Wanna marry Harry? US show flirts with royalty, ridicule
Drastic times call for drastic action. Is Britain's newly single, media-shunning Prince Harry really so desperate for a wife that he asked an American TV channel to fix him up?world Updated: May 21, 2014 12:13 IST
Drastic times call for drastic action. Is Britain's newly single, media-shunning Prince Harry really so desperate for a wife that he asked an American TV channel to fix him up?
Well no. But that's the fantasy being peddled to 12 pretty, ultra-competitive American women chasing after one very plummy Brit with ginger hair on a Fox TV dating show.
Panned by critics but tapping into the US obsession with "Downton Abbey" and royalty, "I Wanna Marry 'Harry'" premiered on screens Tuesday night.
It stars Matt Hicks, a 23-year-old environmental consultant whose rosy cheeks and ginger mop bear a debatable resemblance to the fourth in line to the British throne.
He's been set up with servants, bodyguards, a helicopter and given the run of an English castle to convince American beauties he is Prince Charming.
Crucially, it's not clear if the women are really hoodwinked into believing it is Prince Harry.
"I don't want to lie outright so the strategy is deflection. I'm going to play the part of the mysterious man," he confides to viewers.
"They're way out of my league but for who I'm pretending to be, it's perfect."
Each episode he'll ask one woman to leave, all the while keeping his real identity secret until the grand finale... then wait and see if his pick likes the real Matt.
Watch video: Prince Harry look-alike entices girls in US reality show
'It's Downton Abbey!'
Given a makeover to become "the world's most eligible prince," Hicks is coached in etiquette, fencing and polo -- all the traits of the real prince.
"My bum hurts," he complains after too long on a horse. But throughout, he professes that his goal is to find love.
The women aged 22 to 26 include models, a cocktail waitress who claims to have been propositioned for threesomes, a "naughty" pre-school teacher and demure student.
"It's 'Downton Abbey!'" shrieks one in delight as they arrive at the mansion. "This is so freaking cute," squeals another during afternoon tea.
The show panders to -- rather than challenges -- stereotypes on both sides of the Atlantic.
"Very loud aren't they, Americans," Hicks mutters to his butler as they stride across the lawn.
Meghan, 25, is not short on confidence.
"I'm smart, hot, I cook, I clean, I look bangin' in a bikini. I like the finer things in life," she declares.
The women wax lyrical about fairytales and romance, but it takes just minutes for catty remarks and backstabbing to set in.
Maggie is accused of quaffing too many drinks at a masquerade ball and the claws are out after "Harry" invites one girl to spend the night in his adjoining suite.
Some seem to believe it really could be him.
"It would be really, really freaking crazy if this was Prince Harry," says one.
Either way, the critics have had a field day.
The Daily Beast blasted the show as "irrelevant," "predictable and humdrum" and castigated Hicks as a "dud."
"Unless the show has something sensational in store down the line -- perhaps nods to the real Harry's more infamous moments, like his Nazi costume from 2005, or re-creating his 2012 Vegas strip-billiards escapades -- it offers absolutely no reason to tune back in until the final episode, if even then," it sneered.
Under the headline, "Be Wary And Bury The Very Scary I Wanna Marry Harry," National Public Radio rounded on the girls.
"Woman after woman reveals herself to be a grubbing, grasping, infantile harpy for wanting what the show is dangling in front of her, as well as a moron for believing it's the truth," it said.
The real Harry, the 29-year-old army captain, made headlines across the United States recently with his party-going antics at a wedding in Memphis.
He split from blonde girlfriend Cressida Bonas last month -- and in doing so became the most eligible bachelor on the planet.