Boy, it is not easy to mercilessly mock a stupid television show after this week’s news, but I’m going to try.
Thursday night’s reunion episode of Finding Prince Charming that nobody asked for was appropriately titled “All Tied Up.” Forget the ridiculous neckties, I think they named the special for the “live” audience that was obviously held hostage in this awful gay bunker. They couldn’t even give them a cocktail! It was deeply unsettling to see them sitting there all blank-faced. At least give them a plate of truffle fries or something!
The mood in the room ranged from bored to disinterested for the audience, the cast and probably the crew (I think I briefly caught a camera drop as the operator dozed off at one point, pretty sure), making this hour-long rehash of everything we’ve already suffered through once particularly dull.
So, did we learn anything new from this installment of American Homo Story: My Normative Nightmare? In a word, no. Let’s look back on a gay dating show so disappointingly un-queer even VP-elect Mike Pence wouldn’t bother advocating giving it electroshock therapy. (Too soon?) Quick thoughts and recommendations for fixes in our recap below.
The evening begins with all the guys minus Brandon and Eric on some terrible IKEA furniture. A few — Dillon, Sam, Danique — seem ready to relish their extended camera time, but most of them just seem like they’re in a rush to get out of there because Whole Foods is about to close and they’re late for a colonic. Justin, looking only slightly less like Frankie Grande as a brunette, is so checked-out that I think they replaced him with some kind of Madame Tussaud wax figure for most of the show. Charlie — an early cut that would qualify as “husky” by Grindr standards, but is like a fitness model compared to most straight guys — sits so far off to the side of everyone else I was pretty sure he was just an audience member for more than half the special. Jasen wore an ungodly sparkly shirt that was part Christian Audigier, part my mee-maw’s late-1980s wardrobe. Basically, it’s like a high school reunion: Everyone looks the same or worse.
These reality-TV reunions are pretty standardized by now, and, like everything else about Finding Prince Charming, this one is just as formulaic, but without any kind of sizzle. It’s just an endless parade of montage after montage, reminding us just how few memorable moments the series actually produced.
I’m not sure what kind of medical condition Lance Bass has that placed his eyebrow permanently arched in such a smug, self-satisfied position, but I would happily donate to whatever GoFundMe page he sets up to have it surgically corrected.
He intros our first montage as a collection of “throwing shade” clips, proving that none of these guys (or the producers, apparently) know what that phrase means. It’s a snooze. Justin calling someone “thirstier than Tara Reid in rehab” is not even funny! And that’s the best example they’ve got.
The only real new bit of info we learned all night — and it’s only really new if you don’t have an internet connection and haven’t heard it already — is that Sam and Chad hooked up on the first night. Oof. Those two. I’m not sure who is more unstable. First, there’s Chad, whose eerie calm throughout this reunion just reinforces my belief that he is actually more of “danger to society” kind of crazy. It’s only a matter of time before we see him have an Anne Heche-esque meltdown outside a Starbucks in WeHo.
But, Sam. Oh, Sam. He’s reality-TV crazy, which means he spends this reunion screaming and crying at various points. Sam shouts down Dillon about their confrontation, eventually apologizing for spitting in his face. Later, he breaks down in hysterics about how much he made fun of himself before coming out? I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s experience, but come on. He was basically humblebragging about overcoming being victimized by himself. It was like that scene on The Simpsons where Bart suggests he can save the family money by taking up and then quitting smoking. Sam is the personification of a heap of mesh tank-tops someone set on fire and then poured pinot grigio on, and he’s exactly the kind of monster this show desperately needs more of in season two.
When they finally trot out Eric and Brandon, the temperature in the room goes from “tepid” to “slight chill.” Brandon sits as far from Robert as he physically can while crammed on the same tiny SÖDERHAMN couch. Eric and Robert couldn’t look less like a couple. Geez, guys, can you hold hands? Can you put a hand on his knee? I’m not asking you to recreate some of Robert’s best straight-to-video hits, but give us something. Lance asks the question on everybody’s mind:
Who cares? Are you guys still together? They give a super wishy-washy answer, though it’s not clear if they’re simply hiding the fact they realized they have nothing in common OR if it’s just hard for them to communicate after using that couples lobotomy Groupon they got as a prize.
And that’s it, I guess. The season ends without a bang. No, seriously, no one banged (at least on camera). What a disappointment!
Fixing Prince Charming
Season two of Finding Prince Charming is coming, whether we like it or not. It won’t ever be the gay dating show we want (which, for me, would include all the suitors dropped on a desolate island with nothing but a satchel full of vodka-soda, PReP and low-carb wraps, and then they’re forced to use Grindr to find one another), but it could be easily improved.
The preface of the show demands a bunch of basic suckers spewing nonsense about finding true love. We’re not going to lose that. That’s OK! The Bachelor, Bachelorette, hell, even Joe Millionaire all dealt in the same parlance of fairytale love. That’s the foundation of these shows. The problem with Finding Prince Charming is that it ended there, and we can do so much better.
Perhaps the show felt a responsibility as the first all-gay dating competition to portray gay men as gingerly as possible. Instead, let’s contrast the fantasy of “Prince Charming” with the reality of gay dating in 2016. We need always-on, Big Brother-esque cameras installed all over the house. The best, juiciest stuff happened when the cameras weren’t even rolling. Lean in to the hook-ups, don’t shy away from them. I want to see every stray bead of jism spilled on that tacky furniture.
Beyond just the scandalous, the show needs to embrace more of the action unrelated to the pursuit of the Prince. One of the most interesting elements of FPC that we barely even glimpsed were the friendships between the suitors. Some of the most powerful, genuine interactions we saw were between friends. I was much more moved by how the other suitors reacted to Eric’s status than I was by that GNC cardboard cut-out shilling protein powder, Robert. These small conversations about coming out, about the Pulse shooting, etc. are what shows like The Bachelor can never, ever recreate. It’s what makes the LGBT community special, and it deserves a lot more airtime than another absurd group fitness class. Let’s make next season part all-gay Bachelor and part all-gay Real World.
Lastly, we need a new host. I’m not sure what it is that keeps Lance Bass in the celebrity sphere, but there are glasses of tap water out there with more charisma. The kind of people that look for love on reality TV are already a self-selecting kind of crowd, so I’m not expecting to ever get a cast that’s creative and witty and, well, charming. However, the right host can inject just the right amount of levity and knowing winks to keep the whole thing from collapsing under the weight of its own simple-minded sincerity. I know there’s an online push to see Robby as the next Prince Charming, but I think that’s terribly misguided. I say we make him host. Or at least let’s get a comedian up there. Certainly Alec Mapa or Kathy Griffin are available.
Would this make Finding Prince Charming must-see TV? Probably not, but it would help us bring a bit more “reality” to the reality show.
How would you like to see Finding Prince Charming change in season two?