Apr 28, 2014

Throb: How We Watched TV in West Hollywood

The 1980s were extremely homophobic.  If you could manage it, you took refuge in a gay neighborhood, and rarely spoke to a heterosexual.  You absolutely never came out to any heterosexual except your family. If they found out accidentally, you could expect, at best, a deer-in-the-headlights stare and a stumbling protest that "I'm...I'm...not gay."  Often much worse.

And you absolutely stayed away from mainstream media.  Newspapers were full of shrieking editorials about how "They're sick!!!!  They're disgusting!  Put them in concentration camps!"

Movies couldn't go five minutes without a homophobic slur.

TV was a little better, generally presenting a world where gay people did not exist.  Still, most programs were incessantly heterosexist, so it was best to keep the tv off.

So in high school and college, I watched 10-14 prime-time network tv shows regularly, but when I moved to West Hollywood, the number decreased to a non-heterosexist 4 or 5:  
21 Jump Street: Buddy-bonding among undercover cops, including Johnny Depp (left).
Night Court: Buddy-bonding among the denizens of a night court.

Head of the Class: Buddy-bonding among high school overachievers.
 The Golden Girls: Four heterosexual women live together and form an alternative family.
Kate & Allie: Two heterosexual women live together and form an alternative family.

But you had to be careful: even the most "gay friendly" could turn on you at any moment, with a limp-wristed hairdresser swishing in, or a character who has trouble "accepting" a visiting gay relative.

I don't remember any limp-wristed hairdressers or visiting gay relatives on the workplace comedy Throb (1986-88).  It starred Diana Canova of Soap as Sandy (right), the decidedly unhip newly-divorced 30-something who finds herself a fish-out-of-water in the young, ultra-cool, hipster office of a New Wave record company.

She was heir of Mary Richards of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and the precursor of the dozen or so women in workplace comedies of the 1990s, such as Caroline in the City and Just Shoot Me.  

Her coworkers included:

1. The boss,  diminuitive go-getter Zach (Jonathan Prince) channeling Michael J. Fox.  Today a writer and producer, Prince was at the height of a brief 1980s acting career: he played Johnny Depp's buddy in the sex comedy Private Resort and Clark Brandon's buddy on Mr. Merlin.

2.  Hip business manager Phil (Richard Cummings, Jr., later to star in Northern Exposure).

3.  Spaced-out former singer Blue, probably based on the Andy Warhol superstar Ultra Violet (Jane Leeves, who would go on to play psychic therapist/housekeeper Daphne on Frasier).





By the way, Sandy had a 12-year old son at home, played in the first season by future screen hunk Paul Walker, and then by Paul Walker lookalike Sean de Veritch.

I actually don't remember any particular episodes, just the jazzy theme song, some buddy-bonding moments between Sandy and Blue, and the very attractive Jonathan Prince.

But I remember watching, and finding it a moment of freedom from the "We hate you!!!!" of 1980s media.

You can see full episodes on youtube, in German.