Some of you may recognize yours truly as the reality-TV-addicted writer of the critically acclaimed series ‘Gay Survivor Journal.’ I have received a promotion of sorts (or is it a demotion?) and have been asked to write summaries for some episodes of ‘Boy Meets Boy,’ the new series on Bravo (the ‘Gays Buy Advertising Products!’ network.) I accept the assignment with some trepidation. You see, until now I have reveled in the fact that it is predominantly heterosexuals who have made complete fools of themselves on network TV in the name of love and/or money. To see homos (also known as ‘My People’) baring their souls (and various other body parts) to attract a same-sex mate would no doubt lead to embarrassment, stereotyped behavior, random periods of dullness, stupid choices, and worst of all, titillation with no actual sex. Then, when I heard that the ‘twist’ would be that there are straight men thrown in with the gay men to try to ‘play gay’ for a cash prize, I was outraged. If it is fair to mix gay and straight, where were the butch passable gayboys on ‘The Bachelorette?’ Where were the lipstick lesbians on ‘The Bachelor?’ So, despite my fears (which would prove to be well founded) I took on this responsibility to ensure that the summaries will be fair and even-handed, and that everyone will be insulted equally (even, nay especially, My People.)
Disclaimers aside, we move on to...
Boy Meets Boy, Episode One, “Secrets and Leis (or The One with the Luau)”
The series begins, faux-ominously, with a montage of clips which is intended to expose you to all the major players. (The montage honestly just confused me, as it’s hard to keep track of 16 guys who all seem to have the same eyebrow-waxer.) The faux-ominous narration is spoken by a female with an obnoxiously nasal London accent, who we later learn will be the host. Yippee.
“One exceptional gay man. 15 extraordinary suitors, all vying for his affection. In the end he must select just one man. But appearances aren’t always what they seem. What neither the gay suitors nor the leading man know is that some of the suitors are straight men, pretending to be gay, competing to win a cash prize. Will the leading man discover their secret? In a world where gay is the norm and straight men must stay in the closet, will boundaries be crossed? Can stereotypes be shattered? Will romance prevail? Find out when two worlds collide, as we bridge the gap between gay and straight. Welcome to Boy Meets Boy.”
The above paragraph was written by someone who gets paid a lot of money by The Bravo Network. Nuff said.
First we meet Dani Behr, the abovementioned Londoner host. Prior to this, I thought women with British accents were lovely, elegant and numbingly dull, like Jane Seymour in every romantic miniseries on CBS. Grating Dani has succeeded in changing that stereotype. (One point for Bravo!) My first impression of her look is that her huge eyes are much too far apart, and that her nearly-opaque-overbleached hair is ‘styled’ in odd asymmetrical ringlets, which I suppose might be ‘all the rage’ in London, (but not here.)
Next we meet James, our leading man. In this writer’s opinion, things start to get much better about now. James is soft-spoken, modest, and very cute, with light eyes, dark hair, and a very charming smile. We’re told he’s 32, and was born in North Dakota, lived in Oregon as a child, and now lives in Southern California where he is a benefits administrator. Unfortunately for James, the viewer is next treated to an embarrassing montage of baby and teen photos of him, displaying him in all his pimple-faced, gangly, frizzy haired, baby fat, fashion-victim glory. You see, he was a quiet nerdy kid, who kids in high school called ‘a diamond in the rough.’ This seems way too kind for high school kids. More likely, (based on my personal experience) he was simply called ‘ugly, pimple faced fag.’ Thank the gods (and Bravo) that James has outgrown this phase.
Andra (which is pronounced effectedly like 'Ahndra') is the next introduction, and I’m already starting to get lost with all the names. She has pale blue eyes, large white teeth, overly-frosted hair (striped, really) which is plastered to her head in an unflattering way, and huge eyes which, like Dani’s, are way too far apart. (It is a good thing this show is aimed at gay men and straight women, because these two ladies aren’t likely to bring in any hetero male viewers.) She met James at work, and calls herself his ‘turn to person,’ his ‘closest friend in the world,’ and ‘his family here.’ (I’d call her his ‘fag-hag,’ but as we learn later, that term offends her. I say, if the shoe fits…) She says James is ‘reserved,’ but ‘once he’s comfortable, he’s the belle of the ball, the life of the party.’
Following this is a quick montage with some of James’ friends, (more faces to confuse me) who say that James is patient, athletic, monogamous, a partier, nice, romantic, and ‘a catch.’ One wonders why this seemingly perfect guy is single, and why all these seemingly smitten friends aren’t more bitter, jealous and spiteful, like rejected gay men typically are. (If James were my friend, I’d be.)
Finally, the montages are over, and we meet James in person. He steps out in a bright sky-blue dress shirt and bone khakis. The whole thing is a little Orange County conservative for me, but he looks good. He seems nervous and giggles like a schoolgirl, but he has me already and so at this point he can do no wrong. He tells Dani that he’s hoping to meet someone, maybe make a connection. (Thankfully, his goals aren’t too high, as we all know these Bachelor-esque shows have spotty track records when it comes to love matches.) Dani announces that the grand prize is a trip to New Zealand for him and the man he chooses. (That’s it? What a rip-off! Why do the gays get shafted with the cheapo prizes? Where’s our Million Dollars? I scream discrimination!)
Andra enters, this time in a hideous fuchsia and black sundress that accentuates her pear-shaped figure. (Though her hair looks moderately better piled in a twist on her head, which sort of masks her skunk-stripes.) Dani welcomes her, opining that ‘most gay men have a girly best friend,’ and that she’s happy because ‘I’d like another girly around here.’ (Lesbian viewers’ spirits certainly picked up at that remark.)
Andra and James are taken to a wall of pictures, the 15 suitors who James will be choosing from, and left to formulate their superficial first opinions based on cheesy posed headshots. Andra picks her top four (we later learn their names are Chris, Robb, Matt and Franklin) and James picks his top five (Chris, Dan, Matt, Robb and Franklin.) Andra dismisses Dan as cocky. More on that later.
Finally the moment of truth arrives, and James (in a silly looking navy blue Hawaiian shirt) is introduced one by one to the 15 ‘mates.’ Here they are, in the order he meets them:
1. Franklin (‘young curly-haired long-eyelash hottie guy’) is 24, and is a ‘wine steward.’ (Doesn’t that just really mean ‘waiter’? I mean, let’s get real.) He says he knows who he is and knows what he wants. (This seems like too much to expect from a 24-year-old.) He also says he wants love at first sight to be true. (Let me be honest here, seeing him made me think love at first sight might well be true. He’s my pick.)
2. Brian H. (‘whiny-voiced spiky-thinning-hair guy’) is a 29-year-old bartender from Seattle who says he has a competitive attitude. (He’s pretty cute, but that voice of his would annoy me to no end.)
3. Jason (‘military mole-lipped shaved-head guy’) is 26 and from a small town in Mississippi. He says he’s a catch, and any guy would be very lucky to have him. (I say he’s boring, and the first one I’d throw out.)
4. Michael (‘Rico Suave open-shirt guy’) is a 30-year-old computer consultant who plans to ‘jump into everything with two feet.’ James is impressed by the fact that he makes eye contact throughout, which tells me that James is easily impressed. (I’ve dated slick, cocky Latino guys like Michael before. They cheated on me and then dumped me.)
5. Jim (‘pale dorky natural-blonde guy’) is a 23-year-old claims examiner, who says that when he is in love with somebody ‘I’m all about them.’ (All I kept thinking was that his pierced tongue made him talk funny.)
6. Darren (‘skinny big-chin big-nose you-know-what-that-means guy’) is a 24 year old Store Manger from Flushing, Queens. (Insert joke here.) He wears a shirt that says ‘sober,’ and he calls himself a ‘big time exhibitionist.’ (It is my experience that most men who are exhibitionists have something big that they are not ashamed to show off, if you get my drift. I’d keep this guy around.)
7. Chris (‘buff token black guy’) is a 24-year-old molecular biologist from San Diego. He is hoping to find someone with whom he can ‘be vulnerable and have them reciprocate.’ (Just the fact that he used the word ‘reciprocate’ in a sentence impressed me. And a molecular biologist at 24? Talk about an overachiever.)
8. Sean (‘freaky-haired scrawny music guy’) kneels to kiss James’ hand, and gives James a CD of his favorite song. (This guy is so out of place it’s ridiculous.)
9. Wes (‘tiny-eyebrowed pug-nosed guy’) is a 24 year old fundraiser from San Diego, who claims: “I have full confidence that I’m gonna win.” (I say put down the tweezers and we’ll talk.)
10. Robb (‘bleach-blond slogan-shirt guy’) is a 30-year-old event planner from San Diego. He claims: “I wanna go for what I want. If I don’t get it, hey, at least I tried.” (His shirt says ‘For Rent’ and I, for one, would inquire about the asking price for this West-Hollywoodish hottie.)
11. Matt (‘tall quiet spiky-haired guy’) is a 27-year-old inventory manager from San Diego, who claims to definitely know what he’s looking for. (If you like the strong silent type, Matt may be for you. For my taste, he came off a little dull.)
12. Brian A. (‘buffed blonde bad-skin guy’) is a 30-year-old chiropractor from San Diego who says he’s a “very passionate intimate creative lover.” (He’d have to be pretty damn creative to make up for what he lacks in the looks department.)
13. Marc (‘looks-older-than-he-is lawyer guy’) is 33, with close-cropped hair and refreshingly unplucked eyebrows. (I’d pick this guy to be my Sugar Daddy, if that’s what I was looking for, but not much else.)
14. Paul (‘looks-younger-than-he-is beaty-eyed guy’) is 23 and a draftsman from Michigan. He says: “I’ve got what it takes and I’m just ready!” (News to Paul: you’re wrong on both counts.)
15. Dan (‘cocky-but-gorgeous blonde guy’) is a 29-year-old actor from Los Angeles. He licks his lips brazenly, and admits: “I express and exude a certain sensuality and sexuality that he’ll probably be attracted to.” (As much as I hate to admit it, his self-confidence is not misplaced. Though he’s very tiny in stature, he’s still the most striking one of the bunch, with by far the best body. I’d keep him around, if only for the eye candy.)
(Please note that from this point on I will attempt to actually use their names, like Robb, Wes and Chris, instead of the annoyingly cute but overlong nicknames like ‘bleach-blond slogan-shirt guy,’ ‘tiny eyebrow pug-nosed guy’ and ‘token buff black guy.’ While this may be harder for you, the reader to follow, it will be faster for me, the underpaid writer, to type.)
At this point, Andra and Dani return (Andra has changed into a black and blue floral dress that looks no better on her than that pink thing she was wearing earlier) and the ‘Mates’ split into groups of five for some small-group time with James.
The first group of five is Franklin, Brian H., Jason, Michael and Jim. James asks them the burning question: “If you could pick just one genre of music to listen to, what would you pick.” Here are their scintillating answers:
Franklin: Classical. (Which he later regrets saying for fear it sounded too stuffy.)
Brian H.: Pop (Because it’s fun and energetic! How totally gay of him.)
Jason: Vocal House (But not ‘regular house,’ he is careful to add, though I have no idea what the difference would be.)
Jim: Punk. (Or did he say ‘Funk?’ Who cares really, I suppose.)
Michael: The group Massive Attack (who I’ve never heard of.)
Based on these answers, James comments that Michael was a leader, Franklin was good looking and Jason was quiet. (Which he certainly could have determined without asking them the lame music question.)
(In-between group one and two, there is a montage I’ll call ‘sleeping with the enemy’ which points out that there is some flirting going on between the ‘mates,’ and that Andra will keep an eye out on it to try to protect James. I would have just skipped past this, but it had some interesting quotes in it, including:
Robb: “Now, why would I know where the nasty porn stores are?”
Dan: “Franklin is the biggest competition for me. He’s the one I’d be the most attracted to.”
Robb: “I probably have a better chance of having a date with someone in the house than I do with the leading man.”
Franklin: “…but James is the best looking out of all of us.”)
The second group of five is made up of Chris, Sean, Darren, Robb and Wes. This time the question is the eternal quandary: “We’re all gonna be stranded on a desert island alone, what one thing would you hope would wash up on shore.” Here are their fascinating replies:
Chris: A helicopter. (An interesting choice, though to be fair, I’m not sure that a helicopter that has ‘washed up on shore’ would be very useful.)
Darren: The pendulum his uncle gave him the day he died. (This is sweet enough, but perhaps Darren meant ‘pendant?’)
Robb: A mirror. (He wants to look good when they find his dead body. This requires no comment on my part.)
Wes: A knife. (This is perhaps the only smart answer so far this evening. Smart, yes, but dull as toast.)
Sean: Wine. (If he is going to suffer, he’d like to do so with a buzz! Suddenly, ‘freaky-haired scrawny music guy’ is looking a lot better to me. Best answer of the night!)
Group three includes Marc, Brian A., Paul, Dan and Matt. With so few pressing questions in the world to choose from, James decides to recycle his ‘desert island’ query. Here are their responses:
Dan: A person (boy or girl) to have a relationship with. (While this is noble, I’m pretty sure the waterlogged corpse that washes up on shore would make for a rather unsatisfying relationship partner.)
Brian A.: My mom. (Following Dan’s ‘a person’ lead.)
Marc: My oldest sister. (Continuing down the incorrect path that Dan blazed.)
Paul: A soccer ball. (Back on track, but dull and unoriginal.)
Matt: A CD player. (Compared to the other idiotic choices, this is brilliant! Though I’m afraid the batteries would run out all too soon.)
Next we come to the ‘highlight’ of the evening, the Luau. While the rest of the boys cavort around the Tiki-god-decorated pool, practicing the Hula, applauding the fire-eaters, sipping from coconut cups, and saying witty things like “my umbrella is hung over already,” James decides to have some one-on-one time with three of the guys who he is unsure about.
He learns that Chris is fresh out of the closet, having just told his mother 2 weeks ago.
He learns nothing from beaty-eyed Paul, who is nervous and can barely express himself.
He learns that Dan has a ‘guy he’s tight with’ back in New York, though they are both open to dating others. (He comments that Dan’s answers all seem unbelievably good and therefore rehearsed. I disagree. If I were Dan, I would have rehearsed a different answer to this one, something like: “Yesterday I had a boyfriend in New York, but that was before I saw YOU!”)
Finally (mercifully) the time comes for the deliberations. Dani leads Andra and James back into the photo room, where they are given a minute to discuss. James is concerned that Chris just came out, and doesn’t want to be ‘his teacher.’ Andra nods approvingly. James tells Andra that Matt has been in love with a woman before, which (of course) makes horny Andra want him to stay around. James reveals (to Andra’s dismay) that Dan has a boyfriend in New York and they have an open relationship. Andra puts a plug in for keeping Marc, who seems ‘nice,’ and Jason (who was the first person she wanted gone) because he seems so ‘kind.’ (Wow it’s easy to impress Andra.) About Brian A., she notes: “He seems really nice, but there’s something that I’m not quite sure what’s going on with him.” (Later, we’ll learn she nailed this one on the head.)
And with no further ado, James is lead into the living room by Dani, who informs him that he must offer glasses of champagne to the 12 ‘mates’ he would like to remain another day, and the other three would immediately leave. (Glasses of champagne? Could that BE any lamer? At least the Bachelorette guys got roses. Who thinks of this stuff?)
Dan offers the champagne in the following order (James’ quotable quotes included):
1. Brian H. (“It was great talking to you, you have great energy.”)
2. Franklin (“Hope we can get to know each other better this week.”)
6. Wes (“You’re crazy, zany and funny, and I like that.”)
8. Sean (“As cheesy as it sounds, the sharing of your music with me was really touching and memorable.”)
9. Jim (“Great energy.”)
10. Darren (They laugh, and it also struck me as funny that he wears his ‘Sober” T-shirt while being offered champagne.)
11. Robb (All James could really say was “Wow.”)
And, last but not least…
12. Dan. (“You’re candid, honest and real.” Sure, he’s cute, but ‘real?’ Puh-lease, James. This guy’s as fake as they come!)
By process of elimination, Chris, Brian A. and Jason are sent home. (And I think they were good choices, though I would have kept intellectual Chris and booted boring Paul.)
But before the credits roll, each of the booted suitors is given a chance to speak. Chris (who we’re told identifies as ‘gay’) thinks James ‘missed out,’ and that their one-on-one was ‘rushed.’ Jason (who is also gay) was waiting for his chance to be one-on-one, but the chance never came, which he knows was his own fault. And finally Brian A. (who identifies as ‘straight’!) said he was trying his best to be a gay man, and that he couldn’t tell which of the ‘mates’ were gay and which were straight.
I for one am happy to see ‘Brian A.’ gone, so that I can now call ‘Brian H.’ simply ‘Brian.’
When all was said and done, I found myself surprisingly eager for another installment. Rather than being insulted by it… I felt somewhat empowered by the fact that My People were at last being seen as lovers, exhibitionists, media-whores, freaks and complete morons, just like the ‘straights’ have been for years. I suppose any step is a positive one, right?
P.S.: The disclaimer at the end of the episode reads:
“The producers have consulted with the leading man regarding his choices of elimination, but the leading man has made all final decisions on his own.”
There are certainly some who will scoff at my use of shallow, surface attributes to judge the ‘Boys.’ I say, to those who scoff: ‘Kiss my tanned, hairless, Stairmaster-toned ass!’
Larry Johnson is a comedy writer, currently working for Disney TV. Look for his weekly commentary about reality TV from a gay point of view. Please check out his website, if you dare: www.gaycomedyjournals.com.