Thirteen years after Bravo aired a gay dating reality competition with an awful twist back in 2004, Logo brought a same-sex dating series to television. But breaking new ground does not excuse poorly constructed reality television, and unfortunately, Finding Prince Charming is not worthy of being called the gay Bachelor.
How has the show failed? Let’s count the ways.
1. Finding Prince Charming cast a boring bachelor
Robert is the least-interesting part of the show, a character who’s beyond boring. Most everything he says lacks energy and passion. It’s a lot of platitudes. “At the end of the day,” he said in episode two, “that’s what counts: family and friends and love.” Zzzzz.
At the elimination ceremony, when he does the expected elimination of the boring people and keeps the dramatic ones despite their behavior, he comes across as kind of a jerk, telling one guy that he forgot that guy was even on the show. How rude! Yet even that isn’t very interesting, and for someone who’s supposed to be the possible love of all these guys’ lives, he’s just not an engaging presence on the show.
That’s really the biggest problem. The Bachelor often casts blank slates for the audience to project themselves onto, but if that was the intent here, it is absolutely not working.
Beyond that, Finding Prince Charming cast someone who previously worked as an escort. That plays into stereotypes (that gay men are promiscuous), sure, but it could have been handled well.
The damage control was eventually handled by People. Robert told People, “I didn’t want to have to talk about that time in my life again. But I’m not ashamed of my past. I own it, and I talk about it with the guys.” The network said in a statement, “We are aware of Robert’s past and fully support him as he moves forward in his search for love on Finding Prince Charming.”
Meanwhile, though, a lawyer who said he represented Sepulveda was threatening the NSFW site Str8UpGayPorn for publishing a video of him masturbating and other videos that the site identified as of Sepulveda. Later, Robert and his lawyer used copyright law to get the site’s host to remove photos, including from his escorting profile, though there are pictures still published by QueerClick. (Str8UpGayPorn has filed a counter-notice, and now Sepulveda has 10 days to sue for copyright infringement, which creates the odd situation where he would be forced to prove in court that he owns the copyright on photos he wants to be removed from the web site.)
Most recently, in a now-deleted Instagram post, Robert threatened to sue “cyberbullies,” though the gay blog Towleroad points out that he was just being criticized and shamed for his past behavior, and “found no evidence that Mr. Sepulveda’s attackers have put him in fear for his safety or caused him substantial emotional harm.”
2. The drama on the show is barely interesting
All of that legal drama is a lot more interesting than anything that happened on the series. That’s because Robert is boring, and so is Finding Prince Charming.
After three episodes, none of these guys seem actually into him—except the guy sent home at the end of episode two. So why watch?
Sure, it has drunken drama, including Sam spitting on Dillon in a rage. But even that came across like second-rate drunken Challenge nonsense. Most of the drama consists of guys tattling on each other, and Robert spends an odd amount of his one-on-one time with guys talking about other guys. All of that is just insulting to the audience’s intelligence.
3. The production lacks creativity
The first challenge was a beach volleyball game. The second was picking cards. The second one-on-one date was a massage. There may not be much of a budget here, but there’s also no creativity.
This is a Logo show, not a top-rated network show like The Bachelor, so of course it won’t have the same budget to create an on-screen fantasy or trek around the world.
But even the little things aren’t done well: just look at the Christmas lights strung through the trees outside the house. There are odd single strands encircling the trees, like someone just wrapped lights around each one three times and stopped.
That’s a good metaphor for the show, which feels like a mostly unlit tree with just a few haphazardly strewn lights in it.
4. The disaster of the ties and the ‘black tie affair’
Because the show is doing nothing original, but wants to seem original, it needed something for Robert to give to his suitors during the elimination ceremonies other than roses.
So, they went with ties. Yes, in the first episode, Robert offered a tie to each guy, and then actually tied it on them.
That was comically bad television—it’s so bad I kind of like it, because it was better to watch the guys adjust their badly-tied ties than listen to Robert’s choices. How did a room full of people watch that first elimination ceremony not see how awful stop that? Who thought this was actually a thing gay men did for each other? (Roses are, after all, an actual thing people give each other when they’re in love or lust.)
At least the tying only occured in episode one. After that, they kept the ties, and wore them to the next elimination. But more comedy was ahead, as that’s when Robert said to the guys who wanted to stay, and this is real, “I’d like you to continue wearing my tie” or “Will you continue to wear my tie?”
Will you continue to wear my tie?! I’m at a loss for words at what a bad collection of words that is.
5. Copying The Bachelor’s format instead of being original
Given the opportunity to make history with the first true same-sex dating show, producers Brian Graden Media decided to copy The Bachelor. From the structure of the episodes (group and individual dates) to the camera work (a shot of each guy’s feet first as they climbed out of the limo to enter the house), it’s all here.
This is the safe, obvious choice, but it’s also one that just doesn’t work. It’s also taking the audience for granted, assuming that gay people will watch just because there are gay men in it, even if it is just a weak copy of a show that they already can watch.
The most interesting idea Finding Prince Charming had so far was in episode one, when producers sent Robert in as if he was one of the suitors, so he could meet them in disguise, basically. There’s duplicity there, yes, and that’s not exactly the best foundation for a strong relationship. But it was something The Bachelor or The Bachelorette could not do.
A friend suggested a really interesting possibility: What if that first twist was the entire season? What if the title was literal, and the goal was to figure out who prince charming was? Lance Bass could announce who was sent home without the star revealing themselves. That could have given way to other possibilities, such some of the suitors falling in love with each other.
Perhaps that’s not the best idea. After all, there was already a gay dating show with an unfortunate, unfair twist. But at least it’s an idea, an original one. I wish the show had set out to do something new with this well-worn format. Instead, the only thing viewers have to find is a missed opportunity.