At this point, The Bachelor’s formula has become so rigid that even a monkey could draw you the rough shape of an average season. Across 24 seasons, not including spin-offs like The Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad and Bachelor in Paradise, we’ve watched the same beats get hit time and time again. Roses. Dates. Catty, desperate woman. A man who looks like a retired astronaut who’s forced to front a series of STI commercials. Premature declarations of love. The waking nightmare that is the Fantasy Suite. Three months of post-show press and then an ugly breakup. The Bachelor, sad to say, is getting old.
But The Bachelor seems to know this, and has responded by, well, getting old. On Tuesday ABC’s head of reality, Robert Mills, put out a casting call for what might be The Bachelor’s most exciting season in a decade. “NOW CASTING SENIORS LOOKING FOR LOVE,” it read. A follow-up post from another producer clarified exactly the sort of person ABC was looking for: “Are you entering your golden years and looking for romance? The producers of The Bachelor are looking for active and outgoing single men and women age 65 and up for a new exciting dating show.” That’s right, get ready for The Bachelor: Oldie Edition.
So far, aside from Mills seemingly rubber-stamping a tweet suggesting that the series be set in Boca Raton, that’s all we know. But that’s enough. Because a senior version of The Bachelor – at least the version that currently exists in my mind – is the perfect tool with which to wipe away the crimes of its parent show.
In an idealised form, The Bachelor: Senior has the potential to be both sweet and eye-opening. By featuring nothing but contestants in the autumn of their years, the show might be able to take a step back from the skeezy youthful insincerity of The Bachelor proper. Everyone who takes part will have experienced heartbreak in the worst possible way – some might be divorced, some might regret that they were never able to settle down, others might have lived happily with the love of their life until they lost them to disease – and this has the potential to drastically reduce all the miserable game-playing that The Bachelor has come to be known for. The contestants will have a better idea of how finite life is, and hopefully they won’t want to put up with any nonsense.
And also, it might go some way to fight the idea that sexual attraction shrivels up and dies towards the latter stages of mid-life. You can be sure that The Bachelor producers are hoping for something sweeter and more courtly than the regular horndog show offers, but that isn’t to say that it will be entirely chaste. In a world where our preference for dumb youth has created a stigma surrounding later-years sex, a show about age-appropriate senior canoodling could be revolutionary.
The more I think about this, the more excited I am. A 65+ version of The Bachelorette would remove the slightly distasteful subtext that all the female contestants have to snipe at each other because they’re in a race to the death with their own biological clocks. The later episodes could introduce some of the complexities of senior romance. Perhaps the contestants’ adult children could meet on-camera and try to figure each other out. Done right, this could be such a special series.
Of course, it would be lunacy for me to put my faith in American reality television executives. The potential for this show to go belly up is also enormous. For this to work, the producers will have to fight their terrible instincts at every turn. This shouldn’t be turned into a freakshow about dry-humping septuagenarians. Nobody should describe themselves as a cougar or a Gilf. You can guarantee that at least one producer has already toyed with the idea of dropping a pneumatic money-hungry 25-year-old into the mix during the later stages to try to turn The Bachelor’s eye.
But this would be such an error. America has an ageing population, and older people are the only people who watch linear television any more. A version of The Bachelor that caters to this demographic, and does so with sensitivity and respect, could be enormous. Let’s hope they don’t screw it up.