Commentary: 'The Golden Bachelor' divorce turns a TV success story into a cautionary tale

Meredith Blake, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

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 April 12 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?


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