Thursday’s TV: The Undercover, Underexperienced Princes
THE UNDERCOVER PRINCES, BBC3, Thursday 15th January, 10.30pm Alert Me
In the ads, this looked like it was going to be another piece of freakshow programming, and to some extent it lives up to that label. These princes are utterly clueless, taking two hours to do things like make the bed, and capable of cooking only microwave burgers. On the other hand, the Under Cover Princes is also an interesting look at two sides of the British culture – clubbing and dating.
It seems like an indictment of our culture when HRH Prince Africa Zulu of South Africa is egged on to down a tequila followed by a beer and a snort of sugar by his rugby club mates, and Middle England’s Daily Mail sensibility is sure to recoil in horror at the “loutish” behaviour which is seen as symptomatic of the binge-drink culture, but the Prince himself is delighted at the ease with which he is welcomed into this ready made friendship group.
The most interesting part of this series so far, though, is Prince Manvendra of India’s experience. When Manvendra came out of the closet in 2006, he was disinherited and disgraced. His own people cut his image from their newspapers and burnt them in bonfires. Now, in Brighton in 2009, he is making his first forays into the gay dating and clubbing scene. Whilst it’s a little full-on for him, and doesn’t immediately offer the love and affection he’s looking for (though you can pretty much anything else in moments, it seems), it is amazing to watch how quickly his confidence grows as he realises he’s neither wrong, nor strange, nor evil (though Prince Africa might disagree on that count…)
To be honest, though, this program could be made without Princes. The weakest part of the program are the bits where they’re trying to go about everyday life – it’s not funny, it’s merely cringeworthy and fairly pathetic to watch three grown men struggle with basic tasks. Any group of inexperienced teenagers would be just as amusing to watch as they make their first tentative steps and stumbles into the whole new spectrum of experience which The Undercover Princes so succinctly label “pulling”. Still, this is on the whole good entertainment and raises interesting points about culture clash and tolerance without being worthy or exploitative.
By Chris Harding