Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 47 / 23 November 2017
 

April fools

Television


House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH).
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Watching the return of ABC's stellar sci-fi series V this week, we found ourselves (as we so often do) talking to the tube. One of the insidious things the V's promised us earthlings when they arrived was health care for everyone. Imagine.

When the show went on hiatus in November, health care reform looked DOA. Now, as the show returns, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief: If we are invaded by aliens from another, smarter planet, they won't be able to woo us with health care, so humans will be able to resist them.

We have spent more than our fair share of time in the hospital of late due to one of those pesky pre-existing conditions, and we can say with some authority that the Vs' charismatic leader Anna sure knew what she was talking about when she chose health care as her ticket in.

Of course, Anna, like so many aliens, is in a fake skin: the V's are actually giant lizard people who have perfected re-creating themselves as humans to their insidious advantage. Thus Anna can pretend to be human while actually being cruel and vicious enough to order another V skinned (an errant homo, as it turns out, who was colluding with earthlings) as a torturous execution for treason. Reminds one of the Republicans, does it not?

Take House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). There he was just the other day, decrying the threats and acts of violence that were being perpetrated against Democratic members of Congress. Boehner's declamation had the ring of the V to it. He began by saying that he understood that all Americans (because Republicans have their own world-view that exists in a parallel universe to ours) were upset by health care reform and might be looking for ways to vent their understandable frustrations with the people who had perpetrated this vile action of making health care more accessible to everyone. But regardless of that upset (which he repeatedly emphasized was understandable), violence was not the answer.

Boehner's long preamble was about how it was clear that people would feel violent, but they just shouldn't act on it. Because reverse psychology always works.

The Vs' leader, Anna, ends all her colloquies with, "We are of peace – always."  And then she goes back to the plotting and the skinning. As for Boehner, we wanted to slap that fake tan right off him.

Pallin' around w/Palin

Of course, as V shows with some clarity, fortunes change in the blink of a lizard's eye. Who among us was not at least a little amused by the very definition of irony on March 26 when John McCain (R-AZ), fighting for his political life in a tight race in Arizona where he is deemed too moderate to continue in office (as we noted earlier, Republicans live in an alternate universe), had to enlist Sarah Palin to campaign for him?

It could be said that McCain created Palin, or at least catapulted her into the national spotlight. Now the darling of the righty-right, Palin has all the glory while McCain, whose team did everything in their power to gut and trash her after using her charisma to propel the McCain presidential bid forward from its torpor, is flailing yet again. Who says karma ain't a bitch?

Not that we are standing up for Palin, mind you. But we do wonder how the crow tasted when McCain had to make that phone call asking Palin for help. McCain certainly looked like a truly sad character standing on the stage at the very hotel where he had given his concession speech last November, while Palin looked like Eva Peron a la Evita: victorious and undefeated. Don't cry for me, Arizona, I've got a talk show and a big book deal, and you've got John McCain.

Many of the people in attendance told TV reporters that they had come not to support McCain, but to see the right's still-rising star, Palin. As we said: karma.

Speaking of politics, ABC has chosen a host for This Week, the best of the Sunday talking-heads pundit shows. The show had been hosted by George Stephanopoulos until January, when ABC ousted longtime World News host Charlie Gibson, replacing him with Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer. Stephanopoulos was then chosen to fill Sawyer's GMA seat. The round robin put Senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper in the interim-host seat for This Week. Tapper is all kinds of smart and has anchored the show well, so many thought Tapper would be tapped to fill the seat permanently. Not so. ABC announced last week that it had managed to steal veteran world correspondent Christiane Amanpour from CNN to be the show's permanent host.

The 52-year-old London-born and Persian-bred Amanpour, who grew up in Tehran under the Shah, has been CNN's chief international correspondent since 1992, and has been with CNN since 1983. She was CNN's key war correspondent during the first Gulf War, and has reported from all of the world's hot spots over the past 18 years, including Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Rwanda, the Balkans and Hurricane Katrina.

Sawyer has moved World News into the top evening-news ratings spot. Amanpour becomes the first female anchor for one of the major Sunday shows, and ABC reportedly shelled out the big bucks to secure her, hoping for the same success it has had with Sawyer. Tapper will remain at This Week through August, when Amanpour will take over.  

Plural marriage

Speaking of politics, one may not think of HBO's Big Love as the height of political TV, but the current season (which, if you've missed episodes, repeats over and over, because HBO really wants you to see its shows) is intensely political, and ground-breaking.

We know that word gets used a lot with regard to TV, but remember that Big Love broke ground when it debuted in 2006 with its sometimes comedic, sometimes dark depiction of plural marriage in a Mormon sect. The Henrickson clan has provided intriguing insights into life in the closed society of polygamy.

This season, however, Big Love has pushed the envelope yet further, dealing with the homosexuality of Alby, the son of and heir apparent to the sect leader, Roman Grant. Alby is a closeted gay man, striving to keep his desires in check, but ending up in truckstops and cruising parks too often for closeted comfort.

His close encounter with Dale Tomasson has left both men reeling. What to do to control the urges? Reparative therapy, of course. But as those of us in the real world (that is, the world outside of repressive religious sects and Republican politics) know, reparative therapy or ex-gay counseling simply do not work. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Last season, Mad Men committed to a gay storyline involving Sal. That storyline has ended, in part due to the realities of 1960s pre-Stonewall America. Gay men simple were not "out" in the 1960s ad game or anywhere else. So while the storyline was promising as it unfolded, it had nowhere substantive or realistic to go.

The same may ultimately be true of the Alby/Dale storyline on Big Love, but at present it has more than quirky-kink, push-the-envelope value. This is very much about how people square their religious beliefs with who they are intrinsically. Can one "cure" one's self of being queer? No. But how Big Love gets there is well worth watching.

Last year the soaps were all about the gay. This year, not so much. We've complained about what Young & Restless did (or did not do) with the return of Phillip Chancellor (played by out gay actor Thom Bierdz), and how they have let the Latino queer attorney Rafe just languish in recurrent-character hell.

Now we hear Rafe has a boyfriend, Brian. Have we seen this character? No. He exists only off-screen, where Rafe spends most of his time until someone needs a lawyer who isn't Michael Baldwin. Sigh.

Now comes word that ABC's One Life to Live is cutting their gay storyline. Kyle (Brett Claywell) and Oliver/Fish (Scott Evans) are off the canvas in the next few weeks. Done. Over. Gone. They aren't leaving Llanview, we just won't see them anymore. Huh?  This storyline has been arcing over the past year, and culminated with Officer Fish coming out publicly during an anti-gay demonstration. But the story was complicated by Fish's brief affair with stripper Stacy. When Stacy discovered she was pregnant, there was more than one potential baby daddy. But rather than send her over to the Maury Povich Show to find out who the daddy was, OLTL decided to choose the best possible scandal daddy and make it Fish.

Unlike ABC's other foray into queerdom on All My Children, where Erica Kane's daughter Bianca was a lesbian all her life but wanted a lesbian family with wife and children, Fish is not that kind of queer. He's been avoiding the prospect of fatherhood and pretty much doing a John Edwards with his baby daughter, Sierra Rose. Coming out was more stressful than even he expected, and apparently it's all he can handle. He simply does not want to step up with regard to his child.

Soaps are all about the messy side of family and romance, but where soaps have highlighted serious social issues for decades, when it comes to queer relationships, no soap has managed to really get it right.

Last year, Guiding Light had one of the best queer storylines ever on TV with the romance of Olivia and Natalia. The soap took on religion, family, marriage, homophobia. The storyline had some major flaws, and also had to work around Jessica Leccia's (Natalia) pregnancy, but it was the best we'd seen.

Conversely, Y&R, which has been superb on other social issues, totally dropped the ball after introducing two gay characters and one bisexual in a period of a few months. None of the storylines evolved.

Prior to the GL storyline, AMC's Bianca was the best lesbian character on the tube. She came out in high school and was never anything but queer. But Bianca had trouble with women. She couldn't find one who wasn't bisexual, straight or crazy. She even had a brief affair with a tranny. When she finally found the woman of her dreams and got married, her wife turned out to be having an emotional if not physical affair with the donor father of the couple's baby, who was also Bianca's brother-in-law. Yikes. The couple had a dreadful break-up, and Bianca returned to Paris.

Now AMC is bringing Bianca back to the show and reviving the lesbian storyline. But the actor who portrayed her, Emmy winner Eden Riegel, has just signed on to Y&R to play the assistant DA. Riegel has been succinct about her departure from AMC in the wake of the disastrous botched marriage storyline, which Riegel said radically altered the character of Bianca, whom Riegel had played since 2000. Riegel told TV Guide, "It really hurt me when I felt I didn't know my character anymore."

AMC is determined to return Bianca to the show's canvas, according to an AMC spokesperson, but finding a replacement for Riegel, who developed the character, will be difficult, and may not sit well with loyal viewers (like us). But whether AMC finds the right actor to fill Riegel's shoes, more important is developing a storyline that viewers can believe in and accept. Yet the way soaps have been handling their queer characters of late, it might be easier to get Riegel back than get a realistic queer component on AMC or any other soap.

Maybe someone should walk over to Ellen 's studio and ask some questions of a real-live married lesbian? It surely couldn't hurt. We'd like our queer characters to look more human and less like V's lizards. So stay tuned.






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