NEW YORK – 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?
Probably not. But that’s the fantasy being peddled to 12 pretty, ultracompetitive American women chasing after one very plummy Brit with ginger hair on a Fox TV dating show.
Panned by critics but tapping into the U.S. 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.
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” preschool teacher and a 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 fairy tales 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.
The real Harry, a 29-year-old army captain, split from blonde girlfriend Cressida Bonas last month — and in doing so became perhaps the most eligible bachelor on the planet.