Jan 2, 2021

"Dirigible Days": Convoluted Short Steampunk Series with a Gay Subtext

 


I don't usually care for steampunk, putting weird technological advances into the Victorian Era.  But Dirigible Days, a 15-minute webseries, had a plot blurb about three guys in a dirigible, so I thought there might be some buddy bonding.  I watched two episodes.

First Episode, Scene 1: Plot dump gibberish.  Basically this is a post-Apocalyptic world, but the Apocalypse was in the Victorian Era.  Who needs a long, drawn-out explanation? They have dirigibles, I get it.

Scene 2: More plot dump gibberish.  While having tea outside his dirigible, Pretentious Guy tells two other guys that:

Strega is not supernatural or a prophet of Cthulhu (um...the Cthulhu Mythos is post-Victorian).  

You should kil Pinkerton, who abducted Strega.

No drinking this time.

Scene 3:  Tavern.  The Two Guys are getting drunk. An annoying number of shots of the barmaid's breasts as she walks in front of the camera to serve drinks. Two other guys, one young, one old, are discussing types of dirigibles.  Boring!  

Young Guy == Captain Dunbar -- is conducting interviews for a dirigible engineer.  Old Guy -- no.  Barmaid:  "You're young...single...flexible?"  She throws a drink at him.  The Bartender -- no.  Then Hooper Johnson, an Academy graduate.  He's overqualified. 

The Two Guys start harassing Captain Dunbar and making racist comments (apparently he's Mexican), so he shows them that he has a gun in place of one arm.  The bartender kicks them out.

Wait -- the Two Guys from the dirigible aren't the protagonists?


Seene 4:
Hoop is hired.  He helps the very drunk Captain Dunbar out into the street (arm around waist). They run into the other two guys, who want to fight.  Hoop shoots one, and Dunbar the other.  

Dunbar: "Cute gun."  The first homoerotic double-entendre, after about six hetero ones.

A mysterious caped figure examines the bodies, and sees tattoos indicating that the two guys were "Woe Claw mercenaries."  Hoop and Dunbar raise their guns, expecting another fight.    But Caped Figure -- Antonio Cordell -- is pleased.  He works for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, but he won't arrest Dunbar if he does a job for him.

"If I do a job.  You mean we.  Hoop and I are together."   (They hug; they already have a permanent bond)

The job: transport Cordell and his prisoner to Skyland.

Scene of the prisoner, chained up, next to a mysterious trunk.  End of the first episode.

Second episode, Scene 1: Grainy black-and-white footage of several guys leading the Prisoner through the woods.  They stop to rest and talk: "We should never have let Captain Iwaki go into that temple alone.  He had his head torn off by this monster."

They set up a transmigram to contact Commodore Keitel. "Tell him we have bound High Priest Stega." 

Aha, the one that got stolen in the last episode, whom Pretentious Guy claimed is not really supernatural, or a priest of Cthulhu. (ahem...Cthulhu is not Victorian.)

Suddenly an intruder starts shooting.

Scene 2:  The dirigible, parked in the wilderness.  Captain Dunbar introduces Hoop to their pilot, Josie  (uh-oh, the gay subtext will be ruined by The Girl).   Josie is mute, but not deaf.

Hoop: She's adorable.  We'e going to get along fine. You don't use "adorable" about people you find hot, so maybe he's not interested after all.

Scene 3: Hoop has been aboard for about a day, and has made some modifications to make the engine more efficient.  The Captain says they have to drop anchor to avoid an atmospheric maelstrom (ok, Edgar Allen Poe was Victorian).  Also, it's Game Night tonight in the mess hall. (There's a mess hall for a crew of three?)

Scene 4: The deck, where Josie is piloting.  Dunbar wants to know when they will arrive at Skyland. The maelstrom will cause a delay., so Humbolt will be angry (who the heck is Humbolt?)

The Prisoner is locked up in the brig.  Dunbar wishes that Cordell could be locked up with him: "the inept, blackmailing Pinkerton."

Scene 5: Game night.  Dunbar makes a jobke about heterosexual sex.  Josie is not amused: "For all your talk, you haven't shagged in years."  Well, not with a woman, anyway.  

Cordell comes in -- sorry, his name is Cornell. Josie calls him a "drunken fool."  He insults for being mute.  She almost attacks. 

"My prisoner is not the first Cthulhu Cultist you've had aboard this ship." Cornell tells Dunbar.  He looks at Josie.  Dunbar stares. Could she be....


Scene 6:
Cornell goes to the brig and opens the Prisoner's locked trunk.  An eerie green light. He slams it shut.  The end.

Beefcake: No.

Other Sights: No.  All interiors and forest scenes.

Convoluted Plot: Yes. The post-Apocalyptic setting was completely unnecessary; just make it an alternate world, like other steampunk.  The first scene was completely unnecessary; why introduce characters who aren't protagonists, and have the real protagonists show up later?   

Dunbar interviewing people while drunk resulted in massive confusion.; the Old Guy sort of merges into the Barmaid, so I thought he was confusing one for the other.

  Calling Antonio Cornell "Pinkerton" just because he works for the Pinkerton Detective Agency?  Confusing.

Maybe the original comic book is less convoluted.

Heterosexism: Dunbar spends all his time trying to pick up ladies or talking about picking up ladies.  But at least no one is crushing on Josie.

Gay Characters: Dunbar-Hoops gay subtext.

Is It Worth It?  Why not?  Only 5 15-minute episodes.  You can get it done and still have time for an episode of Corner Gas before breakfast.

Jan 1, 2021

Richard Halliburton: A Gay Adventurer of the Jazz Age

When I was a kid in the 1960s, I was constantly looking for "a good place," where I could be free from the "what girl do you like?" interrogations.  One such "good place" was a book in the Denkmann Elementary School Library, Richard Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels (1941).

I didn't know much about Richard Halliburton, except for his amazing adventures:

Crossing the Alps on an elephant, like Hannibal.

Swimming naked in a pool outside the Taj Mahal at midnight.

Swimming across the Panama Canal.

Exploring a secret room beneath Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Receiving a gift of shrunken heads from a Dayak chief



Sort of like Donald Duck and his nephews jetting off with their Uncle Scrooge to find King Solomon's Mines or explore a lost city in the Himalayas!

Except Donald always had to return to Duckburg, where Daisy was waiting to "civilize" him with afternoon teas and shopping trips, and marriage and children and despair.

How did Richard Halliburton manage to have all of those adventures, and avoid the mind-control drone of "what girl do you like?"


Many years later, I discovered that Richard Halliburton (1900-1938) was the last of the old-style adventurers, thrilling the Jazz Age with his exploits through speaking engagements, radio broadcasts, a syndicated column, magazine articles, and a dozen books: The Royal Road to Romance, The Glorious Adventure, New Worlds to Conquer, Seven League Boots

 And he was gay. He knew gay rights pioneer Harry Hay, he was romantically linked to silent film star Ramon Novarro, and he had a long-term domestic relationship with journalist Paul Mooney.  In 1937 they had an idiosyncratic house built in Laguna Beach, called Hangover House because it was hanging off a cliff.

There is no hint of Halliburton's same-sex romances in any of his writings, and evidently he kept them secret from almost everyone in his private life, including his parents.

Following the footsteps of Richard Halliburton, I've lived in five countries (including the U.S.) and visited 26. It's not exactly swimming across the Panama Canal, but it's a start.

See also: The Disappearance of Sean Flynn; The Disappearance of Michael Rockefeller.

Dec 31, 2020

"Alex Rider": A Teenage James Bond, His Goofy Best Friend, and Exquisite Victorian Stickers


 I have seen the first episode of Alex Rider, about a teenage James Bond.

Scene 1:  Establishing shots of New York.  Scruffy Scary Guy drives to a parking garage, takes out a sinister satchel, and does something scary with a hologram.  Meanwhile Parker (George Sear) is just putting on his tie.  He tells his Dad he's going to an exhibition at the Rubin, but they'll get lunch later.

 Whoops, I thought Parker was the main character.  Turns out it's Dad (Michael, played by Steven Brand).  He cancels his lunch with Parker and appointment with the Senator, and calls someone named Brandt: "I need to talk to you about Parker.  It's urgent."  

Then he steps into an elevator and plunges to his death!

Turns out that Scruffy Scary guy has projected a holographic image of an elevator car onto an empty shaft, in order to kill Michael!  Much easier than shooting him!

Parker looks out the window, smiling.  He was in on it!

Five minutes of commercials.  Since when does a streaming service have commercials?


Scene 2:
London.  A ritzy school.  Alex (Otto Farrantm left) and Tom (Brenock O'Connor) have stepped out of a 1980s movie, where teenage boys can think of nothing except girls.

Tom: Girls!  There's a party tonight!  Girls will be there!  We just need Jahit to text us the address.  Girls!

Alex: Girls!  Will the Girl of My Dreams be there?  Girls!

Which seems odd, since Otto Farrant starred as a gay teenager in Spool, and Brenock O'Connor played a teenager whose bully has a secret crush on him in Sing Street.  Plus it's 2020.  

The teacher confiscates Tom's phone before they can get the address, so after class Alex does some remarkable acrobatic work to break into school and retrieve it.  He's got the spy skills already!

Unfortunatly, he's caught.

Scene 3: Uncle Ian (Andrew Buchan) is driving Alex home and yelling at him for being a screw-up.  He confiscates Alex's phone and grounds him.

Scene 4: At home, Alex complains to Jack that there's no food in the house.  Not to worry, she got take-out (don't tell your Uncle).  

I don't understand Jack's role in the family: an African woman about Alex's age, responsible for the cooking, so housekeeper?  Adopted sister?  But Uncle Ian consults her about how to deal with Alex, so  his wife?  

At dinner, Uncle Ian watches a news story about Michael's death. "He was...um...a client at...um...the bank where I work."  Dude, I could tell in 30 seconds that you are a spy.  Why hasn't Alex figured it out?

Turns out that Alex knows Michael's son Parker from his youtube prank videos.  He used to be fun-loving and outrageous, until his dad sent him to a special school in France (uh-oh, a Stepford son).


Scene 5: 
In his office, Uncle Ian investigates Parker to find out the name of that special school (uh-oh, he wants Alex to become a Stepford nephew!).

It's Pointe Blanc.

Jack states that she's completed her degree, so she won't be working for him anymore.  Aha, a housekeeper who became close to the family..  That absolutely was not clear in Scene 4.

Scene 6:  Their parents didn't confiscate their laptops, so Tom and Alex get the address of the party via email and sneak out of their houses to go.

It's a standard teen party from the 1980s, full of booze and girls! girls! girls!.  Alex gets tongue-tied while talking to the Girl of His Dreams.  Tom tries to pick up a girl by pointing out that the X-Men are metaphors for the LGBTQ experience.  I like how he says LGBTQ instead of gay.  A modern touch in a tv show with extremely retro norms.


Scene 7: 
Uncle Ian in a car with his colleague Martin (Liam Garrigan),  Apparently Martin mentioned the Pointe Blanc school to their Russian friend, and he got all weird and paranoid, and refused to say anything over the phone.  He wants to meet in a deserted parking garage instead.

Scene 8: Whoops, the "Russian friend" is the Scruffy Scary Guy who orchestrated the elevator trick, aka Yassen (Thomas Levin, left). 

He admits to killing Michael, so they're going to arrest him.  But Martin turns out to be a double agent!  They kill Uncle Ian!

Scene 9:  The Agency has cleaned up and explained Uncle Ian's death as an auto accident. Two Suits discuss what to do "about the boy."

They interview Martin, who says that Uncle Ian called him with new information on The Varna File. But the Varna File was a cyber-attack. "People like that don't carry guns." Uh-oh, his story has holes in it.

They review the case of another agent whose son went to the Pointe Blanc school, and who then died.  There must be a connection!  Pointe Blanc is brainwashing agents' sons to kill them.

Are there that many agents with teenage sons?

Scene 10: Alex is investigating Uncle Ian's death.  No hospital records, no mortuary records.  Why not?  And  Uncle Ian never drove over the speed limit.   It couldn't have been an auto accident.

Wait -- his confiscated cell phone is still in the glove box!  They can use a GPS tracker and locate the car,

Another five-minute long commercial break.  Now I remember how annoying it was to watch network tv.

Scene 11: Alex and Tom track the cell phone to a scary warehouse.  The car is being "printed" and disposed of, with the "usual cover story."  A goon rushes out and attacks them, and Alex beats him up.  Wow, the boy has skills!


Scene 12:
The Suits (Ace Bhatti, left, and a short-haired butch woman) summon Alex and tell him the whole story.  His uncle was a spy working for a secret subset of M16: "M16 gathers information.  We act on it."   So they're rather shady and unethical.  And they want Alex to do a job for them.

They don't say what it is, but I assume it's to infiltrate the Pointe Blanc School and find out how the boys are being brainwashed.

Alex wants nothing to do with them.

Five minute commercial break, and you can't fast-forward through it.  They are selling a book of "exquisite Victorian stickers" for you to decorate your diary entries with.  Who keeps a hand-written diary anymore?

Scene 13: Child Protective Services shows up to take Alex to a foster home.  At the same moment, Immigration shows up to deport Jack.  Frustrated, Alex runs into the bedroom and calls the Agency: "Ok, I'll do it.  Call off your dogs!"  The CPS and Immigration agents instantly get phone calls and leave.  That's power.  Very sinister power....

Alex gets into a limo while sinister music plays.  The end.

Beefcake: No.

Gay Characters:  Hard to say. Uncle Ian doesn't seem to be interested in ladies (he's dead, but appears in flashbacks in most episodes).  Tom and Alex may have a buddy-bonding romance.

Anachronisms:  Fighting the Russians -- the Cold War is over.  1980s Girls! Girls! Girls! rhetoric.

Stupid Names:  Lots.  Jack Starbright, Dr. Grief, Sir David Friend.  Not as bad as the original novels, where there are characters named Sabine Pleasure, Magnus Payne, and Mr. Grin.  

Homophobic Horowitz.  I can't figure out if Horowitz, the author of the original books, is homophobic or not.  He says "I have many gay friends and support same-sex marriage," and he gave James Bond an "outspoken gay friend" in one of his novels. But another novel has a homophobic protagonist -- written in the first person -- and he got in trouble for "defending Christians who don't approve of gay marriage."

Will I Keep Watching:  Probably.  There may be some buddy-bonding at the special school.  But those five-minute commercial breaks about exquisite Victorian stickers -- a big turn-off.

Was Garry Shandling the World's Greatest Comedian, Bisexual, or Both?


I have fond memories of It's Garry Shandling's Show (1986-1990), but I think it's mostly nostalgia for those heady halcyon days, when I first moved to West Hollywood and verything was fresh and new: brunch at the French Quarter, buying books at the Different Light, cruising at Mugi, Sunday beer-and-soda busts at the Faultline, seeing celebrities at the gym, watching It's Garry Shandling Show at someone's house in the Hollywood Hills.  

It was mildly pleasant, nothing remarkable, one of many standup-comic-gets-a-sitcom vehicles from the era.  Garry played himself, an ugly but likeable comedian, with various job and romantic problems.  Sometimes he broke the fourth wall to comment on the situation.   




 Like Seinfeld,  he had a "will they or won't they?" love interest and a dumb sidekick, cute next door neighbor  Pete (Michael Tucci).  We all assumed that Pete's teenage son Grant (Scott Nemes) was gay.

The only episode I actually recall involved Grant squashing our gay reading by getting a crush on a girl named Shelby Woo, and serenading her with a song parodying the lyrics of "Hooray for Hollywood."  That character does not appear in the IMDB cast list, so I don't know which episode it was.

No beefcake, no gay characters.  It would have been instantly forgetable, except that it happened to be airing at just the right moment in my life.

After the show ended, I didn't hear anything about Garry Shandling for many years, until word of his death came in 2016.  I assumed that he moved back into stand-up obscurity.

In 2020,  the It's Garry Shandling Book appeared on Amazon.  Oh boy, a small paperback with interesting trivia about the show!  I clicked on "one-click ordering" withou investigating any further. 



Wow, I was wrong.  It's a massive scrapbook with full-page photos, memorials from every comedian you ever heard of  and many you haven't, ticket stubs, pages from scripts, newspaper articles, and lots of Gerry's handwritten notes to himself and others:

Being professional is making a commitment to work -- to try your best each time you perform.  Being professional is not giving up, quitting, or not caring...remaining unattached yet working and giving and  committed all together into one solid continuing performance and non-performance

Everyone interviewed agrees that Garry was the greatest comedian who ever lived, and the greatest guy, witty, erudite, personable, amiable, someone who would make you smile just by entering the room, someone who could cure depression with a hug and turn water into wine.  Basically everyone he met wanted to have sex with him,, and he wanted to have sex with most of them.



Strangely, for an "intimate biography,"  Garry's bisexuality is just hinted at.  Actually, there are few references to romances of any sort, in spite of full-page shirtless pics trying to prove that he was handsome, athletic, and generally droolworthy. 

I guess a long list of romantic entanglements would clash with his standup routine, which was mostly about how he was too ugly to get women, and too incompetent in bed to keep the few who agreed to date him.


Author Judd Apatow goes overboard trying to convince us that Garry was a famous comedian long before It's Garry Shandling's Show.  

He wrote two episodes of Welcome Back, Kotter; obviously his superlative scripts are the sole reason for John Travolta's success.  
And four episodes of Sanford and Son!  Obviously his superlative scripts are the sole reason for Redd Foxx's success.  

He was...um...on the Tonight Show! He had a tv special! Well, they were both great appearances, and won 110% of the viewing audience in their time slots.

In 1977, Michael Hart published The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential People in History.  The Prophet Mohammed got the #1 slot.  One gets the impression that Apatow thinks it should have been Garry Shandling.  

And It's Garry Shandling's Show -- not a quiet, cute comedian-playing-himself sitcom.  It was a work of pure genius.  According to the book, it revolutionalized comedy.  Garry single-handedly invented the concept of breaking the fourth wall (gee, I thought they were doing that back in Shakespeare's day) and the mockumentary, the basis of every modern sitcom.  Without that show, there would be no comedy today.  And no documentaries, either.  

Let's face it, without that show, there would be no arts at all.

Afterwards, Garry didn't fade into stand-up obscurity.  As the most famous comedian in the world, he enjoyed a string of critically-acclaimed masterpieces.  He hosted the Grammies -- three times!  

He wrote, produced, directed, starred in, did the camera work, and cooked meals for all of the cast and crew of The Larry Sanders Show (1992-98), the second most popular tv series in history.  

He starred in the comedic masterpiece What Planet are You From (2000)!

Plus he was a champion of gay rights.  In 1993, he was the first person ever to write an openly gay character into a tv series. (gee, I thought that was Soap in 1977).

Apparently there was a gay character on an episode of It's Garry Shandling's Show, also.  David Duchovny (later of The X-Files) played "himself" as gay and interested in Garry.


Later in his life, Garry became immersed in Zen Buddhism, and achieved enlightenment.  No longer the most famous person in the world, now he was a Boddhisattva, a god.

Garry Shandling is a body-name.  A false identity.  Let it all go.  Be willing to reside ins stillness, needing nothing, wanting nothing, being nothing. All anger and attitudes are false self.  Stay in presence.  Stay in energy of body.  Develop mindful patience.  Let go.  

Seems a bit incongruous for a guy whose jokes were mostly about getting laid.

Did I mention that I found the book a bit hyperbolic?  I'd rather have my memories of a quiet, cute sitcom that I watched at someone's house in the Hollywood Hills during those golden years.  


Dec 29, 2020

"The Magicians": Hogwarts Plus Narnia Plus Bisexual Menages-a-Trois

 


The Magicians has a 97% rating on Netflix, and it's already in Season 5, so here goes Season 1, Episode 1:

Scene 1: Elegant man and woman are arguing on a park bench. The woman: "You have to get them to Brakebills before HE finds them.  They're infants!  They know nothing!"  The man promises to try.  But...he's lost the boy.

Scene 2: Statue of Liberty pas out to the Midtown Mental Health Clinic.  Urm...the Statue of Liberty is nowhere near Midtown Manhattan.   A psychiatrist or social worker gets all sarcastic at a patient, a surly long-haired guy (Jason Ralph).  He admits that he's feeling better, no longer out-of-place, "the most useless person on the planet."

He's about to graduate from college (wow, he looks really old for 22!), and he has some interviews set up for grad school at Harvard, Yale, Princeton -- the standard Ivy Leagues.

Switch to a close-up of a gyrating girl butt.  Gross!  It's a gyrating party.  Surly Long-haired guy is sitting by himself.  Back to the girl butt.  She turns around to show us her boobs.  Gross again!. Surly tries not to look.

We intersplice the interview and the party scene. Surly impresses girls with a magic trick, discusses Danish cinema, and ignores Gyrating Butt's attempts to engage with him.  He goes to his room, which is full of books on stage magic, plus the Fillory and Feathers series of children's books.  He begins to read one.


Scene 3: 
The story: The Chatwin Twins (Jane and Martin) and their older brother Rupert(who was wounded in the War) are staying in the country house of an elderly professor, where they discover that an old grandfather clock is a portal to Fillory (Narnia without the copyright issues).

Back in New York, Julia comes into Surly's room and asks why he didn't try to pick up Gyrating Butt.  "Not my type."  "But she was wearing a unicorn t-shirt.  She was clearly into all of that fantasy stuff you read.  But you wouldn't know because you never interact with anyone.  You're too busy with that Fillory crap."



She climbs onto the bed next to him.  James (Michael Cassidy) comes in and pretends to be upset: "My girlfriend and my friend together! Have you no decency?"  He piles on, yelling "Three way!"  

Scene 4: Julia is escorting Surly (we finally get his name -- Quentin) to his Yale interview.  Piece of cake -- Yale is so desperate for philosopy majors that they'll take anyone.   

The interview is being held in an elegant house in midtown Manhattan.  No one answers the door, so they go in.  In the drawing room, they see the Fillory and Feathers grandfather clock!  The admissions counselor must be a super fan.  Ahh -- he's lying on a chair, dead!

Scene 5:  The Admissions Counselor left a package for Quentin: the manuscript of Book 6 of the Fillory series.  But there were only five books.  This one was unpublished!  It will turn the fantasy world upside down! 

 "Nonsense!" Julia  snipes. "You said you were a super-fan on your application, so he thought he'd share his fan fiction."

"You used to be a fan."

"Yes, but then I grew up.  You should, too.  Start living life in the real world."


Scene 6:
Quentin walking down the street at night, reading the unbound pages (not worried that they will blow away?)  Whoops, a page does blow away.  He chases it through a mysterious gate and into the woods.  Suddenly it's daytime, and he's on the lawn of an elegant old manor house.  Uh-oh, Quent is having a psychotic breakdown!

Meanwhile, Julia gets on an elevator, but instead of going up, it goes down -- way, way down, past P1, P2, and P3.  To a floor that is above the ground.  A corridor.  A sign reading "To exam."

Quent heads for the building -- Brakebridge Hall.  An Edwardian dandy with a nice basket eyes him.  "I'm Elliot.  You're late.  Follow me."  

Hey, his name is Elliot Waugh, a homage to Evelyn Waugh who wrote the queer classic Brideshead Revisited.  

I'm not going to watch anymore.  This sounds like the setup for yet another complex mythology featuring the Chosen One, and I don't have time for it.  But some research reveals that practically everyone on the show engages in same-sex activity at one point or another, although the main romances are heterosexual.


1. Elliot is more into guys than girls.  

2. Quentin is more into girls, but ends up with Elliot in Season 4. 

3. Penny (Arjun Gupta, left) is more into girls.

4. Rupert Chatwin (from the Fillory stories, which are real) is more into guys.

5. Josh Hoberman (Trevor Einhorn) is more into girls.

Head of the Class

Head of the Class (1986-1991) was Welcome Back, Kotter in reverse, about a class of mismatched overachievers, all brilliant, but with different personalities and academic interests.  Their mentor (not really a teacher, since they far surpassed him in knowledge of every subject) was Charlie Moore (Howard Hesseman, Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati).

Plots involved anxieties over their Harvard applications, competitions for prestigious awards, and trying to fit in with the cool kids, plus a memorable story arc set in the Soviet Union (the first American tv series ever filmed there).  No gay content, but not a lot of the hetero-horniness otherwise endemic among 1980s tv teens, plus some buddy-bonding, and several of the anti-slackers have moved on to gay-friendly projects.


1. Brian Robbins as Eric Mardian, the Vinnie Barbarino of the group, a surly leather-clad "bad boy" with a puppy-dog smile and an athlete's physique.  Unfortunately, he was also the most aggressively girl-crazy.   Brian has moved into production, and is responsible for some of the best gay-subtext teencoms on Nickelodeon, including Keenan and Kel and Supah Ninjas. 

2. Tony O'Dell as Alan Pinkard, a conservative Republican Michael J. Fox clone.  Not nearly as girl-crazy; most of his episodes focused on being competitive and snobbish, not on liking a girl.  Tony O'Dell had a long list of credits before Head of the Class, including Dynasty and Karate Kid.  Today he is an acting coach, and reputedly gay, thought I don't really see any confirmation on his twitter posts. 
We need another photo of heartthrob Tony O'Dell.  This one emphasizes the tight jeans.

3.  Dan Frischman as Arvid Engen, a stereotypic bespectacled nerd.  He had some "crush on a girl" episodes, but mostly he buddy-bonded with fellow nerd, the portly Davis Blunden (Dan Schneider).  Today he is an actor, writer, and magician.  His first novel, Jackson and Jenks, is about two teenage boys who are best buddies and magicians.  (Dan Schneider, by the way, produces some more of the best gay-subtext teencoms on Nickelodeon, such as Drake and Josh and ICarly).



Dec 28, 2020

"I Love Dick": Things Were Gayer in the Old Days

 


Amazon Prime recommends a tv series called I Love Dick.

Well, sure, who doesn't love dick?

I assume that the double-entendre is intentional.

It's about a married couple, Chris (a girl) and Sylvere (a boy), who become obsessed with a hunky professor (Kevin Bacon).  So, bisexual three-way?  

Kevin Bacon used to be quite a hunk, but I haven't seen him in anything since Sleepers (1995).  I wonder what he looks like now.

Sylvere is played by Griffin Dunne, who had a buddy-bonding homoromance in American Werewolf in London (1981).  I wonder if he will bring the same gay sensibility to L Love Dick.

 One of the episode descriptions mentions a relationship between Trevor and Devon.  A gay male couple, unless of course one of them is a girl with a boy's name.

Ok, I'm in.


Prologue:
Big bold letters fill the sccreen: "Dear Dick, every letter is a love letter."

Scene 1:  New York.  Chris and Sylvere are packing ("Where's my copy of Sisyphus?").  

Griffin Dunne used to be a hunk.  The years have not been kind.

They explain to the subletter that Sylvere got a job at a think tank in Marfa, Texas:  "People get invited to read, and write, and think." Chris is going to drop him off and then head to Italy for a film festival.

Ever since my horrirble year in Hell-fer-Sartain, any day when I'm not in...ugh...Texas is a good day.  I'm not sure I want to watch a tv series set in the worst place in the world.

Scene 2: They're driving through the sagebrush and sunburn of Middle America, insulting each other: "I'd like to stop at Dollywood, but they don't let you in unless you have enormous tits."

I haven't heard that term for many years.  It seems rather old-fashioned.  But how would I know -- I don't discuss women's breasts very often.

Scene 3: Establishing montage of Marfai, ugh...Texas.  Train, chair in front yard, Spanish adobe architecture, a cowboy riding his horse down Main Street.  Huh?

They arrive at a tiny, rundown house with no air conditioning and a vew of run-down trailers.  Get back in your car and high-tail it out of...ugh...Texas!  

But they unpack. "Where's the lapsang souchong tea?" is a funny line when said amid the squalor.

Uh-oh.  Chris geta a text: They are pulling her film from the festival, so she can't go to Venice after all (couldn't she go as a spectator?).  So she's stuck in squalor in Marfa...ugh, Texas!

Scene 4: Morning in Marfa.  The gas stove doesn't work, so no lapsang souchong tea for breakfast. Chris meets Devon, the young butch woman who lives in the trailer next door and works as a caretaker for the institute.  She promises to fix the stove and refrigerator, and advises Chris to wear boots, not sandals.  "We got scorpions and rattlers."  

Darn, a girl with a boy's name.  So Trevor and Devon will be a heterosexual couple.


Scene 5:
They walk down the horrible rustic road to the institute, a horrible flat-roofed concrete building with smudged walls.  There are a lot of artsy types schmoozing in the courtyard.  Chris meets Sookie and Geoff (Adhir Kalyan) a black-South Asian couple, and the only people of color around. 

Whoops, they're not a couple.  The institute doesn't allow wives/ partners to come with the residents -- too much distraction from the reading, writing, and thinking.  

Uh-oh, Chris is in trouble (just go to Italy! Who cares if your film is in the festival?).

Meanwhile, Sylvere starts flirting with a hippie chick bathing her feet in the koi pond.  The world's worst pick-up line: "I find too much beatuy anxiety-provoking."  

I take that back.  His next line is worse: "I came her to write about the Holocaust.  There's something new afoot."

Meanwhile, Chris wanders amid the conversations about fracking, poverty, and zumba class, and suddenly sees Dick (Kevin Bacon) sitting by himself, rolling a marijuana cigarette.



The years have kinder to Kevin Bacon than they have to the painful-to-look-at Griffin Dunne, but still, o tempora, o mores!

Chris and Dick make eye contact. 

"Dear Dick," she writes, "This is about OBSESSION!"

She approaches and tries an even worse pick-up line than her husband's: "It's interesting that you go by Dick. Most people would stick with Richard.  Or Rich, Rick, Richie, Ricky..."

He discovers that she is married and hastily walks away, but she invites him to dinner at 8:00.

Girl, this isn't New York.  Dinnertime is at 5:00 pm!  

Scene 6:  Dressing for dinner.  Chris in her underwear, twice!  Gross! Sylvere is fully clothed.  Heterosexual male gaze double standard.! 

They argue about something that I don't understand. "Let's just...I thought we...But...we have to...You don't have to..."  Maybe only heterosexual couples get it.

"Dear Dick: There has to be something to look forward to.  Otherwise I can't go on living."

Scene 7:  The restaurant, which is surprisingly elegant for a horrible small town in...ugh...Texas.   I was expecting a Beef and Burp, or an Appleby's.  

Chris stares slack-jawed at Dick and tries one stuttering, nervous pick-up line after another, while Sylvere discusses his Holocaust project: "how does the materiality of death transfer to the living, like an airborne contaminant."  

Dick then explains why some artists are successful, and others are not: you get what you want.  If you don't succeed, you didn't want it badly enough. Right, Chris?  

Chris is upset by this, and storms off, leaving Sylvere and Dick to discuss why women filmakers always produce such awful movies.

"Dear Dick," she writes. "Game on!"

Chris returns from the bathroom and announces that she's going to sign up for Dick's class.  I didn't know that the institute had classes.  I thought they just thought deep thoughts.  Ok, but there's no syllabus.  Dick doesn't read books: "I'm post idea."

Scene 8:  In bed later, Chris thinks about Dick (I'm thinking about dick myself, right now). She gets out her laptop.  Sylvere wants to know what she's doing. "Nothing.  A short story. A letter.  I'm just fucking around."  "Read it to me," he demands.

"Dear Dick, I never understood until tonight how one chance meeting can alter the course of someone's life."

But..he insulted your work.  He was arrogant.  Oh, right, "arrogant" is tv for "sexy."

"When I went into the bathroom, I was waiting for you to follow me, so we could do it."

I would personally be less than thrilled to hear about my partner's obsession with a guy they just met, but Sylvere responds by dropping his pants (butt shot!) and screwing her.  

Scene 9: Morning.  Dick wakes up alone in his bed (shirtless shot).  He sits on his porch and smokes pot.  Meanwhile, Chris prints out her "Dear Dick" letter.  Dick goes to his pool, takes off his pants (butt shot), and climbs in.


My Verdict:
 There is no hint of romantic or erotic attraction between Dick and Sylvere. And Devon and Toby are going to be a boy-girl couple.  There are no gay or bisexual people here.  

But it was more than mere exclusion.  I was peering into an alien world, with norms and conventions that I didn't understand.  What was the argument in Scene 6 about?  Why did Chris continue to like Dick after he insulted her?  Why was Sylvere pleased with his wife's interest in another man?  

I don't know what's going on, but I know that I'm not in the target audience.  This is a show by, for, and about middle-aged married heterosexuals. The 1980s may have been more homophobic, bu they were also allowed for a lot more buddy-bonding gay subtexts.

O tempora, o mores, o crap.

See also: American Werewolf in London

They Had Faces Then: TV Hunks Before Beefcake








During the 1950s, male tv stars rarely took their shirts off, even in Westerns and adventure series (Ty Hardin, top photos, was never displayed nude or semi nude on Bronco).  And when they did, there was usually little of interest underneath except chest hair. So gay kids of the first Boomer generation couldn't depend on pecs and abs.  They had to concentrate on the faces.

Take Richard Greene, who starred in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-59).  Which photo would you prefer to tape to your bedroom wall?





Or Eddie Fisher, popular crooner who hosted Coke Time with Eddie Fisher (1953-57), and along the way married Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, and Connie Stevens.  Which photo is dreamiest?




There's something to be said for leaving your clothes on (well, maybe not if you're Robert Goulet).  With the raw erotic energy of the naked body obscured, the star looks suave, sophisticated, ready for romance, leading you to fantasies about holding hands and kissing on the doorstep rather than what might happen in the bedroom.  And at age eight, who cares about what happens in the bedroom?

See also: Beefcake Dads of 1950s Sitcoms


Dec 27, 2020

Nanny and the Professor

There are two kinds of servants on tv.

1. The world-weary, laconic observer of the lunacy (Hazel, Beulah, Geoffrey on Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Florence on The Jeffersons, Benson on Soap).

2. The "breath of fresh air" whose joie de vivre revitalizes a failing family (Mr. Belvedere, Charles on Charles in Charge, Tony on Who's the Boss, Fran on The Nanny).

Nanny and the Professor (1970-71), which became a must-see when I was in fifth grade because it aired between The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, was an early example of the "breath of fresh air" type.

Phoebe Figalilly (Juliet Mills), a proper British nanny, complete with deerstalker cap and Inverness cape,  sweeps in like Mary Poppins to take control of the household of stuffy English professor Everett (Richard Long of The Big Valley, top photo, shown working out with gay icon Rock Hudson).







His kids:

1.Intellectual teen Hal (David Doremus), seen here trying to meditate.

2. Athletic preteen Butch (Trent Lehman)

3. Baby of the family Prudence (Kim Richards).

Nanny draws from the "I've got a secret" genre by teasing at having magical powers, though nothing is ever stated openly.

For instance, in "Spring, Sweet Spring," Nanny thinks a family picnic would foster togetherness, but everyone has other plans.  Then a series of humorous accidents and coincidences push them, one by one, to the park, where the picnic is set out for them.

When Nanny and the Professor first aired, I was in fifth grade.  I was drawn to Nanny's independence, courage, and penchant for deflating masculine egos.  But there were several points of interest for gay boys.

1. The opening song sounded distinctly like the two boys were attracted to the Nanny ("soft and sweet, warm and wonderful...oohh, our magical mystical Nanny!").  But heterosexual desire was at a minimum: Hal liked a girl in one episode, and Butch, never.

 From the title, one expects a romance between Phoebe and Professor Everett, but that is never even hinted at.  In fact, the Professor fled from several girls anxious to snare him.  He could easily be read as gay.

2. Hal was a shy, intellectual, gay-vague outsider, like Peter on The Brady Bunch.

3. There was no beefcake, but my friends thought that Hal was cute, and there were several dreamy guest stars, including Van Williams and Vincent Van Patten.

4. Richard Long (1927-1974) was rumored to be gay or bi (married to women twice).








After Nanny, David Doremus continued acting until 1981, then retired to work in electronics.  He is married to a woman, and has four children.

Trent Lehman committed suicide in 1982, at the age of 20.  No info on whether he was gay.







Juliet Mills has been very active in movies and on tv, most recently playing Dottie on the gay sitcom From Here on OUT (2014).  Her husband, Maxwell Caulfield, was a gay icon of the 1980s.


See also: Maxwell Caulfield




"Theo and the Professor": If You're Looking for Collegiate Beefcake and Buddy-Bonds, Keep Looking

 


Most people, including most tv writers, think that the term "professor" means "a smart person."  No, it means a person who has a job teaching classes and conducting research at a college.  

And they are an expert in one field, not a general know-it-all.  

And no one ever calls them "professor": it's "Professor ___" or "Dr. ___."

So when Amazon Prime suggested the webseries Theo and the Professor, I groaned interally, expecting another polymath professor with no visible measns of support.  Surprise, this person actually works at a college.

Turns out it's about an actual professor and his graduate student sidekick, who moonlight as paranormal investigators.  Surely they have a gay subtext bond, and they're probably academic hunkoids. 

I watched Episode 1, "The Lilitu," because I'm not sure what a liltu is.  Something Sumerian?

Scene 1:  Extablishing shot of a British university, with lots of students sitting under trees reading books (must be from an earlier generation; students today do all their reading online).  Two profs complain about having to go to a conference in Oklahoma.   A student runs across campus, yelling "Professor!"  (You know there are several hundred professors at a large university, right?)

He delivers an envelope to Professor Ravenwood and his graduate student sidekick Theo -- both the same age, about 20 years older than I expected, and immensely unattractive. 

So much for academic hunkoids.


But, on the bright side, the opening credits are in a groovy retro font.  I feel like I'm watching Nanny and the Professor from the 1960s.

Scene 2: The doddering, absent-minded, tweed-coated professor stereotype is packing a valise with an umbrella, a notebook, some books on UFOs, and some booze. 

 Theo accosts him: "What bullshit did you get us involved with this time?  You know I hate you, and detest the idea of spending the weekend with your wrinkled old ass!"

The Professor pretends to take "ass" literally, and retorts: "I am not elderly disheveled livestock!  I hate you, too, but we have a job to do for the Moonlight and Brimstone Society, so let's get on with it!"

So much for buddy bonding subtexts.

Some construction workers digging for a new mini-mall or highway or something uncovered a lilitu, one of the early vampires created by Lilith (not Adam's first wife, an "ancient and powerful demon").  The Society wants Theo and the Professor to kill it.


Scene 3:
They arrive at the construction site, where the lilitu , a pale person with stringy hair, is frozen in mid-pounce.  The Professor tastes the soil and judges that it has been here for about 500 years/  Since the Elizabethan era?  I would have guessed 6000 years, since ancient Sumeria.

They can't destroy it while it's in stasis, so the Professor will perform a ritual to awaken it, and Theo's job will be to stab it with a magic sword.

Unfortunately, the ritual is in an anciet book written in a language that they can't read.  Um...they didn't have books in ancient times, they had scrolls and clay tablets.

Meanwhile the poor guy playing the Lilitu is standing there, obviously struggling to stay in "grabbing" position.  Suddenly he says "I've had enough!  I quit!"  

No, sorry, that's the Lilitu re-animating.  Fortunately, it staggers like a zombie, so they have a chance to run away.  

Scene 4:  They run to the construction company warehouse. The Professor tries to magic the door open ("What's the Elvish word for friend?"), but Theo just picks the lock.  

The Lilitu follows them in.  Theo, muttering "Asshole!, gets the Lilitu to chase him to where the Professor has cast a containment spell.  Scooby-Doo-type shenanigans ensure: is the monster chasing me, or am I chasing the monster?  

The Lilitu knocks Theo down and then  goes after the Professor.  Theo rushes to the rescue, jumping on the monster and trying to restrain it.    He stabs it with the magic sword, and when that doesn't work, pummels it to death.

 I'd call this a homoerotic buddy-bonding rescue, except that Theo is grumbling and complaining the whole time, and the Professor doesn't respond with any sort of gratitude.  He just says "That was unexpected." 

Scene 5:  Theo and the Professor walking away.  The Society will take care of cleaning up and wiping the construction workers' memories.  

Theo suggests that they go to a bar and get drunk.  No hugging.  No touching.

Beefcake:  No. The leads are Matthew Schultz, with 6 credits on his IMDB filmography (he's also a singer and a banker), and Lance Pankin, a British author best known for  Doctor Who novelizations.  The monster is played by Umar Faraz, whose day job is either artist or mechanical engineer.

Gay Characters: Neither mentions an interest in women, so I assume that they are both gay.

Scenes Where It's Too Dark to See: 5

Stereotypic Polymath, Absent-Minded Professors: 1

My Grade: D

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