Arts & Entertainment

Local LGBTQ Reality Dating Show Panning for Love Recruiting Contestants for Second Episode

Pilot episode now streaming online.

Panning for Love, Houston’s LGBTQ reality dating show, is getting ready to launch something larger. 

The program, created by local Davis Mendoza Darusman as a love letter to Houston’s queer community, premiered its first episode last August. Due to its popularity, Darusman is ready to film a second episode and applications are open for people interested in becoming contestants.

Davis Mendoza Darusman

“I’ve always known that Houston had a really supportive queer community, but since releasing this episode, I’ve been overwhelmed by love and support from the community, and it seems like people don’t want only a second episode, they want a full season!” Darusman says. 

The Panning for Love pilot, which is now available on YouTube, features four queer Houstonians looking for love and going on dates with each other. After going on dates, they appear in front of a live audience, answer questions, and decide who they want to go on a second date with. If they are rejected, they learn if they are the audience’s top pick to return for another chance at love. 

Darusman’s coworker, Alexandra Smither brought her friends to the show’s live premiere at DeLUXE Theater in August. Smither and her friends have since formed a group chat dedicated to Panning for Love. While Darusman waits to be picked up by a network or streaming service, his coworker suggested that he should make five more episodes. She encouraged him to sell individual tickets to the shows and even a season pass, which inspired Darusman, who’s now considering turning the show into a franchise.

Panning for Love LA, Panning for Love NY, this can highlight queer communities across the country, and that’s a big dream and goal of mine,” he says. 

Darusman wants to bring the LGBTQ community and allies together with the show, amidst anti-LGBTQ violence and transgression. 

“I really do think now more than ever, the queer community needs to come together and show support to one another and show the world we’re just a bunch of loving folks who have the same dreams as everyone else.”

He also wants to educate viewers about pansexuality and queerness with Panning for Love. He even made the show to come out to his parents. Before the show premiered at the theater, Darusman shared with his parents that he was pansexual, which came as a shock to them, since he was married to a woman named Amy. “They said, ‘Really? You’re pansexual? You’re not pansexual, you’re Amy-sexual!’” Darusman remembers. “I’m like, sure, that’s true. I am monogamous, but my pansexuality is still integral to my identity.” 

After hearing Darusman out, his parents understood and have been supportive ever since. 

The show is recruiting contestants for a second episode, which will feature an outing between two participants from the pilot who chose to go on another date with each other. They’ll make dumplings, courtesy of Dumpling Dudez, a local business two gay married men started in East Downtown Houston. 

As a producer, Darusman guides contestants through the experience. For example, he gives contestants a heads up on what kinds of questions they’ll be asked during their introduction. He also serves as cupid by providing participants note cards with questions they could ask each other if there’s an awkward pause.  

“A lot of producers get a bad rap for manipulating contestants’ emotions, and that’s definitely not something I want to do with the show,” he says. “I want to be welcoming and loving to the community we’re showcasing.” 

A show contestant, Alex Whitney, a nonbinary individual who uses they/them pronouns, said they were glad they participated. “Panning for Love is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be bold about the love you’re wanting and willing to give,” they say. 

Alex Whitney

Whitney encourages interested individuals to “be open-minded to love anywhere because you never know where you’ll find it.” 

Julz Serrano, another show contestant, describes the show as “an authentic representation of the LGBTQIA+ community and fun to watch.” A nonbinary entertainer who uses they/them pronouns, Serrano says future contestants should be the version they are with their friends. 

Julz Serrano

“In my experience, the authentic version of myself has attracted the right people and has changed my life for the better,” Serrano says.

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Lillian Hoang is a staff reporter for OutSmart Magazine. She graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in journalism and minor in Asian American studies. She works as a College of Education communication assistant and hopes to become an editor-in-chief.
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