Feb 1, 2019
Cuckoo: Constantly Shifting Britcom
Season 1 (2012) was simple: Stuffy button-down lawyer Ken (Greg Davies) discovers that his medical-student daughter Rachel (Tamla Kari) has up and married an American hippie named Cuckoo (Andy Samberg), who exemplifies everything the British don't like about the Americans: he's loud, exuberant, lazy, irresponsible, and certifiably nuts.
Ok, an odd couple comedy. Cuckoo teaches Ken how to be less stuffy, and Ken teaches Cuckoo some responsibility.
There's also a certifiably nuts teenage son, Dylan, lying about and playing video games.
Rachel (recast with Esther Smith) has moved on, and has a new boyfriend, Ben (Matt Lacey).
But then Dale (Taylor Lautner, left) shows up, claiming to be Cuckoo's son, raised in a Himalayan religious cult.
Um...Cuckoo was in his 20s. How....?
At first everyone suspects that Dale is conning them, but he's so utterly innocent -- jumping in bed with Ken and his wife when he has a bad dream, calling Rachel "Mom" even though she's his age, that they come around, and lets him move in.
I like the episode "Funeral," in which Dale meets Ken's old college professor for five minutes, and then is overwhelmed with grief when he dies --- obviously displaced grief for his dead father. He insists on going to the funeral, where he is mistaken for the professor's "young American friend," i.e., lover. But no homophobic panic results from the confusion.
Dale begins sparking with his stepmother Rachel, and confesses his love in a Christmas special. She rejects him, and he leaves town.
In spite of his high-concept return, Dale takes a back seat this season, which is mostly about the new baby. Plus Steve (Kenneth Collard) is added to the cast, a friend of the family with no boundaries and unacknowledged homoerotic desires.
I like the episode where Sid happens to be wearing girls' clothes when they bring him to interview at an exclusive daycare (if he has a full-time nanny, why...), and the teacher mistakes him for transgender. They end up throwing a party for transgender toddlers.
Season 5 (2019): Dale is gone without explanation. I'm guessing that he was becoming too respectable, with a full-time job and a permanent relationship.
But not to worry, another "cuckoo," an uninhibited innocent, arrives to cause havoc: Ken's long-lost sister Ivy (Andie McDowell). Mostly the season is about Ken's political career, as he runs for M.P.
We've come a long way from the American hippie who married Rachel back in 2012. But at least there have been a lot of gay references and bare chests.
Jan 31, 2019
Love Beat: Tony DeFranco
And when we meet, it's a good vibration
Whatever that means, it brings back a rush of memories of the fall of 1973: pep rallies at Washington Junior High; accidentally touching my friend Dan's hand in science class; reading Greek mythology and Tintin comics; watching Chuck Acri's Creature Feature with my brother in our attic bedroom
was the standout star, the source of many semi-nude pinups and many misty-eyed dreams for the heterosexual girls and gay boys at Washington Junior High.
A series of disastrous business decisions -- and the rise of disco -- and maybe Tony's refusal to embark on a solo career -- led to the DeFranco crash. By 1975, they were working Vegas, and in 1978 they disbanded, taking jobs behind the scenes in the music industry.
Today Tony works as a real estate agent in Westlake Village, a ritzy suburb of L.A. He still performs occasionally, for fans who have fond memories of being in junior high in 1973.
Jan 30, 2019
Superstore: Just Leave It on and Watch
We've seen this free-spirit/by the books pairing a thousand times. Sam and Diane. Sam and Rebecca. Scully and Mulder. But the twist here is: Amy is married.
So this is the real-life aftermath of a teen nerd movie from the 1980s. Instead of the teen nerd using his sexual prowess to steal The Girl away from her loud-mouth jerk boyfriend, she marries him.
Of course, Jonah and Amy will hook up eventually anyway, but adding a husband delays the inevitable enough for the first two seasons to be palatable.
The other characters are the eclectic bunch familiar from other workplace comedies:
2. Colton Dunn (left) as Garrett, the sarcastic, street-smart black guy who knows how to work the system to his advantage. He's also in a wheelchair.
4. Josh Lawson as Tate, a sadistic pharmacist who makes Jonah his personal slave.
5. Jon Barinholtz as Marcus, a doofus who gets everything wrong and often is injured ("My spleen!").
I was concerned about two characters.
Ok, not homophobic. Scarily out of touch, but not homophobic.
Superstore is not the most innovative of shows; it's mostly what we've seen before. But it's pleasant enough. It reminds me of the old days of network tv, where they put a C+ show in between two A+ shows, so you could either turn off the tv for a half hour or just leave it on and watch.
I'll just leave it on and watch.
That's why I don't like sports. Why is that team trying to take the ball away from the other team? Can't they just share?
And I hate violence, so I especially don't like sports that are just stylized fights, like wrestling.
The only reason I pay wrestling any attention is for the homoerotic subtext of two guys grabbing at each other.
And of course for biceps and bulges in the revealing uniforms.
But there are hundred of youth wrestling clubs around the U.S. for parents to force their kids into. They have state and national competitions with thousands of participants.
And photographing their 5-year olds in creepy preteen beefcake shots, thinking "Soon my muscleman will be beating up fairies in the schoolyard."
The Wisconsin Youth Wrestling Federation even suggests proselytization. To be fair, it cautions against using sexist rhetoric like "Are you man enough?" Instead say things like "I think you'd be good at wrestling" or "Want to have fun wrestling?"
Team USA cautions that "Wrestling does not promote violence. Matches begin and end with a handshake." It also promises that youth wrestlers don't have to wear singlets, so no bulges on display (leave that for high school), and that "wrestling is for all ages, races, and genders."
It doesn't mention sexual orientations, but I doubt that gay kids are welcome.
Gary Gygax and the Homophobic World of Dungeons and Dragons
Actually, I never got into it, but I always felt that I should. On the surface, it seems appealing -- creating a Medieval character and going on a quest, with dragons, orcs, elves, mages, runes, magic swords, barrow wights, you name it. But the actual play felt mechanical and soulless. "You raise your sword. Throw the dice to see if you slay the goblin. You have lost 3 strength points but added five points to your stamina. Roll the dice again."
I've never got into board games, either. They call them "bored" games for a reason.
Also the cover illustration was sort of cool, and author Michael Witwer is cute.
The first half of the book was very interesting, and very well written. We hear about Gary Gygax (1938-2008) growing up in Chicago and then the far suburb of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, exploring an abandoned asylum, having paranormal experiences, buddy-bonding with his best friend Dan, getting involved with the fledgling military role-playing game community of the 1960s.
Finding a bright, glittering alternative to the dull world of jobs and marriages that they were destined for.
Then suddenly destiny hits. Gary gets married and has a lot of kids, gets a job, earns extra money by writing and editing gaming magazines.
For awhile the gaming world and the mundane world co-exist. Gary plays his war games most nights with groups of boys and young men. Sometimes, when it gets too late, he spends the night. His wife is certain that he's having an affair, and storms into the house, only to be relieved to find him surrounded by teenage boys.
Yest she never suspects that he might be gay?
Then Gary invents Dungeons and Dragons, with no fanfare and no detail.
The rest of the book is dull, dull, dull! Gary sells a share of the business for a 10% royalty, corresponds with gaming publishers, negotiates with p.r. firms, gets rich, buys a mansion, gets a regular seat at the Playboy Club, has affairs with lots and lots of young ladies -- to the consternation of his wife, who breaks up with him on the plane on the way to London.
The joy is gone, buried under an avalanche of ledge books and tax forms.
And I found out a lot about Gary Gygax. Though Witwer tries to sugarcoat it as much as possible, it becomes increasingly obvious that Gary Gygax was not a nice person. Authoritarian, imperious, judgmental, a leering, sexist jerk, promoting old-fashioned gender stereotypes. An "America: Love It or Leave It" warmonger. And, I assume, homophobic.
At least the author is. Gay people do not exist in his book except in one story. The 1980s backlash against Dungeons and Dragons began when a 16-year old college freshman, James Dallas Egbert III, vanished from his college campus.
The media latched onto D&D as the culprit, no doubt causing him to commit suicide (actually, he just ran away).
But, Witwer tells us, the lad was already unstable long before he discovered D&D. He was an outsider, a science geek, too intelligent for his own good, and "an emergent homosexual."
I don't know what an emergent homosexual is, but it can't be good.
I feel betrayed. One of the icons of my childhood has been tarnished. The bright glittery world had a homophobic underbelly.
See also Dungeons and Dragons; Six Naked College Boys
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