Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 38 / 21 September 2017
 

Kissing up to the fall TV season

Television


Colton Haynes and Charlie Carver share a kiss on MTV's "Teen Wolf." Photo: MTV
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The sad last days of summer are always mitigated by the bright and shiny new fall TV season. Fall always feels like starting fresh to us, and with new series continuing to roll out over the next few weeks, you'll hardly miss those halcyon wait-it's-going-to-be-how-hot days. But first, a word from our sponsors.

TV is always at its best when bringing the nation together after a natural disaster, and the terribleness of Hurricane Harvey is no different. Every network, CNN and MSNBC, and local Texas affiliates didn't just step up to meet the challenge of solid reporting, in many instances they became rescuers.

In this era of Trump asserting that the press is all "fake news" and to be ignored, the breadth and humanity of the coverage is to be lauded. On Aug. 31 we watched ABC reporters helping with the sudden, impromptu evacuation of a shelter that was being flooded: children sobbing, grandparents gripping their arms white-knuckled. In the midst of so much awfulness and abject misery, it is validating of our humanity to see reporters divesting of neutrality to help the most vulnerable.

We used to live in Louisiana and we've been through some hella storms (though not Katrina), so we know just how terrible Harvey has been for people. If you haven't yet had a chance to help, there are many ways: texting HARVEY to 90999 will donate to the Red Cross. If you don't like them, Global Giving has a program specifically for Harvey. And as we know all too well, LGBTQ folks are often the first displaced and last helped in these natural disasters. Houston's LGBTQ Montrose Center has a fund specifically for our folks displaced and hurting from the hurricane. They do outreach to 10,000s of our community each year. You can donate to their queer Harvey fund online.

As we all await the details that will lead to Trump's resignation and/or impeachment, we have Ryan Murphy's latest season of "American Horror Story: Cult" to keep us pumped. "Cult" features a lesbian (Sarah Paulson) who goes wild when Trump is elected. Thank you, goddess, for putting the current chapter of our life story on FX. "Cult" debuted on Sept. 5. You can watch the first episode on demand or at some weird time on FX if you missed it. We recommend not missing it.

Speaking of lesbians out on a limb, "Top of the Lake" returns for a second season with "China Girl" on Sept. 10. Elisabeth Moss is one of the most underrated actresses on TV. Her starring role in "The Handmaid's Tale" makes her our pick for Emmy winner for lead actress at the Sept. 17 Emmy Awards (CBS). As weighted as that category is with superb women – Viola Davis ("How to Get Away with Murder"), Robin Wright ("House of Cards") – Moss' Offred is just one of the most extraordinary performances of 2017.

Moss has always made every role her own, from her very early years as the presidential daughter Zoey Bartlet on "The West Wing," where we first saw her, to her tour de force performance as Peggy Olson on "Mad Men." Sundance/BBC's "Top of the Lake" is not easy viewing. The series, created by Oscar-nominated director Jane Campion, has the complicated interior landscape of her films. "TOTL" is dark, often so dark it's oppressive, much like one of our current faves, USA's "The Sinner." ("The Sinner" was made for binge-watching. Jessica Biels and Bill Pullman are flat-out brilliant in this dark psychological thriller which still has three more episodes and can be watched on demand and online.)

Season one of "TOTL" was almost too unbearably violent for us. Season two, "China Girl," may be equally so, beginning as it does both ominously and catastrophically. The show was set in New Zealand last season, and returns to Sydney, Australia, for "China Girl." Moss' Robin Griffin is a Sydney detective specializing in sexual assault, a crime she is intimately familiar with, as was revealed last season. "China Girl" finds Robin in flux and searching, for her own past as well as for how to move forward. Enter Nicole Kidman as Julia Edwards to totally screw up Griffin's life. Kidman was brilliant in HBO's "Big Little Lies," and is herself an Emmy contender in the limited series category. After watching "TOTL," you'll agree with us that both will be in contention for next year's Emmys for these riveting performances.

Who is Julia? She's the adoptive mother of the child Robin gave up at birth, a child now 17 and searching for Robin because her adoptive family has been up-ended by Julia's recent actions. Alice Englert, Campion's daughter, plays Mary, Robin and Julia's daughter. Complexities abound. Mary was a happy child, and her adoptive parents – Ewen Leslie plays Pyke Edwards, Mary's adoptive father – adore her. But Julia has recently separated from Pyke because she is having an affair with a teacher at Mary's school. Another woman. Mary is angry with her mother and is acting out, making terrible choices that could have devastating impact on her life.

This deeply emotional story is the subplot of the crime drama, but it looms large as Robin takes on a new case of a young girl's murder that reveals an underworld of prostitution, sex-trafficking and the crimes both lead to. Robin also has a new partner, Miranda, played with engaging eagerness by "Game of Thrones" star Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth). The height difference (Moss is 5'3" and Christie 6'3") adds a note of levity.

"Top of the Lake: China Girl" is a story about the things women are expected to survive in a world run by men, with women still second-class and often mere chattel. Those things include violations of body, mind and spirit on a daily basis. How they damage us is often up to fate, as we see in this season. While the series won't be for everyone, it's one of the best new shows and definitely belongs on the DVR list.

Wolf pack So we all know MTV's "Teen Wolf" is one of the greatest supernatural series ever, ranking in the Top 10 along with "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" and "Supernatural." As the series plays out its final season (fewer than a dozen episodes left) we wanted to note how much we've appreciated all the gayness over the past six seasons. That steady flow of queerness now includes the brand-new relationship between Colton Haynes' Jackson Whittemore and Charlie Carver's Ethan that was revealed in the Sept. 3 episode. Be still our hearts.

It makes so much sense that these two would return for the final season and return as lovers. Why the heck not? This is the love story that Beacon Hills was aching for. Did "Teen Wolf" help Haynes and Carver, who are gay in real life, come out? We like to think so. Haynes, long rumored to be gay, came out publicly in May 2016, and Carver, who also co-starred in the ABC miniseries about Stonewall "When We Rise," came out at about the same time. Both actors just turned 29 and were born just weeks apart. When Haynes came out in an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2016, he talked about how oppressive being closeted was for him and how he suffered from "terminal anxiety" from being forced to hide his sexual orientation. "People don't realize what it's like to act 24 hours a day. I'd go home and I was still acting," he told the magazine, adding, "I feel really bad that I had to lie for so long, but I was told that was the only way I was going to be successful. When you're young in this industry, people take advantage of you, and they literally tell you that your dreams are going to come true." Haynes had been further traumatized because his family told him that his father had committed suicide because he was gay.

Haynes currently stars on the CW's "Arrow" and in FX's "AHS: Cult." Carver has another series in the works. Their Sept. 3 "Teen Wolf" kiss is the one we've been waiting for. (Series creator Jeff Davis is openly gay, and as we have been saying for years, when we're behind the camera, we can put LGBT characters, storylines and actors in front of the camera.) They might be kissing on-screen now, but how hard was it for both actors to finally come out when there are so few out gays in Hollywood? On Aug. 30, Haynes spoke out in a story that made headlines coast-to-coast, slamming Hollywood for its treatment of gays.

ABC News reported Haynes' diatribe: "Hollywood is so fucked up," Haynes tweeted to his 1.96 million followers. "So much of the focus is on your personal life & has nothing to do with the talent you have to bring to the table." Haynes said his personal life and his sexuality shouldn't limit what roles he plays. He lauded the showrunners of his series "AHS," "Arrow" and "Teen Wolf" in his tweets. "Thank god for Ryan Murphy, Greg Berlanti, & Jeff Davis. They believe gay actors are more than just their personal lives. So disappointed in how Hollywood can't understand that playing a character has nothing to do with how u live your personal life."

The self-perpetuating cycle of closetedness is so damaging. Actors don't come out for fear of being type-cast as gay, yet there are few gay roles to begin with. So bravo to Haynes for speaking out and thanking the gay show creators who have made it possible for him to have a career that isn't built around being gay, but which doesn't force him to pretend to be straight.

Speaking of gay, iconic drag queen and longtime gay activist RuPaul will be coming to the small screen in a totally different role from "Drag Race," now in its ninth season and nominated for yet another Emmy this year. According to Page Six, Hulu is developing a half-hour dramedy based on the Emmy-winning RuPaul's life, working title "Queen." The series will be produced by the award-winning J.J. Abrams ("Lost"), which means it will be stellar. The series will focus on RuPaul's life in 1980s New York City, where he spent years on the club circuit, then became "Supermodel of the World" and spokesmodel for MAC cosmetics.

Of the series, RuPaul told Page Six, "This is about my New York life in the 80s. Interview magazine in those days was my Bible. I grew up in San Diego wanting to be Andy Warhol. No grim storyline about white guys sniffing white powder. It's the Yellow Brick Road. Wanting to go to six different clubs every night."

But there's more to this than just a personal story. RuPaul gave an FU to Trump in his interview with Page Six, noting, "There's a political aspect to looking at what I do. My show represents the fair shake, the promise of America we all hoped for. It's all about identity. Everyone can be famous. This represents that you can create your own persona. Look, I never expected validation or some form of status quo. There's no template for what I do."

But oh how well RuPaul does it. BTW, the drag icon has a new toy on the market, RuPaul's "Drag Race" Paper Doll Book. And yes, it is everything your childhood paper dolls never could have imagined, from wigs to platform shoes to selected quotes. "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars" has been signed for a third season in early 2018, along with a 10th season of his "Untucked" series. All on VH1.
Another return of an old fave is HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Larry David's snarky comedy has been off the air for five years, but finally, the ninth season returns Oct. 1. The promo trailer tells us absolutely nothing, but it still makes us laugh, so we await the master's return. He's never disappointed us yet.

In the embarrassment-of-riches category, one of our fave gay actors, Jonathan Groff ("Looking") is back next month in a new series that we cannot wait to see. "How do we get ahead of crazy if we don't know how crazy thinks?" No, not a query about Trump, but a comment by a detective in "Mindhunter," the new Netflix series about serial killers and the FBI Behavioral Science Unit, the stuff "Criminal Minds," another Jeff Davis series, has been tracking for 13 seasons.

Netflix describes "Mindhunter" as "set in 1979, revolving around two FBI agents, Agent Holden Ford played by Groff and his partner Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), who interview imprisoned serial killers in order to understand how such criminals think, and apply it to solving ongoing cases."

The Charles Manson murders have just happened, Son of Sam is on the horizon, and the concept of killers repetitively attacking strangers, instead of people they have a personal connection to, feels new and acutely disturbing, a shift in the criminal cosmos. As the plot develops, the actions being taken to delve into the minds of serial murderers impact those doing the delving, as anyone sane would expect. The trailers for this show are awesome: chilling soundtrack (music always heightens the horror), interviews with serial killers that make the hairs on the back of your neck go up, a scene with one of the leads listening to a description of killing on tape and tearing off the headphones. Netflix has already renewed it for a second season without even one episode airing, so you know it's fabulous.

"Mindhunter" is produced by the brilliant director and producer David Fincher. Fincher directed "Seven," and you see traces of that iconic film in "Mindhunter." He also directed "Fight Club," "Zodiac," "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "Gone Girl." Fincher knows killers. The series is also produced by Charlize Theron, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of lesbian serial killer Aileen Wuornos. The series co-stars Anna Torv, who played FBI agent Olivia Dunham on the cult classic "Fringe" for five seasons. Be prepped for the Netflix drop, we know we will be.

Finally, rumors are flying that former Trump White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer will be on season 25 of "Dancing with the Stars," which premieres Sept. 18. Will he or won't he? ABC announces the cast of the beloved camp/dance classic on "GMA" Sept. 6. We can't wait!

So for a plethora of gayness for a welcome change, some stellar crime dramas, a soupcon of comedy and all the non-fake news you need to stay on top of that guy in the White House, you know you really must stay tuned.




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