Reality television has now proven indisputably that the emporer has no clothes -or at least the prince has no robes.
In this BBC3 series three bachelor princes take their quest for love to the extreme, discarding all the trappings of their nobility for the chance to meet the love of their lives. At home they have it all, except the opportunity to meet somebody who loves them for who they are.
The princes are (pictured l to r) Manvendra Singh Gohil of Rajpipla in north west India, Africa Zulu (yes that’s his name), a Zulu chief from South Africa and Remigius Jerry Kanagarajah from Jaffna in Sri Lanka.
When they met in a very underwhelming flat in the seaside escape of Brighton in episode 1, none had ever met. So, in Big Brother style, they had to bond. Making life more complicated they were not used to fending for themselves. One wasn’t even practised in unpacking their luggage let alone battling a kitchen stove. Shopping in the local grocery was a consumer adventure.
All three princes are so desperate for true love that they have willingly participated in this reality TV experiment. Dating shows are nothing new, but this one is genuinely intriguing. Will they find a partner, and what will happen when their true identity is revealed?
In another twist, India’s Prince Manvendra staggeringly came out as homosexual in 2006. In a country where being gay is illegal, there were calls for him to be stripped of his title. Photographs of his image were burned in a local bonfire. In Brighton he visits gay clubs while his housemates pursue local girls. But his new housemates had no idea they would be sharing with a gay prince. Africa Zulu has difficulty equating his religious beliefs with progressive society.
The three tackle everything that producers clearly liaise for them: from local jobs as waiters, bartenders and housekeepers, to internet dating, getting tips from local blokes, throwing a house party, approaching strangers in the street, hitting on colleagues and more. Their pick up lines are dreadful with such unsubtle compliments as “I like your height.” It’s fascinatingly terrible.
And therein lays the charm of Undercover Princes. De-robed of their majesty, these three have wonderfully entertaining personalities. Naive charm surpasses regal stature. Africa Zulu asserts himself as the alpha-male, Sri Lanka’s Remigius is genuinely funny (even faking that he has come home drunk, much to the outrage of Africa) while poor Manvendra suddenly decides maybe he should try bisexuality. Another meaningful household moment is nearly derailed when one prince inadvertently suggests that he has a higher status than another. That never happened on Big Brother.
As a dating show Undercover Princes is a curious social experiment that doesn’t feel nasty even though it probably should. At the end of the day all we want to meet our Prince our Princess. These three just want to meet somebody with a true heart.
Undercover Princes airs 7:30pm Thursdays on LifeStyle Channel.