Feb 28, 2014

Time Tunnel, 2006: Ruining the Best Gay Couple of My Childhood

I don't remember any tv programs before the 1966-67 tv season, when I was five-six years old, but then the memories come in with amazing clarity, program after program "good beyond hope," opening a whole world of beefcake and buddy bonding: It's About Time, Run Buddy Run, Gilligan's Island, The Monkees, The Invaders, Batman, Lost in Space, That Girl, My Three Sons, Flipper, Get Smart, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible...

And especially Time Tunnel, about two scientists accidentally zapping through history: young, impetuous Tony (James Darren) and older, level-headed Doug (Robert Colbert), protecting each other from danger, rescuing each other over and over, falling into each other's arms at the end of each episode. It would be two years before I got my first boyfriend, and ten years before I learned what "gay" meant, but Doug and Tony remained in my memory forever as what a same-sex romance looked like.

Fast forward 40 years, to the summer of 2006.  I know what gay means.  I have a Ph.D. with a concentration in Gay Studies, I've published books and articles on gay studies, I've seen lots and lots of gay couples and gay-subtext couples in books, movies, and television.

I see a tv movie advertised: The Time Tunnel, a pilot for a potentially updated series (it was actually produced in 2002, and is airing now just to "burn it off.")

Do I really want to see what havoc they wreak on my cherished childhood memory?

But I check it out.

1. New plot: a "hot fusion" experiment goes awry, causing a "time storm" that changes reality, and a team of scientists is sent back to fix it.
2. Tony is now a woman, Toni (Andrea Roth).
3. Doug (David Conrad, left) is morose, but when he discovers that after the time storm, he has a wife and kids, he perks right up.

4. He is recruited for the mission by Flynn (Kavan Smith, top photo), who dies before they can do much buddy bonding.
5. Their team also includes J.D. (Tawny Cypress) and Wix (Bob Koherr).
6. There's hetero-romance everywhere.

If you're curious, it's on youtube.

This happens all the time: gay subtext tv of the past gets a remake, with all of the characters carefully heterosexualized.

Audiences are more aware of gay people now, so it takes more time and energy to reassure them that, in the world of your movie, only heterosexuals exist.