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Decent: If only 'The Golden Bachelor' took place in the real world -- then we'd have some 'must-see TV'

2023-09-29
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Did you catch the latest incarnation of "The Bachelor" franchise, the one with a more mature contestant who's politely referred to as "The Golden Bachelor," when what they actually mean is olden? The first in the series premiered Thursday on ABC. The main similarity to the regular show is how attractive the contestants are. It's another "reality" show that got me imagining what it might be like if it were actually real and set in Naperville. The show begins by introducing us to our latest Bachelor. We see introductory video of him mowing his yard, taking out the trash and sitting slumped in front of his TV with a bag of chips. The announcer introduces him as 87-year-old Chuck Wetherly, a long-time Napervillian. The next scene has Chuck sitting at the kitchen table with his three daughters and four grandchildren. The announcer tells us how supportive they are of Chuck trying to find love again, if only because it means he won't need to live with one of them. "I've been through a lot," says Chuck, a veteran of the Korean War, Vietnam and an appearance on "Wheel of Fortune." "It's finally time for me to settle down and find love again." After a few commercials for Cialis and Osteo Bi-Flex, we return to the show to find Chuck nervously looking at his Elgin Sportsman watch outside Meson Sabika. "I hope she gets here soon," he says to no one in particular. "I want to catch tonight's rerun of 'The Andy Griffith Show' on MeTV." The camera pans away to a Pace bus driving into the parking lot. The door opens to reveal a heavyset woman with a scarf wrapped round her head slowly getting out. She's wearing a gray tweed coat and a pair of black Skechers Slip-ins bought on sale at Kohl's. A Vera Bradley cross body bag is draped across her chest. She's holding a basket of home-made biscuits in her left hand, freeing up her right hand to hold onto the stair rail as she makes her way on to the path. Chuck adjusts his bow tie. "Good afternoon," he says, bowing. "I'm so honored to meet you." "Nice to meet you too, although I must say I am a little nervous. Here, have a biscuit, and let me tell you there's plenty more where they came from if you like them." It's been so long since Mary Jean has had anyone to bake for, she realizes she may have gotten a little carried away. She brought four biscuits but has another 42 in her freezer. "Are you trying to bribe my boyfriend?" A harsh voice from behind a bush surprises the two potential lovebirds. It's the next contestant, Millie. She's been married four times but believes it's never too late to find Mr. Right, even if she is 86. She's wearing a long sparkly dress with a feather boa around her shoulders. Her hair is an alarming shade of purple but it matches her compression socks quite well. After another commercial break, we return to a new scene. Chuck is on his first date with Valerie, a spunky 82-year-old who volunteers at Naper Settlement. The production company has pulled out all the stops and popped for a fancy lunch for them at Egg Harbor. Valerie is sipping an apple cider mimosa from a mason jar while Chuck is trying to read the menu by shining a light from his phone on it. After telling her four times that he thinks he'll have the Orchard Valley Roll-Up, Valerie heads to the ladies room. On her way back, she wanders outside, distracted by the pretty things in the window of Bows and Babes, and never makes it back to the table. After yet more commercials, we get a peek of Chuck and his latest potential love interest, Nancy. Things are heating up because they're in the fantasy suite, a double room at Extended Stay America. The room is in near total darkness apart from the romantic flickering of the TV. Nancy has already blown out all the candles because they're a fire hazard. The bathtub is half full of tepid water sprinkled with some faux leaves from a fall garland which Chuck found on sale at Hobby Lobby. "I do wish you'd empty that, it's disgusting," Nancy says. "I was hoping you'd join me," Chuck responds, winking. "I'm not cleaning out your dirty bath water!" Nancy says, not realizing what Chuck actually meant. Then the penny drops. "You dirty old man!" she yells, hitting him with her handbag. "I never took a bath with my late husband, and that was before I needed a walk-in tub." Crestfallen, Chuck sits on the bed. "I don't know what kind of woman you think I am, but I'm going to sleep," snaps Nancy, taking her CPAP machine out of its case. "I don't know what they thought giving us a double room. I'll take the bed. You can sleep on the sofa under the window." "OK then," Chuck says, sadly. "I'll just take my pills." Heading for the nightstand, he picks up his 15-compartment pill box and swallows 14 of them. Doesn't look like he'll be needing the Cialis after all. The next date goes much better. It's time for some adventure! Chuck and Martha, who at 81 the youngest competitor, are seen sharing a paddleboat on Naperville's Riverwalk. Since they both have bad knees, a police diver is just out of shot pushing them along from behind. The couple reminisce about times long ago before the quarry was full of water and they used it to hunt for stones. "I'm surprised we didn't meet then," says Martha, blushing. "Who knows how things would have turned out?" "Perhaps we did," Chuck says with a smile. "But at our age we'd never remember." The show closes with the rose ceremony. Chuck hands out red roses to every woman he'd like to see again. He tells each that he grew them in his back yard and not to worry about the smell of the fertilizer because it can be washed off with a bar of carbolic soap. First to go home alone on the bus is Nancy. She tells us she thinks Chuck is a fool for letting her go. Where else will he find another woman who will cook him her special sodium-free meals or help him remember his grandchildren's birthdays?

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