When former star of “The Bachelor” and pro football player Colton Underwood came out on a “Good Morning America” interview in April 2021, there was one question interviewer Robin Roberts didn’t ask: What’s your type?
Fortunately, fellow out athlete Gus Kenworthy presses Underwood for that tidbit — the answer is daddies, y’all! — in the first episode of Netflix’s six episode docuseries “Coming Out Colton.” For those unfamiliar, Underwood’s claim to fame and infamy was his season as the “virgin” Bachelor, subsequent to which he became obsessed with, stalked, and terrorized contestant Cassie Randolph, who ultimately filed a restraining order against him.
To its credit, the series doesn’t absolve Underwood of this behavior — he’ll be read to filth both virtually and to his face by the final episode — but it does go a long way to explaining how he became such a hot closeted mess.
The first four episodes are entirely dedicated to preparation for the “GMA” interview by coming out to family members and friends, seeking advice from Kenworthy and other gay sports figures like NFL trailblazer David Kopay and Esera Tuaolo, and tackling the toxic religious and sports world homophobia that twisted him so profoundly (and led to a suicide attempt).
The first couple of episodes are annoyingly repetitive in their structure (coming out, advice session, rinse, repeat). But what packs a punch is Underwood explaining to a high school coach how the flippant, virulently antigay things he heard from fellow teens and mentors alike caused pain both then and now, seeking ownership from the man for allowing and engaging in that behavior. And a scene in the religion-centric fourth episode (a tedious, fast-forward affair if you consider religion bunk or didn’t suffer that same upbringing), when Underwood seeks acceptance from his pastor via telephone call but instead receives an earful of on the sinfulness of homosexuality and gay marriage because “the Bible makes it pretty clear” legit sucks to watch. A crushed Underwood admits the call creates confusion and doubt even now, and he wonders if the devil’s working through him.
Underwood’s so green about all things LGBTQ+ that Kenworthy is like his Gay 101 teacher, schooling him in terms like PrEP. And it’s cringey to witness the pair visit a gay sex and clothing shop for the first time — when trying on a leather harness, Underwood asks “what’s the point of this?” to which Kenworthy responds, “dancing and vibing” — and meet with a central casting group of white as fuck male cisgays in Nashville for a “coming out party.”
Things get more interesting during episode five, titled “Public,” which focuses on Colton before and after the “GMA” interview, and lifts the veil on what the hell Underwood was thinking during his ‘Bachelor” run. As Kenworthy notes in Ricky Ricardo-speak en route to “GMA,” “You kind of have some explaining to do.” And he does.
Although all reality series are contrived and Underwood is a major reality whore (the Netflix series was announced the day after the “GMA” interview aired), it’s hard to deny the sincerity also at play when Underwood reveals his “Bachelor”-era motive to create a public persona as heterosexual on TV, and forge a relationship with Randolph, so he’d become straight off-camera. That’s so messed up, right?
Randolph reportedly declined to take part in the Netflix series (despite offers of compensation), but other “Bachelor” and “Bachelor”-adjacent personalities join by the final episode, plus there’s a clip from the show. Frankly, “Bachelor” clips and news reports at the show’s front end would have been helpful for context and served as reminder why his coming out carries weight in certain circles (and Twitter). And there’s a ridiculous, cheesy, out-of-nowhere montage of gay trailblazers at the end which essentially places Underwood in the same context and his coming out of the same impact with Christine Jorgensen, Matthew Shepard’s murder, and Harvey Milk, which overstates his importance to a ludicrous, tasteless degree.
And who do I want to give my rose to? One of the series’ most memorable inclusions: Pastor Nicole Garcia, the first transgender woman of color to be ordained, part Judge Judy and part Dr. Phil minus the quackery and epic eye-rolling. She serves Underwood (who, spoiler alert, ditches his homophobic pastor and joins the LGBTQ+ inclusive Metropolitan Community Church) a dose of seasoned, fierce wisdom and humility we could use more of. Can we get a “Pastor Garcia” season order, please?