Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

October surprises

Lavender Tube

2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore.
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There's something about hoisting and petards that we really like to watch. So naturally the singular moment of our TV week was the middle-of-the-night announcement on our TV news crawl: Former Vice President Al Gore and the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had just won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change and lay the foundations for counteracting it.

So in the case of George Bush, the karmic cycle comes full-circle. We'd like to add a few things that the TV news left out, as it is wont to do. If the US Supreme Court had voted correctly to continue the vote count in Florida, Gore would have taken what has now been determined to have been his rightful place as President in 2000, and America (and the world) would not have spent the past seven years embroiled in a series of catastrophic foreign engagements, culminating in the war on Iraq.

And for all those who said in 2000 that Gore and Bush were "interchangeable," the evidence kind of proves otherwise, doesn't it? Seven years spent saving the planet vs. seven years spent destroying it. Wonder why we didn't hear congrats on the Nobel from either Bush or that other guy, Ralph Nader.

That's the commentary you aren't going to get on the Sunday morning shows, sadly. Those shows are spending all their time trying to find something to pin on Hillary Clinton to bring her ever-rising numbers down. Thus far, the all-too-real vast right-wing conspiracy hasn't come up with anything. But as George Will noted last Sunday on This Week, every candidate who crested 50% in the polls since the taking of polls began went on to become President. And then he wrung his hands.

But the haven't just been political. Learning from past experience, the networks have been continuing to stagger the release of the new shows in an effort to continue to find those elusive viewers straying to cable. Several new releases captured our eye, then our heart.

 Probably the best new show on network TV is ABC's quirky and retro mystery Pushing Daisies. The show is situated in a "who is the audience for this crazy little show" spot in the utterly inappropriate earliest prime-time slot on the worst possible day to catch an audience: Wednesday, opposite the CBS ratings-grabber Kid Nation. (We still can't believe they let those kids kill the chickens!)

But trust us: Pushing Daisies, a campy 60s-style extravaganza, is worth Tivoing, DVRing, VCRing or just plain watching. It's fabulous.

First, PD has stellar acting, with a cast that includes the winsome lead played by Lee Pace, Swoosie Kurtz as a former synchronized swimmer with an eye-patch, the Tony-winning Kristen Chenoweth, who bursts into song at the best moments, and the ever-versatile Chi McBride (Boston Public, The Nine ) as a burly private eye who knits when he's nervous (yes, a little like Rosie Grier). The sets are luminously beautiful, the plots are wildly improbable, and the hour just flies by.

We're kind of over the whole Ocean's 11, 12, 13, ad infinitum genre, but then Hugh Jackman and Melanie Griffith star in the debuting Viva Laughlin, and that just can't help but be a lure.

The hunky, rough-trade Aussie Jackman steps away from Wolverine to bolster an already impressive cast on the CBS drama, playing mobster Nicky Fontana. Lloyd Owen plays Ripley Holden, Madchen Amick is Natalie Holden, and Griffith is Bunny Baxter. The promos have shown Baxter being kissed by another woman. The show is definitely going for the adult audience.

Viva Laughlin is sharp and skillfully done. It is not NBC's Las Vegas any more than Laughlin is Sin City. One could say VL is well worth the gamble. It debuts October 18, then moves into its permanent slot on October 21.

Every new season has its guilty pleasures, those shows that really aren't good for you, but which you just can't help watching. ABC's Dirty Sexy Money is that show. We love everything about it. Smart, witty and sexy, it just reeks of bad fun.

We are especially loving the antics of Carmelita (Candis Cane), who plays Patrick Darling's (William Baldwin) transgendered mistress. (Darling is running for the Senate, and is, of course, married.) Cane is great in the small but meaty role, and is groundbreaking as the first transgendered MTF to be playing an MTF in prime time. There have been numerous scenes of Cane and Baldwin in bed together, naked. And Baldwin has said on the tabloid shows like Insider that he hasn't had any problem with either those scenes or the kissing, of which there is much.

It's just one aspect of the edginess of this superbly acted and mesmerizingly good soaper. Not to be missed is Donald Sutherland's nuanced performance as the patriarch of the Darling family. As much as we hated him in Commander in Chief, we love him in DSM .

Reality sleaze

Meanwhile, on the unpleasant side of the TV/TG controversies, we have GLAAD coming out over a slam from The New York Post. The Post is a right-wing Rupert Murdoch tabloid, so we don't expect much from them. And GLAAD is always half-asleep, so we've learned not to expect much from them, either. Have they even noticed that Isaiah Washington went right from his firing at ABC for his homophobic slurs on the set of Grey's Anatomy into another prime-time gig at the very excellent new NBC thriller Bionic Woman?

Nevertheless, even the stopped clock is right twice a day, and GLAAD at least had it half-right on the Post. GLAAD objected to commentary there about an upcoming reality show on Fox. The show is sleazy beyond belief, but then it is Fox, home of the sleazy reality show.   GLAAD objected to the Post calling the star of the upcoming show There's Something About Miriam a "she-male." The Post then added insult to injury, as it so often does, being a Murdoch paper. When GLAAD contacted Page Six editor Richard Johnson to complain about the description of Miriam, Johnson e-mailed this response: "You're kidding me, aren't you? I would have used 'chick with a dick,' but we're a family newspaper."

Of course, the Post is trying to have its cake and eat it, too, because Fox owns both the paper and the show.

We also object to the Post's characterization of Miriam, on all counts. But we would have liked GLAAD to take their objection further. The show is one more in the growing list of exploitative "let's use queers to screw with the heads of straight people, to the detriment of everyone" shows that have been popping up for the past few seasons. In this one, the catch is that Miriam is MTF, and the straight men vying for a date with her don't know it.

How many ways can you say ick? Is the point to have the men then hurl insults at Miriam? Or possibly punch her? Because that's the way most straight guys would respond to being sexually punked. And we just can't see how that kind of set-up benefits anyone. It just perpetuates the transgendered-as-freak perspective.

GLAAD should have objected to the sleaze-factor of the show as well as the slur. We don't care that the show got great ratings when it ran in Britain in 2004. That's par for the course in the UK, where racism besmirched the latest run of Big Brother, and homophobia is rampant.

ABC got it right: they have an actual love affair going on between an MTF and a straight man on DSM. It's not just a sexual fling, it's an actual affaire du coeur. Patrick Darling is risking his career for the woman he loves. That's cool, edgy and fresh. The Fox stuff is just more of the same: creepy, icky, muck-wrestling.

Oprah also got it right in her October 12 show on MTFs who stay married to their wives after transitioning. The in-depth interviews with two families were both eye-opening and compassionate. We don't pretend we understand how these families manage, but we were impressed by the integrity of all the people involved, and by how Oprah asked all the right questions.

Real 'World'

Meanwhile, over on CBS, As the World Turns continues to evolve the story of Luke and Noah in daytime's first real-life gay male love story. (Sorry, Passions fans: the over-the-top hijinx of the late, great, crazy NBC sudser are in no way real-life, even if there was some gay hanky-panky.)

Once again, we have to say that the acting by Van Hansis as Luke has been nuanced and ultra-realistic. Give that boy an Emmy now, not just another nomination. Don't make him wait like Eden Riegel had to with her portrayal of All My Children's Bianca.

The story took a deadly turn last week, however, when Noah's homophobic military dad took the two boys on a camping trip and shot Luke, who is now paralyzed from the waist down (of course) —possibly for life.

 These two kids just started college. Noah was dating Luke's best friend, Maddie. But then "the kiss" happened between Luke and Noah (check it out at YouTube), and Maddie discovered that her new boyfriend was striving for normalcy — or, at least, not-gay-ness — with her.

Not enough can be said about how good this storyline has been, once it finally took off. ATWT brought Luke out of the closet, then left him dangling for two years. Now the storyline has taken off, and it's marvelous, putting homophobia, bisexual conflicts and a host of other issues front and center, including the rage Luke's father, Holden, now feels at Noah for what Noah's father did to Luke. You can check out Van Hansis' blog at

The ATWT story continues to evolve, new shows are continuing to debut, and Al Gore may yet decide to turn the tables in the race for President, so stay tuned!

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