In September 1985, a new hit premiered on NBC. The network envisioned a show like nothing else on TV. “Take some women around 60. Society has written them off, has said they’re over the hill,” the pitch to producers went. “We want them to be feisty as hell and having a great time.”
The result, of course, was “The Golden Girls,” the beloved sitcom about a group of single women, widowed and divorced, living together in a house in Florida. The show was ranked in the Top 10 of Nielsen ratings for six of its seven seasons. More than 27 million people watched the 1992 series finale.
Thirty-eight years later, ABC is betting that a house full of single women, ages 60 to 75, and the 72-year-old man whose heart they’ll vie to win, can achieve ratings success with the aid of mostly boomer-age viewers who still flip on the TV for the prime-time lineup, and have yet to fully abandon network television for streaming.
I tuned in for Thursday night’s premiere of “The Golden Bachelor” at 8 p.m. sharp with high hopes. Buzz for the season promised we’d accompany a mild-mannered retired and widowed “grandzaddy” from Indiana on his quest for a second chance at love with one of 22 equally self-possessed bachelorettes. This sounded more my speed than the high-conflict carryings-on I usually associate with reality TV. Perhaps I’d be part of the showrunners’ hoped-for “new audiences who might have turned their noses up at the brand before now.”
In the innuendo-packed first episode, we meet our bachelor, Gerry Turner, who spends the hour speed-dating the eager bachelorettes, including Leslie, a fitness instructor from Minneapolis who tells us she dated Prince; Sandra, a retired executive assistant from Georgia with a Zen practice that incorporates curse words; and Faith, a high school teacher from Washington State who rides in on a motorcycle, serenades Gerry with a guitar and seems from the little time we spend with her to be a leading contender for last woman standing.
When the show opened with a scene of Gerry getting dressed, deliberately showing him putting in his hearing aids as he recounted the tale of his wife’s death over the strains of “The Wind” by Cat Stevens, I thought this might be a departure for the “Bachelor” franchise, a more serious examination of aging and mortality. But once we arrived at the mansion where Gerry canoodles with each potential sweetheart — a dizzying procession of bawdy jokes and canned repartee — I remembered that this was a reality show with a bonkers conceit that is about pure entertainment (and ratings). It may not end up being any more cerebral than its brethren, but that’s not its remit.
So can “The Golden Bachelor” keep network television afloat through the imminent shortage of scripted shows occasioned by the writers’ and actors’ strikes? My colleague John Koblin says it’s “off to a decent start”: While far from the most-watched show of the week, the premiere episode was the most-watched show on network television on Thursday night and, with delayed viewing, the audience will only grow.
But, more pressing for viewers, will Gerry ultimately find his soul mate? Who will get the final rose? And will people like me, still skeptical of love competition shows, tune in to find out?
I was charmed to learn that one of the showrunners for “The Golden Bachelor” studied “The Golden Girls” for conversation topics should the repartee on the show start to lag. I’m holding out hope that we will see the golden bachelorettes in their chenille bathrobes and house scuffs, sharing a cheesecake in the middle of the night.
📚 “Let Us Descend” (Tuesday): This book, inspired by Dante’s “Inferno,” is the latest from Jesmyn Ward, a two-time National Book Award winner and the youngest recipient of the Library of Congress’s American fiction prize. The novel follows an enslaved teenager named Annis as she travels through the pre-Civil War South after her white slave-owner father sold her. The book is among the most anticipated novels of the year.
🎬 “Foe” (Friday): Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan, who are among the buzziest young actors working, play a married couple living on a farm in 2065 in this sci-fi drama. Their lives are upended when Junior (Mescal) is told that he’s been chosen to work on a space station. While he’s away, Henrietta (Ronan) will live with a duplicate version of her husband. — Desiree Ibekwe
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
As September fades away, it’s time to celebrate some of the last of the good heirloom tomatoes by piling them in the sandwich of your dreams. While there are loads of variations to choose from, my tomato sandwich is probably the messiest, in the very best way. The recipe is a hybrid, combining the garlic-rubbed, oil-slathered toast of Catalan pan con tomate with the kind of slivered onions you would see in a tomato tea sandwich, and the bacon of a BLT. Act fast, because sad winter tomatoes will not do justice to a sandwich as good as this.
A dining table for six: Inside the Long Island City apartment of a best-selling cookbook author.
A new frontier: As rising sea levels threaten coastlines, some developers look to floating homes.
What you get for $1.4 million: A Cape Cod-style house in Monhegan Island, Maine; an Edwardian home in Evanston, Ill.; or an 1890 rowhouse in Washington, D.C.
The hunt: These newlyweds want a three-bedroom house with a yard and a reasonable commute to Manhattan. Which did they choose? Play our game.
Elton John’s piano: Celebrity memorabilia and estate sales headline the coming auction season.
Child of Birkin: The new standard-bearer for French-girl style just opened a store in Manhattan.
Lessons from summer: Climate change is making travel season less predictable.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
When preparing for a natural disaster, no single strategy is right for everyone. But Wirecutter experts have found a few things to be true. When you put together a bag to grab in an emergency, don’t buy a premade kit. Instead, add gear that you actually need and know how to use. (Here’s a good place to start.) And it’s not just about the gear — simple tasks you can do today, like taking a CPR or first aid class, or designating a point person to be in touch with, can make a big difference. — Ellen Airhart
For more advice, sign up for Emergency Kit, an easy-to-follow guide to preparing for natural disasters from Wirecutter’s experts.
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Jets: Taylor Swift and the N.F.L., two of America’s cultural juggernauts, pulled off a remarkable bit of brand synergy last weekend. Swift showed up in Kansas City to cheer on the Chiefs’ star tight end, Travis Kelce, whom she is rumored to be dating. The TV cameras, of course, cut to her constantly, and her exuberant celebrations brought life to an otherwise lousy game. Will she show up again this week? The N.F.L. surely hopes so — her presence would make this prime-time broadcast must-see TV, even if the game itself is another dud. (Fans who want great football without the spectacle should tune in earlier in the day to the powerhouse matchup between the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills.) 8:30 p.m. Eastern tomorrow on NBC.