Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 33 / 17 August 2017
 

Killing off the LGBT characters

Television


Portia de Rossi as Elizabeth North on Shonda Rhimes Scandal.
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April may be the cruelest month, but for TV shows, May is. Season and series finales plus news of cancellations make it hard to let go of fave characters, especially the LGBT ones. No chance the trainwreck show out of Washington will be cancelled any time soon, though things do seem to be in escalation mode. But more on Trump's ill-fated interview and the fallout with NBC anchor Lester Holt later.

While many of our faves are safe for another season, we regret that some of the better LGBT programming will not be returning after this season. ABC has long been a leader in LGBT characterizations, and some of our fave network series are there, like the TGIT line-up: Grey's Anatomy (this week's show began with Arizona in bed with her new love, Eliza Minnick), Scandal (best gay male character on TV in Cyrus Beene, who has regular gay sex despite being 50+), How to Get Away with Murder (gay male coupling, plus HIV+ storyline) and The Catch (bisexual, gay & lesbian characters).

We were sorry to see Scandal kill off Mrs. Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, a few weeks ago. We were partial to her high-b Liz North character, who took political strategizing to a whole new level. But to say she got a slamming send-off would be to understate it. The Mystery Woman beat her to death with a golf club after she was unable to enlist the necessary help from Mellie.

Series creator Shonda Rhimes praised de Rossi, saying she would have kept her on the show through the end of the series next year, "but kidnapping is illegal." De Rossi is starting a new career, leaving acting for now, and had asked Rhimes to have her character phased out. She got a spectacular send-off.

Alas, like Liz North, several of ABC's most LGBT-friendly shows have got the ax. Some of these cancellations shocked us. The Catch really took off in this second season and spread its bisexual wings (we see lots of bi women on the tube, but very few bisexual men like Rhys). So the May 11 season finale was, unless another network or cable picks up the spy caper, the series finale as well.

American Crime is one of the best series on TV, and reading of its cancellation May 11 was stunning. The multi-Emmy-nominated series is the edgiest and most risk-taking show on network. Season 2 was about male rape at a private school between two gay students, one of the most compelling and disturbing stories we've seen in a long while. Season 3, which just ended, had a host of issues, all acutely political: opioid addiction, sex trafficking of teens (all genders), undocumented immigrant labor and domestic slavery and how they're intertwined, and the crimes committed against these hapless victims. It was an extraordinary season, and the acting is sure to net more Emmy nods and wins from among the stellar anthology cast.

Last month the show's producers said season four would have focused on "women in the workplace," with an emphasis on recent sexual harassment and assault questions raised by Fox News and Uber. We hope cable will decide to pick up the series or it will move to Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. Moving American Crime to Sunday night was clearly an error in the network's judgment. It was never a good fit to have the show in the network's fantasy lineup or pitted against strong cable contenders like Homeland.

Also cut from ABC were Notorious, Secrets & Lies, Dr. Ken and The Real O'Neals, all of which had LGBT characters and storylines. Real O'Neals was the only gay-themed series on network, so its cancellation presents a real vacuum. We found it funny and poignant, and think it spoke directly to a younger teen audience.

The CW fared better. While Vampire Diaries was scheduled for its final season last year, the network's latest teen angst/thriller series Riverdale got approved for another season. This means the gay storyline with Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) continues. This is not your grandpa's Archie comics.

Two new shows on Fox that we really like, Shots Fired and 24: Legacy, are still in limbo, while Pitch has been cancelled. Ratings giant Empire has been renewed, as has queer-friendly Lucifer. Shots Fired and the new 24 series both have strong black leads. We hope this hasn't influenced their being in limbo as they are both very strong dramas and address serious issues in serious ways. Plus Shots Fired has Aisha Hinds.

New shows that are must-sees include a new sitcom on ABC, Downward Dog, which stars, yes, a talking dog. While that sounds just awful, it is not. It's engaging, winsome and a little dark, debuting May 19, then moving to its regular spot May 23 (why do this, networks?). You can watch the trailer on YouTube. Nan (Allison Tolman) is a lost and confused millennial. Martin (voiced by Samm Hodges) is her lonely but thoughtful and wonderful dog that you will want to have even if you are, like we predictably are, a cat person.

Three other shows you want to bookmark make their debut off network this month. Jill Solloway's I Love Dick is her second series after the successful Transparent, and is also available from Amazon. The title should give you a head's up. From Netflix, a new season of the brilliantly funny, incisive Master of None, as well as the return of the queer Sense 8, which we both loved and hated, but more often hated. Do with that what you will. Reelz premieres Autopsy: Prince on May 20, for those of us who still miss His Purpleness. More gayness returns with the new season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix May 19.

 

Peak moment

The biggest new show of May is the return of Twin Peaks 27 years later. The surreal drama created by director David Lynch and Mark Frost is back. It debuts on Netflix May 21, billed as Twin Peaks: The Return. Two episodes were selected to be shown at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, and Lynch has said he won't be directing films any more, so this will be something to watch, even if you were not a cult devotee of the 1990 series. Top castmates of the 90s are back: Kyle McLachlan, Maedchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn, Dana and Sheryl Lee. Plus Peggy Lipton and more. We. Can't. Wait.

House of Cards returns on May 30 for a fifth season on Netflix. Have we ever needed the Underwoods more? As long as Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright can keep up their end of the best political drama ever, we will be there for it. HOC once seemed so over-the-top. No more. Now it's more docudrama headed toward straight documentary.

Last week a friend of ours sent us a T-shirt that reads, "What Would Madame Defarge Do?" What indeed. We are so far past Dickens, we've moved straight to Stephen King's The Stand. That dystopian TV miniseries is on Netflix: excellent time to revisit it.

We watched Lester Holt's interview with Pres. Trump on May 11 with that sense of foreboding one gets the night before major surgery. There are many lines that stick from that interview. When talking to Holt about his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, investigating him for collusion with Russia in interfering with the U.S. election, Trump said, "In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'" Even Richard Nixon did not go on TV and say, "Yeah, I did commit obstruction to stop an election investigation, what exactly are you going to do about it?"

On May 11, NBC News was promoting the interview with clips on Twitter. They also tweeted a photo of Holt, first black anchor of a solo weekly newscast, walking up the path to the White House with an umbrella and briefcase in the rain. It was the kind of photo that stays with you. It was a harbinger.

As kids, our mother forced us siblings to sit in front of our black-and-white TV and watch the endlessness of the Watergate hearings. It was summer, and there were a bazillion things we would have preferred to be doing. But she insisted, "This is history in the making." If you haven't seen the entire Holt interview with Trump, watch at NBC.com. It is history in the making.

Our fave Trump-related TV moment of the week was Anderson Cooper's eye-roll at Kellyanne Conway on CNN's prime time show Anderson Cooper 360. The Silver Fox now has his own gif on Twitter with the eye-roll, which prompted Conway to complain on Fox & Friends on May 12 that Cooper was sexist for doing so. We are sensitive to this issue, despite our loathing of Conway. It is worth noting that Conway said she often faces sexism, which is both true and fair, given the way we've seen Conway discussed. She told Fox, "Can you imagine having a male anchor on a network roll [his] eyes at Hillary Clinton, a female representative spokeswoman for Pres. Obama or Pres. Bill Clinton? I think not."

We've seen male and female reporters and anchors do far worse to Clinton, so perhaps she wasn't the best example, as we can't recall a figure in American history who has faced more sexism. Valerie Jarrett didn't lie to the media on a regular basis, so she didn't inspire eye-rolls. We're not dismissing the sexism charge. Nevertheless, Cooper's was an eye-roll for the ages.

We're happy to report that Stephen Colbert's ratings are way up after Trump started feuding with him and Trump deplorables started a campaign to get him fired for saying Trump sucked Putin cock. Colbert's Trump work has been resistance-worthy in recent months. It's come with some costs. The FCC is investigating Colbert for his penis-imagery skit about Trump, which prompted the Writer's Guild of America to cry foul on May 11, saying they were "appalled" by the review. Yet Colbert soldiers on.

In the May 11 Time magazine cover story on Trump, which is full-Nixon, Trump said of Colbert, "You see a no-talent guy like Colbert. There's nothing funny about what he says. What he says is filthy. And you have kids watching." Says the p-grabber-in-chief.

This being Trump, he couldn't stop himself with one Colbert comment, he went on into full self-parody, telling Time Colbert insulted him because his show "was dying. They were going to take him off television, then he started attacking me and started doing better. When I did his show, which by the way was very highly-rated, it was high, highest rating. The highest rating he's ever had."

On his May 11 show, Colbert fought back with humor, noting that he does "occasionally use adult language. And I do it in public, instead of in the privacy of an Access Hollywood bus." Colbert admitted Trump got high ratings. "The only episode that got better ratings was the night I had Jeb Bush on. That's right. You got beat by low-energy Jeb. But don't worry, you won the ratings college. Since all of my success is clearly based on talking about you, if you really want to take me down, there's an obvious way. Resign."

So for dystopian series and feel-good sitcoms, flights of fancy and wishful thinking, the return of Twin Peaks and all the news from Moscow – we mean Washington – be sure to stay tuned.

 






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