"The series apparently intends to further destigmatize the process of coming out," says Daniel D'Addario of the Netflix reality show. "On its way to that worthy social goal, though, it wrings out drama, with the first two episodes ending on cliffhangers as we wait to see how straight men in Underwood’s life will react. The actual scenes of Underwood declaring he is gay to family members and associates from his football career tend to have an airless quality, as though they were restaged versions of reality. Whatever the case, Underwood, amiable but blank, remains stiff on camera even after having unburdened himself. Part of Underwood’s lack of charisma on the series can, perhaps, be chalked up to the oddity of going through these rites of confession on camera; part may be due to his discomfort, still, with the subject matter. Underwood appears to place a premium on being seen as masculine, and his scenes with the more garrulous out gay Olympian Gus Kenworthy attempting to play mentor carry with them a vicarious awkwardness that the show shies away from rather than exploring more deeply. But that, again, is an interpretation that is maximally generous to Underwood. He may also look uncomfortable on camera because he’s concealing something. He admits that he literally cannot discuss the end of his relationship with Randolph in detail for legal reasons. This, and Randolph’s absence, present a structural problem for a show that must talk around the harm Underwood did to another person in the process of finding himself."
It’s hard to shake the feeling that none of this is being done “for the right reasons": "As cynical observers might have expected, this docuseries (best read with forceful air-quotes) frames last year’s upheaval as a dark spot on Underwood’s road to coming out," says Laura Bradley. “'I’m trying to do right by a community that I’ve run from,' Underwood says. But if the argument for Coming Out Colton’s existence is its potential evangelical power—the chance that it might teach straight Bachelor gossip-hounds or football fans about the gays and our history—perhaps we should have waited for him to finish the readings before streaming the trailer for his book report." Bradley adds: "Like many vanity projects before it (HBO Max’s Wahl Street, that god-awful Peacock Ryan Lochte show) Coming Out Colton hews too closely to its subject to establish critical insight. Each of the six episodes focuses on one theme: 'Family,' 'Football,' 'Friends,' 'Church,' 'The Public,' and 'Past & Future.' Somber music and carefully-shot interviews might evoke the look of a documentary, but there’s little substance to be found. Instead we observe familiar story beats—all organized to paint Underwood as the harmless, nonspecific stand-in for closeted youth everywhere, especially those who happen to be white Christians. Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy, Underwood’s friend and 'gay guide' (a title that quickly disappeared due to social media mockery), compares him to a golden retriever puppy...It’s not that Underwood’s story has no value. Given the anti-gay sentiment that continues to pervade most locker rooms, plenty of young, closeted football players might see themselves in Underwood. The 'Church' episode also seems bound to resonate with plenty of young Christians who remain closeted to avoid being ostracized as a 'sinners.' But Underwood’s relationship with these institutions is essentially the show’s—so while a more objective storyteller might have found an interesting vantage point, the series mostly just hits all the expected beats."
Coming Out Colton is reminiscent of Caitlyn Jenner's I Am Cait: "Much like Caitlyn Jenner's coming-out education in I Am Cait, The Bachelor alum Colton Underwood approaches the process of telling the world who he is almost like an anthropologist in the six-part Netflix docuseries Coming Out Colton," says Brian Lowry. "It's a carefully constructed showcase for someone who, like Jenner and her extended family, appears accustomed to life under the camera's watchful eye." Lowry adds: "On the plus side, if Underwood's story helps one kid wrestling with similar doubts and apprehensions there's clearly a benefit to that. And a few genuinely touching moments emerge, including Underwood's interactions with his father, Scott, as a source of love and support. (Among other things, dad has the good sense to advise him to stop looking at Twitter.) Coming Out Colton makes the point that Underwood's story couldn't be fully done justice in one morning-show interview. Nevertheless, as is frequently true in this genre, expanding that into a six-episode series feels like a bit of a stretch."
Colton Underwood's parents weren't initially happy that he came out to them on camera: Donna Burkard, the first person Underwood comes out to on the show (who is divorced from his dad), admits being uneasy with the cameras but was resigned to it. Then her mama bear emerged. “We decided if we could help a single family, and hopefully multiple families, by showing the love and support that I believe I displayed, other gay men and women in hiding could see a flicker of hope that their parents are going to respond with open arms,” she told The New York Times. Underwood’s biggest protector on the show is his father, Scott Underwood, who said he loves his son. But the elder Underwood didn't like learning that his son was gay while they went fishing. “I’m not saying I’m upset about it, but I would have preferred it had been done differently,” he said. But his son is “an entertainer, let’s face it,” he continued. “That’s what he’s chosen to do for his career." Referring to his son's decision to star in a Netflix series, Scott Underwood said: Am I going to say it’s for fame? No. Did he come out on TV for money? Sure. But who in reality entertainment doesn’t leverage their life and put it all out there for money?”