‘The Golden Bachelor’: Fantasy or real?

“The Golden Bachelor” is a popular reality TV show. It opens with a handsome, impeccably groomed 72-year-old adjusting a bow tie. In the background we hear Cat Stevens singing “The Wind,” a sharp hook into the boomer soul.

The bachelor finally says: “I’m Gerry. Tonight is the first day of the rest of my life. How lucky would I be to find a second true love in my lifetime?”

And ooooh, why wouldn’t an older woman pining for a male partner enter this race? There are reasons, self-respect being high up.

Gerry gets dangled as a man who was happily married for 43 years to his high-school sweetheart. Recently retired, he and Toni had just bought their “dream house,” which, we are shown, overlooks water. Soon after, Toni unexpectedly died.

Let’s stop the storyline right here, because we’ve seen it before. “The Golden Bachelor” is basically a 2023 version of the 1993 movie “Sleepless in Seattle.”

I remember it well because a few years after the movie opened, I was widowed at a relatively young age. My parents sent me the tape in the hope that it would lift me out of my deep grief. It did not. On the contrary, it brandished a fantasy of emotional restoration that was nowhere on my horizon.

In the movie, 36-year-old actor Tom Hanks has just lost his beloved wife to cancer and is suffering greatly from the loss. He is clean-cut, romantic and of noble character. He lives on a dreamy houseboat floating on Seattle’s picturesque Lake Union. And oh, he’s an architect besides. Women wanting to cure this guy’s loneliness would be beating down his door.

Of course, he finds one played by Meg Ryan. And that’s the message my parents wanted me to take from the movie. That there can be a second act.

My thought was what would a catch like that want with women in my predicament? More inspirational would have been a movie about a widow who went forth to carve out a life of work and friendship. Perhaps she would find another love, perhaps not.

When “Sleepless in Seattle” came out, women’s talk shows featured conversations about how attractive widowers are as future mates. And they were not wrong. Men who had solid marriages were men who could have solid marriages. That is, they weren’t lifelong bachelors who wouldn’t admit it. Nor had they gone through a searing divorce that left them highly skeptical about relationships.

“The Golden Bachelor” would seem the widower of these dreams. “I yearn for a second chance in life to fall in love again,” he says, “the person who can lay down beside you at night, and not have to say anything, and you feel it.” He’s seen crying, not entirely convincing.

We are told that Gerry will meet “20-plus beautiful women” and, basically, choose a winner. We see shots of female boomers dolling themselves up to become “the one.” This is a contest that, if the genders were reversed, would probably not make it big on reality TV.

There would not be 20 plausible men vying for the affections of a 72-year-old woman who was not very rich. That’s not to say that 72-year-old women can’t find new mates. It’s just to note that Gerry is the prize, and the women the mere contestants.

Let me add, I did find a second chance by total chance. I won’t go into the details, but I recently got married again to a fine man.

To all you widows, however, we’ve got your back. You don’t have to humiliate yourselves competing for a man or settling for a loser. You’re fine as you are.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.