If you don’t know Colton Underwood, he’s the former college football standout and NFL player who was The Bachelor during the show’s 14th season in 2019. His relationship with the season’s winner, Cassie Randolph, ended in spectacular fashion, with her accusing him of stalking and placing a tracking device in her car. Then, last April, Underwood came out publicly on Good Morning America, making him the first gay Bachelor. Coming Out Colton follows Underwood from November 2020 through his public coming out, as he comes out to family, friends, his former football coach, and tries to figure out how to navigate the world as a member of the LGBTQ community, when he spent the first 29 years of his life running and hiding from his true self.
Opening Shot: Scenes from the season, where we hear former Bachelor Colton Underwood talk about how he needs to be true to himself, but it hasn’t been easy.
The Gist: In the first episode, we see Colton coming out to his family and closest friends. First is his mother Donna, with whom he has an extraordinarily close relationship. Over margaritas and guac, he tells her, and contextualizes it with how tough the previous year was with all of the Bachelor mishegas. She’s shocked but supportive, and is just feeling guilty that she couldn’t provide him the safe space to confide in her earlier.
Colton looks to his friend Gus Kenworthy, an Olympic snowboarder who came out himself a few years earlier, as a bit of a mentor. Colton was so far in the “macho” world of athletics, he didn’t even know what the word “cisgender” meant when Gus mentions it.
He tells his best friend Kassidy, who pretty much already knew. When he tells his younger brother Connor, he was also supportive, but the fact that the two of them shared any emotions at all made them both squirm (men, right?).
But the toughest reveal, at least as far as Colton is concerned, is to his father Scott, a man whom Colton loves but wishes he was more of a dad and less of a coach as he was growing up. The two of them go fishing, and after dancing around the issue at first, he just comes right out and tells his dad he’s gay.
Our Take: We’re not big Bachelor watchers, but as pop culture observers, Colton Underwood’s story was hard to miss, from the restraining order his TV fiancee Cassie filed against him to his public coming out earlier this year. Coming Out Colton tries to treat Underwood’s coming out journey with respect, and for the most part they accomplish that, but we have a few questions.
For one, what did the people he came out to think was going on when they agreed to be on camera with Colton? Were they told that the cameras were there to film his post-Bachelor life? We are 95% sure that the scenes where Colton formally comes out to his mom, brother, dad and best friend were genuine, but that 5% of doubt will be there as we continue to watch the first season.
We know how a lot of the sausage is made in reality TV, and we wonder if at least some of those conversations were recreated rather than of the moment. That “knowing too much” factor blunted our reaction to Colton’s bravery, because we were too busy piecing together timelines rather than just observing the moment as is.
For someone who was so deeply in the closet like Underwood, coming out is still fraught with fear and maybe a modicum of shame that it’s taken him so long to do it. So we get why the show’s producers wanted to make things like Colton telling his father into cliffhangers. But what it seems is that people are almost overwhelmingly supportive, so those cliffhangers tend to ring a little false.
But we also get why the producers need to gin up some dramatic moments from something that might actually come off as anticlimactic on-screen. We’re happy to see the relief and peace on Underwood’s face as he tells everyone, but the coming out moments come off as repetitive more than anything else. Though we did get a little emotional when Scott, in episode 2, offers to tell some people in order to take on some of the emotional burden of repeatedly coming out to people. That’s a much more evolved response than we expected.
As far as what went on with Cassie Randolph, it does feel like Underwood takes responsibility and doesn’t excuse it away. He claims the stalking and other things that generated the restraining order were a product of knowing that Cassie was going to be the last straight relationship he ever had, but it only becomes clearer in later episodes that the restraining order itself — and perhaps other external influences — are what finally prompted him to come out. Listen, however it needed to happen, the results are all good, at least as far as we’re concerned, but we hope Underwood peels back more layers of that onion so we get a more complete picture of how he was so deep in the closet that he went on The Bachelor in the first place.