to Italy? They knew they lived in different parts of the country when they got engaged; why did this fact suddenly become a deal breaker — three months after they got married?

As Hostin suggested, part of what made “The Golden Bachelor” love story so convincing was the maturity and hard-earned wisdom of its stars: Unlike so many 20-something contestants who go on dating shows to find social media followers, not life partners, Turner and the 22 women vying for his heart seemed to be there for the proverbial right seasons.

Theresa Nist and Gerry Turner tied the knot Jan. 4 on live television in a special titled “The Golden Wedding.” Their marriage lasted 100 days.

(Eric McCandless / Disney)

Although it was full of the usual “Bachelor” trappings — the endless rose ceremonies, the ludicrous group dates — the show also felt like it broke new ground by depicting people over 60 as multidimensional human beings, and by tackling heavy subjects, like grief, aging and divorce, in an authentic way.

The women of “The Golden Bachelor” were impossibly well-preserved, yes, but also warm, hilarious and salty — and watching them bond while singing “Hava Nagila” in the pool was a major part of the show’s appeal.

Then there was Turner: a telegenic pickleball enthusiast and “retired restaurateur” with a full head of hair, a lake house and what seemed like an endless reserve of compassion. He didn’t just talk; he listened with his entire being and wasn’t afraid to cry, especially when sharing memories of his late wife, Toni.

The entire country, it seemed, fell for Turner: “The Golden Bachelor” became one of the biggest new hits on network TV, and the most-watched “Bachelor” show in years, with 6.1 million viewers tuning in to the season finale in November.

It was little wonder that producers soon were teasing plans for a “Golden Bachelorette” spinoff (which they officially announced in February) or that they capitalized on the show’s popularity with a wedding special, broadcast live from La Quinta Resort — and featuring guests from across Bachelor Nation. The popularity of “The Golden Bachelor” even seems to have boosted ratings for the most recent season of the original series, featuring Joey Graziadei.

But ABC’s golden balloon began to burst even before the season wrapped. According to an exposé in the Hollywood Reporter published in late November, Turner was not exactly the geriatric unicorn producers made him out to be. They had inflated aspects of his résumé, including the claim he was a “retired restaurateur,” and made it seem as if Turner hadn’t seriously dated anyone since his wife’s death in 2017 — even though he’d allegedly lived with one girlfriend for nearly two years.

The brutal finale, in which Turner made it seem as if he was going to choose Leslie Fhima, a 65-year-old fitness instructor, only to change his mind after an overnight date with Nist, further punctured the fairy tale.

After their wedding on Jan. 4 — which was stuffed with product placement for Amazon’s wedding registry and generally seemed as cynical as “The Golden Bachelor” had been sincere — Nist and Turner spent a few weeks together, sharing the highlights on social media. (In one cringeworthy Instagram post, Turner bragged about how they’d made out in a Lululemon dressing room.) But once February rolled around, the couple was rarely spotted together. Gossip websites reported that they were living separate lives, and fans began to ask questions on social media.

They eventually reemerged to make a number of appearances tied to “The Bachelor,” including the season finale on March 25, and other ABC shows. In April, Nist and Turner taped a special episode of “Celebrity Family Feud” with several of their “Golden Bachelor” co-stars and family members. On Instagram, Turner cheerfully posted about appearing on the game show with his “blended family.” A week later, he and Nist announced their divorce.

Even the rollout of the announcement felt cynically designed to maximize viewership and milk the Golden Divorce for all it was worth. The “GMA” sitdown was followed by an extended interview on “Nightline” where the couple shared a few additional details about their split — including the fact that they sought counseling — and said that they ruled out a long-distance relationship because, as Nist put it, “We wanted immediately to be together.”

On social media, various “Bachelor” personalities, including host Jesse Palmer, did damage control, posting earnest tributes to the short-lived couple and urging the public to be kind. Perhaps they sensed that viewers felt massively duped and weren’t really buying that the breakup was as amicable as it was being portrayed.

There was at least one instructive moment in the Golden Divorce press tour of 2024. During the interview last week, Chang asked Turner and Nist to give advice to the star of “The Golden Bachelorette,” who is expected to be named at Disney’s upfront presentation in a few weeks.

“Slow things down. Pull in every bit of information possible. Ask hard questions. Get to know someone well,” Turner said, “but go slow.” It’s good advice for whoever stars in the spinoff. And maybe even better advice for those of us watching: Don’t fall in love too fast.

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