Think about this: There is a generation of TV viewers alive today who will never have known a time when reality-show casting was any less inclusive and diverse than it is today: Always getting more representative of the world around us, more real.
Logo's new series, "Finding Prince Charming," which premieres Thursday (Sept. 8), is a stepping stone from the almost entirely straight, white world of Bachelor Nation. While gay-themed dating shows have tried, and failed miserably, in the past, 2016 could be the year that cookie-cutter mold is successfully broken.
The basic concept remains unchanged: Everyday people, just looking for "true love," on the national stage. In a competition hosted by Lance Bass, 13 bachelors move into a mansion, and try to win the heart of interior design firm owner, Robert Sepulveda Jr.
While many will be quick to judge the series before watching, this is not just "The Gay Bachelor." Zap2it got to sit down and speak with Bass about the series, and there's one rumor he quickly dispels: The contestants are not all hooking up with each other.
Even though there were no rules against that, Lance told us the suitors truly respected the process. He also notes that if two contestants did find love with each other -- that would actually be great! If two men are attracted to one another, then they've found their guy -- and neither of them is the one for Robert! It's a win/win, for everyone involved.
"Prince Charming" will have drama that no Bachelor Nation ever had to deal with -- there are lots of small differences unique to the experience of gay men in our culture that have no precise parallel, which can make for unexpected dynamics and situations, for those of us used to watching (and cracking on) dating shows. The series would be a big story whatever Logo tried to do with those details -- embrace them, or smooth them over for a wider audience -- but thankfully the network has chosen to do the former.
For example: It was recently revealed Mr. "Prince Charming" himself used to be an escort. While this is true, and something which Robert openly discusses with dignity, he says rumors he was also a pornographic video star are false.
"There is a video circulating out there that I shot privately and sent to an ex-boyfriend. It feels so violating that someone would take something so private and share it with the world," Sepulveda Jr. tells People. "I want to work to make sure there are laws protecting people from similar situations. It's just not right."
While the premiere could feel like the show's pushing a "Look! Gay people are just like straight people" agenda, that's not where the show's going. Think about what happens when you get past first impressions and truly get to know somebody: Dark and perhaps unpleasant things can come to light, as you form a clearer picture. Is any of us undeserving of love because of unfortunate decisions we've made in the past? No. That's not how that works at all.
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Sepulveda appears very nervous in the premiere, but as the story moves along, we hope he'll get more comfortable in this role. For the leading man of a groundbreaking show, we get the disarming feeling that he's clearly not made for reality TV stardom. That's not an insult by any means -- and the show has balanced out his nerves by surrounding him with so many strong personalities: The producers definitely hand-picked these suitors with this 33-year-old former fashion model in mind.
Starring as "Prince Charming's" host was "an emotional rollercoaster" for Lance Bass as well, especially after one contestant opened up about his HIV status.
"HIV/AIDS is a big subject for the LGBT community," the former N'Sync singer explains. "They've been though a lot. And there's such a huge stigma. I'm glad this was uncovered when shooting. It adds a beautiful education to the show, where people can get over this stigma of dating someone with HIV."
As for how the suitors meet "Prince Charming" for the first time, it's a delicious twist that only this series could pull off. Lance also tells us there will be no rose ceremonies! Instead, a black tie affair will be thrown for those chosen to stay each week.
"These guys form a bond that is really beautiful to watch," Bass says. "They bring out a lot of things they've never talked about in their lives. As a gay man growing up, you're so warped as to what you view relationships are like. You're told you can't get married, you can never have a monogamous relationship... The worst things are said about who you are. So it's great to see a group of guys finding themselves, sometimes for the first time, and be able to talk about it."
"Finding Prince Charming" premiers on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Logo.