by Joey Saunders
Hello, readers, and welcome to the first recap of Finding Prince Charming, LOGO’s gay answer to The Bachelor. If you’ve read some of my previous pieces for The Phoenix, you know I tend to delve into heavier topics like gun control, hate crimes, and gay conversion therapy and, while I reserve my right to occasionally wax philosophical, this should, for the most part, be a fun, distracting foray into trashy reality TV. Oh and a note to viewers who haven’t watched the premiere: spoilers lie ahead.
The premise is simple: Lance Bass hosts a gay version of The Bachelor on which a bunch of suitors vy for the love of a guy the show’s producers and casting directors thought fit the bill of “Prince Charming.” That guy is Robert Sepulveda Jr., an Atlantan interior designer and philanthropist with a decent Instagram following thanks to his adonis-like body. At this point my journalistic side kicks in and, as is often the case with reality TV, things aren’t always what they seem. If you look at Robert’s interior design site, his homepage uses a borrowed stock image and his portfolio is scant and, well, give it a look and make your own judgements. Then there’s his Atlanta rainbow crosswalks non-profit which, while well-intentioned, seems a little vague to me. What exactly is its purpose? I guess to raise visibility. The real kicker though are recent revelations that Prince Charming was once an escort. Which, because the LGBTQ community is often backed into a corner from which sex work can seem the only way out, might actually serve to be a good conversation starter. I hope it comes up on the show as more than just a plot point. More troubling are allegations that Robert discriminated against potential clients of color.
Speaking of color, the cast could stand to be more diverse, but Prince Charming does a slightly better job than its whitewashed, straight network-TV counterparts at representing the melting pot of America. Another plus is that the show is cast with a fair chunk of guys with more average bodies and looks, not everyone is a supermodel. That helps things feel a little more real.
Still, reality shows are anything but real. In fact, many viewers don’t realize how much writing and trick-editing goes into making these shows. Often the writers are called “Story Producers” who feed cast members lines like, “Everyone here is thirstier than Tara Reid in rehab, honey” or create sit-com-style situation like the incident where the playful dandy, Robby, gives dorky college event planner, Nick, a comically bad spray tan. And thank Judy Garland for Story Producers and editors because without them and their contrivances, this could have been unbearably boring.
The first half hour of the show is very slow as the suitors introduce themselves. The producers make a decent attempt at building tension by having Robert introduce himself as if he were one of the suitors so he can spy on his potential mates. Melanoma merchant- er- tanning company owner, Paul, has the only intro that stands out as he reveals that his partner committed suicide. Later, he puts his foot in his mouth with an undercover Robert by admitting he tends to go for shorter guys. Inexplicably, this becomes a huge point of contention for Robert, probably because of a desperate need for conflict in this relatively tame early episode.
The only seemingly organic fight comes when our early frontrunner for the show’s villain, fitness company owner, Sam, tells the bubbly on-air beauty expert, Robby, he thinks he is fake and flamboyant. Robby, spray-tanned and aggressively groomed, does play a bit like a theatre queen stereotype. He flits around sipping his drink, calling everyone, “darling,” and making bitchy quips. I was worried when my personal favorite, fashion publicist Dillon, first laid eyes on Robby that he was going to fem-shame him and was heartened when he embraced Robby as being “fun.” Later, when Sam is picking on Robby, Dillon takes up for him. It’s endearing.
No one else really stands out. There’s a personal trainer, Brodney, who is painfully shy. Brandon has a compelling backstory: he was disowned after coming out and rose out of conversion therapy and subsequent homelessness to become a healthcare administrator. But the show glosses over all of this instead of giving it a little more room to breathe. Charlie, a scruffy manny with piercing blue eyes and a receding hairline, spent most of his time with Robert talking shit on the other suitors which leads to him being the first contestant to get the axe.
Or, to not get a tie. Yes, the show’s groan-inducing you-made-it totem is a tie, in lieu of a rose. The conceit is made even weirder after Robert talks about how much he likes hairstylist Eric’s “childish” smile, then places a tie around his neck making the moment feel much more paternal than romantic. It’s awkward. Even more awkward might be the number of times the editors use the same clip of Lance Bass saying, “Robert has to make a difficult decision,” to try to heighten the stakes.
Ultimately Brodney’s shyness and Nick’s botched spray tan and propensity for anxiety sweat send them packing too.
With the gimmicky tie ritual and the overproduced music, it isn’t clear if this show will prove to be run-of-the-mill garbage or if it will be elevated into the ranks of high camp like RuPaul’s Drag Race. To paraphrase Susan Sontag, for something to truly be camp it can’t just be intentionally bad, it has to make an attempt at sincerity and fail. The ingredients are there as many of the suitors seem genuinely lonely and eager to fall in love in a way that feels more human than desperate. I’ll reserve my harsher judgements for later episodes.
In the meantime…
Who am I rooting for? Dillon because he seems sweet. Sam calls him “aggressive” but I think he’s just determined. Fun fact: he used to be a ballet dancer and earned his Eagle Scout when he was younger.
What worries me the most? At one point Robert talks about Brandon’s facial hair and says he likes “guys who are guys.” That felt a little masc-for-masc to me and made my stomach turn a little. More worrisome though is the way the show didn’t know what to do with Brandon’s and Paul’s weightier backstories. It’s been leaked that a cast member is HIV positive and I worry that the show might exploit this as a plot point rather than portray the revelation respectfully.
Thanks so much for reading, I hope you’ll tough it out with me and keep watching. Let me know what you thought in the comments section.
See you next week!