The premise of Finding Prince Charming is simple: It is The Bachelor with gay guys. Needless to say, I am SO in.
Our Prince Charming is Robert Sepúlveda Jr., an Instagram thirst trap come to life with a name straight out of a Jacqueline Susann novel. As he walks along the beach, his shirtless abs filmed from a truly impressive array of angles, Robert tells us that he's doing the show to find love. If Terrence Malick directed a gay porn with dialogue by Delia Ephron, it'd look like this introduction.
Robert is looking for "white picket-fence" love, apparently, and his innocent-looking eyes always appear to be on the verge of tears. (Or maybe he just needs a sample of Jennifer Aniston's eye stuff.) To prove he's ready for love, we're shown candid shots of him in cardigans, with a dog, and covered in dandelions, which explains why his eyes are so watery.
After the montage ends, we jump to an aggressively purple bar where Robert meets with our host, the one and only Lance Bass. They do the typical "are you ready for the weirdest experience of your life?!" interview. They're also drinking what appear to be screwdrivers, and I had a hard time understanding why anyone who isn't a teenager sneaking into their dad's liquor cabinet would do that, but I decided to let it go. Lance is likable enough and his voice seems to have grown into that of a southern real-estate agent over the years. I'm totally cool with that.
From there, we get a few glimpses of the big fancy house where the guys will be staying. It screams new money in that way our nation has come to require from good reality TV. Enter our first contestant: Eric, a 35-year-old hairstylist from Los Angeles. I love the fact that we've made enough progress as gay people to have our very own dating show, yet the first contestant will still inevitably be a hair stylist. He's cute and I had to check Facebook to see if we'd ever had sex. We hadn't, but hey, Eric!
Then Robert arrives, but he pretends to be just another contestant and mingles with the guys. You're not going to see that on The Bachelor, that's smart producing right there.
Next up is Paul, who gets billed as "tanning company founder." He seems like a nice guy and we immediately find out his ex died and it's very sad. He tells Robert that he only likes guys under five-foot-eleven, then he obsesses about it for the next 48 hours.
The show basically rolls through the rest of the contestants:
In walks Dillon, a 26-year-old publicist from Los Angeles. He's very handsome, doesn't seem crazy, and drinks what appears to be a vodka cranberry.
Brandon is a 29-year-old behavioral specialist, and God knows his skills will be needed in the middle of this shitstorm. He seems like a genuinely nice guy.
Jasen is a 33-year-old celebrity makeup artist who lives in New York. As he tells us that he believes in monogamy, they cut away to a photo of him in one of those giant novelty wooden chairs. I’m not sure why, but I am confident that it says something about all of us.
Justin, a 29-year-old "project manager" (truly, what does that mean?) from Seattle, tells us that being gay is more than “pride and pageantry.” At first, I deemed him a poor man's Frankie James Grande, but he started to grow on me and now I think he's a total cutie pie.
Chad is a 32-year-old real-estate agent. He already knows Jasen, but it's unclear whether they like each other. One thing literally stopped me in my tracks during Chad's video package: He has a pet bird. Aside from collecting Madame Alexander Dolls, this is the biggest red flag I can imagine.
I really liked Brodney until he said, "Working out is my therapy." He and Robert are both from Atlanta, and they may have seen each other at the gym before. Scandal!
Charlie, a 26-year-old bearded manny from Hermosa Beach, is extremely sweaty and very kind. He doesn’t really vibe with these people, but he seems like he’d be good in a Coen Brothers movie.
Nick is a 31-year-old event planner who showed up with a defeatist attitude and that made me want to give him a hug.
Danique, a 30-year-old business analyst, referred to himself as "goofy" in one of the videos on Logo's website. That's all I have to say about that.
The final two contestants are bound to make the best television. Sam, a 31-year-old fratty guy from Chicago, immediately shares a romantic glance with Robert. After Sam, we meet Robby, a 26-year-old who lives in West Hollywood. Robby is a tornado of self-tanner, sass, and sound-bites. Imagine Cheri Oteri playing Carson Kressley. If there were justice in the world, Robby would be the Prince Charming and the host of this show.
Lance Bass then leads the guys through a "game" where they have to describe themselves in a hashtag. (It's weird, but the standouts include #Happiness, #Flexibility, and #DontLimitYourself.) And then, at long last, Robert reveals his true identity and everyone acts like they're surprised.
After Lance and Robert leave these 13 horny gay guys alone in the house, they race off to choose their beds. Of course, Robby and Sam immediately butt heads. In confessional, Sam tells us he's never met anyone like Robby, "except maybe in a play." It is the shadiest line of the night. Robby refers to Sam as “Mary” — my favorite piece of gay slang, hands down — then tells him he comes across as too conservative. Sam then tells Robby to "fix his dress."
It's a pretty tense moment, and it raises an issue I had hoped this show would explore: the friction between masculine and effeminate gay cultures. There's so much resentment and homophobia within the gay community, and from the looks of this first episode, Robby and Sam will play this tension out beautifully. Yes, Robby is a literal cartoon of a human being, but I believe that he's being his authentic self. And his authentic self seems to make Sam very, very uncomfortable.
Issues of hate within the gay community have been especially apparent in the buildup to Finding Prince Charming, given Robert's hidden past as a sex worker. Yes, the videos that leaked onto the internet were extremely graphic. Yes, I was just as eager as everyone else to read all about it. But I hope we can simmer down on the slut-shaming that's been unleashed on the guy.
You know what would make me think Robert was actually a Prince Charming, though? If he spoke openly and authentically about his experiences as a sex worker. There's nothing wrong with sex work in your past, present, or future. He has the opportunity to shed a positive light on a misunderstood profession, but instead, he's pushing it aside to hide behind gross terms like "family values" and "white picket-fence dreams."
Anyway, they have a big gay pool party the next day and everyone day-drinks and fights for Robert’s attention. The show makes a huge deal about Robert removing his shirt, complete with buildup music and an audacious break to commercial. Robert announces that Brodney is, in theory, his perfect match due strictly to the Atlanta connection and his appearance.
The guys then get ready for the evening’s elimination, an event entitled “The Black Tie Affair,” while Lance Bass and Robert rehash the episode’s events over a black lacquer Buddha statue. While describing the elimination, Lance Bass says the following statement: “The Black Tie Affair is all about confidence," which sounds like a lyric from Cats when sung the right way. Just so you know.
The elimination is very similar to The Bachelor, except instead of roses, our Prince Charming will give out … get ready … black ties. In other words, we get to watch as Robert attempts to gracefully put ties on ten different guys under hot film lights. Great idea, Logo! Brandon isn't even wearing a collared shirt, which should’ve lost him at least one point. It should be noted that there are no points.
In the end, Robert sends home Charlie, Nick, and Brodney. I was across-the-board unsurprised except for Brodney, I guess. Even that wasn't a huge twist: He avoided eye contact in a way that felt like he just wanted to get the hell out of there.
All in all, I was obsessed with pretty much every moment of it.
If the mountains of press surrounding Finding Prince Charming prove anything, it's that there's no such thing as Prince Charming. We all have our flaws and secrets and regrettable moments, but if you're going on a reality show, you have to be willing to own them. A lot of these guys are doing that already, so I just hope they'll rub off on Robert. But most importantly, this is going to be batshit crazy.