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05-28-2003, 08:07 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A46900-2003May27.html


A Dating Game With No Straight Answers

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, May 28, 2003; Page C07


Imagine a TV dating show in which a gay guy has the hots for another gay guy, only the producers have fooled him and it turns out the other guy is straight.

No, it's not the never-aired episode of "The Jenny Jones Show," it's "Boy Meets Boy," a dating reality series coming to Bravo cable network this summer.

The six-episode series, shot over eight days in Palm Springs, Calif., features a gay man who thinks he's getting the chance to pick a mate from among 15 gay contestants. Only when he has winnowed the pool considerably does he learn that some of the guys are heterosexual.

If the leading man picks a gay man to be his mate, he wins a cash prize and a vacation with his guy of choice. Should he pick a straight guy, the straight guy wins a cash prize because, executive producer Doug Ross told The TV Column, "to get them to do this on television you have to dangle more than a sociological experiment and exploring . . . gay issues."

Gay contestants on the show, which has already been shot, were all cast under the pretense of it being a gay dating series. Straight contestants were told that it was a reality game show and that they would be given more information later.

The producers sought hetero men who were "interested in exploring the same issues we were," Ross said, including "pushing the boundaries of what is normally considered straight and gay, to tear down stereotypes and blur the lines of commonly held beliefs." They ended up casting straight men with important people in their lives -- a relative, a college roommate, etc. -- who happened to be gay, Ross said. They were guys who were "willing to take this challenge and do it on television but who also wanted to walk a mile in a gay man's shoes.

"The overarching goal of the series is to examine what it is like in a gay world where the straight guys are the ones in the closet," said Ross, who also produced the well-received documentary series "Gay Wedding" that ran on Bravo last summer.

Several straight candidates were deemed unsuitable for "a variety of reasons," Ross said. "Specifically we were looking for people who in their general persona would be able to obscure their sexual identity. We did not want them to act gay," he said. Straight contestants were told "be yourself -- change your story."

Still, Ross acknowledged, some affected more "gay mannerisms" than others. "It was interesting to see them try to assimilate."

Assimilation did not extend to doing more than kissing, we were assured after asking if the leading man had been as rigorous in researching potential mates as had been, say, Trista of "The Bachelorette."

Unlike other prime-time dating series -- Fox's "Joe Millionaire" and ABC's "The Bachelor" come to mind -- the contestants on "Boy Meets Boy" were forbidden to do anything more intimate than kiss in order to protect the identity of the heteros, Ross said.

But when pressed on how that rule was enforced, Ross acknowledged, "We weren't there all the time, so perhaps things went on after the cameras went home and to bed." One junior camera person remained on the night shift, however, he added, "and as far as we were told, there was no improper behavior displayed."

When producers finally did tell the leading man that some of his guys were straight, he was stunned, Ross said.

"It really threw him for a loop. . . . He had to sit down and think about the people he had selected to go home and to stay; it caused him to reevaluate everything that had transpired."

Ross also acknowledged that there was "anger" but says he has no concerns about this turning into another "Jenny Jones" tragedy because of the pains they took to select the participants and because "it was intended to be very good-natured."

"This had a completely different trajectory than 'Jenny Jones,' " he said, referring to the never-aired episode of the syndicated show in which a heterosexual guest named Jonathan Schmitz agreed to appear to find out about a secret admirer, only to learn during taping that the admirer was a gay man, Scott Amedure. Three days later Schmitz drove to Amedure's home and killed him with a shotgun blast.

"There was no maliciousness about this," Ross said of his show. "This was played in the spirit of fun and progressive gay values."

Adding the straight guys to the dating pool, Ross speculated, will bring straight viewers to a show that might otherwise have attracted only a gay audience. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Among those additional viewers are sure to be members of the Traditional Values Coalition, whose executive director was already alerting its 43,000 member churches about the series so that they could protest it, the Associated Press reported.

"What's next," Andrea Lafferty asked, " 'Boy Meets Sheep'?"

"This is a knee-jerk reaction," said Scott Seomin, entertainment media director for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. " . . . This is predictable. They do not want the lives of gays or lesbians portrayed on television."