Wednesday, June 24, 2020

TV: Where's the pride?

Original content? Sometimes about the only thing nice you can say is: Well it's new content.


We thought about that as we suffered through LOVE, VICTOR. HULU decided to do a TV series out of the film LOVE, SIMON. And they brought along all the baggage from the film.

You may remember Jennifer Garner and other stars of the film tried to pimp the movie. BLACK PANTHER had done incredible at the box office for many reasons, The people behind LOVE, SIMON suspected one reason for the film's success was that BLACK PANTHER was being pushed as a film with a person of color playing an admired comic book hero. Outside of Wesley Snipes in the BLADE films, that had not happened.

In the crazy world where Jennifer Garner has some sort of career despite so-so talents, it seemed logical to tell people that they should see LOVE SIMON because it was about a gay person.

Here's the thing, and we objected in real time, Chadwik Boseman played Black Panther (and did so with an amazing performance). Boseman is a person of color.

LOVE, SIMON? It starred boxy Nick Robinson as a gay man. But, here's the problem (pay attention, Jennifer), Nick Robinson is not gay (or, if he is gay, he's in the closet).

The idiots didn't get it. They still don't.

LOVE, VICTOR is supposed to instill gay pride. How?

Michael Cimino stars as high schooler Victor who, yes, is gay.

And, if this were 1992, that might be something. But it's not 1992, it's 2020.

How can a series preach gay pride or even just tolerance (we've never been fans of tolerance) when the gay character is played by a straight actor (judging by his INSTAGRAM)?

If being gay is okay (and we agree that it is), why are you casting straight actors in the role?

Anybody remember IN AND OUT? One of the jokes in the movie is that Matt Dillon's straight character plays -- and wins an Oscar for playing -- a gay character. That was funny in 1997. In 2020, it's just sad.

Let's move to acting. Michael plays Victor like a paper doll wall flower. There's no substance and he's always peering out of shy eyes. Is this what he thinks gay is? He keeps saying, in interview after interview, that he spoke to his gay cousin. You know what would be better than that? Actually casting a gay person in the role. Michael seems to confuse "gay" with "girlish." We're not sure why that is but it's how he plays the role. Maybe the Simon aspect has him confused he's Felicity? In that 90s show, a framing device was Felicity's conversations with Sally (played off camera by Janeane Garofalo). Victor's pathetic. He doesn't even know his Sally. His Sally would be Simon.

How does he know Simon? He doesn't. He knows of him. And after he moves to Simon's town and is too scared to say "I'm gay," he sends Simon a high drama message. Simon replies and you know this is bad TV because the reply doesn't begin, "Take the stick out of your ass . . ." Simon puts up with one message after another as Victor says insulting things like he wants to be "normal" (being gay isn't?) and whines and whines some more. Maybe Victor's easier to endure long distance? Or maybe Simon's just waiting for the face-to-face to pull the Cher MOONSTRUCK move ("Snap out of it!" -- declared with a vigorous slap)?

Kick in the pants?

Victor needs something. Not since Sammy graced the big screen in REALITY BITES has a gay character been such a sad sack and do nothing.

He's a teenage boy. Is there a reason he doesn't come across that way? Is there a reason that the teenage girl he's pretending to be interested in is hornier than he is? Is Victor so 'pure' that he's the only teenage boy in the country who's not at his sexual peak?

Victor is paper thin. He's not a character, he's a wafer. And we're not in the mood for communion.

We didn't think we were in the mood for THE POLITICIAN. However? Season two is a huge step forward from season one.

Let's start with Bette Midler. Reviewing season one, we noted:

All these actors may inspire on the stage. But put a camera on them and they add up to nothing -- minutes and minutes of nothing.
In fairness, we should note that even Bette Midler fails. Nathan Lane in THE BIRDCAGE didn't mince and mug as much as Bette does in her small role here.
This is a soap opera done as high camp so it's hard to go too far over the top but somehow Bette manages to. She's so far out there, it's as though her scenes were filmed on Neptune.

Did the writers adapt to Bette or did she adapt to them? We don't know -- but we'd guess they adapted to her. Bette is amazing. That's not open to debate. We were blown away. Bette kicked it up so high, we wouldn't quibble if she was nominated for an Emmy for this performance, she's truly amazing.

As is Judith Light but when has Judith Light ever phoned it in? She is both one of the country's strongest actresses and one of the most underestimated ones as well. And when you team Bette hitting every note correctly with Judith Light, you've got TV worth watching and then some. Joe Morton and Teddy Sears grab a few moments in the storylines they share with Judith and Bette but it really is the two women carrying the show.

In a lesser role, Gwyneth Paltrow continues to shine.

Not everyone's worthy of praise. Ben Platt, for example, needs to grow up. That's his portrayal of the character, that's his chest. He's supposed to be in law school, no longer in high school, so why is he waxing his chest? Better question, every time he's shirtless and moving his arms, his pit hair looks like it belongs to a yeti, so why did he leave that overgrown shrubbery in place while mowing down the chest hair? Ben's Payton sometimes comes across even more youthful than Victor. Exteriors would really help him find the character.

There is no character to find in the Greek Chorus. The ones who follow Payton around still haven't developed personalities and they look ridiculous. Outside of Ben Rhodes, who is pathetic enough to make their life about serving a politician? At least Astrid gets some sex out of it -- maybe Ben Rhodes did too?

Ben Platt needs to be getting something out of this show. He's personable, he's sexy, his NETFLIX musical special was first-rate. Why isn't he better on THE CANDIDATE? We think the reason may be Ryan Murphy. At its best, THE CANDIDATE soars in season two. But it really trips up repeatedly with Peyton. Is Peyton based on Ryan Murphy? With the Greek chorus following Peyton around, we're reminded of many bad first plays where the playwright creates a 'character' based on themselves and there is no 'character' there. Instead, there's some sort of idealized version of a person that is unplayable. Is THE CANDIDATE supposed to provide an interesting story or be an actualization lesson? Peyton was actually less noble in season one -- and more interesting.

What saves season two of THE CANDIDATE is the strong performances from Bette and Judith and the fact that their storyline is easily half the season. Nothing saves LOVE, VICTOR and nothing can. If your message is that it's "okay" to be gay, then why can't you cast an out actor in the role? Until you do that, you're sending mixed messages and that's nothing to be proud of -- especially not during Pride Month.

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