Opinion

OPINION | GARY SMITH: “Golden Batchelor” adds a dose of reality for viewers of a certain age

New take on TV series gets a little more real

I'm not sure it would come as a surprise to anyone who knows her, but the Lovely Mrs. Smith has been known to cry. Not all the time, but enough that we all know it's in her emotional toolbox.

I, on the other hand, don't cry as frequently, not because of my dedication to stoicism (which doesn't exist, by the way) but because, well, I'm typically not really paying attention to whatever is going on that might generate tears.

Now, my approach isn't great, mostly because you miss a lot when you're not paying attention and because in general crying is a healthy release of emotion and denotes a heightened sense of empathy, which is important.

Empathy. It's another one of those things I could work on because, well, I love humanity. But people, I'm not so wild about.

Anyway, what's driving the Lovely Mrs. Smith to tears these days (beyond frustration with me) is the goings on of a particular television show. Specifically, "The Golden Batchelor."

For those of you who have missed it, "The Golden Batchelor" is a reality TV show just like "The Batchelor," except for older people. Yeah, I know, that didn't necessarily clear things up for me when I first heard about it, but I've been enlightened.

I seem to remember, from a murky past when we watched network TV and not streamed British murder mysteries, that "The Batchelor" is basically a game show in which a bunch of women are locked in a mansion and spend their time trying to get a man to at least pretend he wants to marry them.

That was, as I understand it, the original premise before it devolved into a bunch of people trying to "build their personal brand" and "maximize their potential as influencers." And pretend they're going to marry each other.

It seems the people who came up with "The Batchelor" took a look at who actually watches network TV these days and decided, instead of a bunch of young wanna-be influencers, they would go with a nice, older Midwestern gentleman and several appropriately aged women (because having young female wanna-be influencers would be super icky) and see they could produce enough drama to drive ratings. Oh, and potentially a relationship.

So far, so good. I think the entire premise of the show is extremely retro and sort of a thing you hear about in Third-World slave markets, but, hey, whatever. I mean, I guess they knew what they were signing up for and this being America, they can always walk away.

But what's driving the Lovely Mrs. Smith to tears about this particular version of the show isn't so much what's going on, but what has gone before. Virtually all of the contestants on "The Golden Batchelor," including the titular gentleman, are there because they had happy, long marriages, complete with children and joy and wonderful memories. And then they lost their spouse.

It's one thing for a bunch of 20-somethings to not win a game show whose prize was a potential marriage partner they didn't really want. It's another to see people who, let's face it, could be contemporaries of ours who find themselves alone with much life ahead of them.

One of our favorite artists is Jason Isbell, a country-ish singer who often explores his own personal demons and challenges in his music. But one of my favorite songs of his is called "If We Were Vampires." Despite its ominous-sounding title, it's about the fact that while he hopes for a long, happy life with his wife, one day one of them will be gone.

You think about that, at a certain point in life. Likely not when you're a 20-something wanna-be influencer. A lot more when you're ... "golden."

So, OK, yes, it's a little disconcerting, thanks to a TV show, to have your wife of 38 years softly crying at the prospect of being a widow. I mean, I'm right there on the sofa and I don't think I'm going anywhere. But as a lot of folks, including contestants on "The Golden Batchelor" will attest, that's subject to change.

There's upside, I suppose. In "If We Were Vampires" Isbell sings to his wife that if he didn't know there was going to be an end, he "wouldn't feel the need to hold your hand."

Which sounds like a good way to look at things. And forces me to admit that, yes, well, every now and then, I do mist up a little, too.