Dec 23, 2012

Axl in Underwear: Raising Hope/The Middle

I hate to be one of those guys who complain that "things were much better in my day."  But just look at muscle on network television 30 years ago, in 1982-83:

Programs to watch for the beefcake: Voyagers (Jon-Erik Hexum), Chips (Erik Estrada), Trapper John MD (Gregory Harrison), Taxi (Tony Danza), The Dukes of Hazard (John Schneider and Tom Wopat), Fame (lots)

Programs to watch for the teen idols: Alice (Philip McKeon), Family Ties (Michael J. Fox), Happy Days (Billy Warlock), One Day at a Time (lots).

And in 2012-13, just three.

1. Suburgatory.

2. Raising Hope, about the buffed but nerdy Jimmy (Lucas Neff) raising his infant daughter in an unspecified Southern city. He lives with his working-class parents and senile great-grandmother (played by comedy legend Cloris Leachman).

Although buffed, Jimmy rarely appears shirtless on screen, lest his muscles detract from his nerdiness.







His dad, Burt (Garret Dillahunt), works as a pool cleaner and landscaper.  He offers more shirtless and underwear shots.















3. The Middle, about a working-class family in Middle America, whose teenage son Axl (Charlie McDermott) somehow manages to make surly and self-possessed endearing.  Though his preference for lounging around in his underwear is presented as slovenly rather than hot, his physique has garnered him a huge fanbase among gay boys and straight girls.








Hollywood believes that all gay people are affluent lawyers living in New York or Los Angeles, so of course there are no gay people in either of these programs, but they appear in allusions:

On Raising Hope, Jimmy's boss mentions that he grew up with two moms.

On The Middle, Axl's sister Sue has a flamboyantly feminine "boyfriend" that has her parents exchanging worried looks (but no one ever says the word, and Sue remains oblivious).







However, the knowing subtexts are frequent.

On Raising Hope, Burt shows off his physique to get tips from both male and female customers.

On The Middle, Axl's friends, played by John Gammon and Beau Wirrick, are muscular jocks, and rather obviously into each other.  They even dance together at a wedding.

See also: Brock Ciarlelli, the Uncle Tom of "The Middle" and  Why No Gay People in "The Middle"?