Hammer to fall: The Lavender Tube on tennis, vampires, Armie's unravelling, and CNN's shifty shift

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday September 6, 2022
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Jacob Anderson and Sam Reid in the new "Interview with the Vampire" series (photo: AMC)
Jacob Anderson and Sam Reid in the new "Interview with the Vampire" series (photo: AMC)

Fall is the most exciting time on TV as a veritable tsunami of new and returning series debut on the four major networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC), the cable channels and the streaming services. We'll do deep dives in the ensuing weeks, but here is a brief peek at some shows we are looking forward to with potential for queer intrigue.

This fall vampires are back, baby! "What We Do in the Shadows" returns for its 4th season. Will Guillermo and Nandor mix it up—but will they finally consummate their relationship?

"Vampire Academy," based on the bestselling series by Richelle Mead, is debuting as beloved "The Vampire Diaries'" show runner Julie Plec's latest in the genre. Be prepped for hotter vamps, queerer vamps, more diversity and lots more blood. (September 15, Peacock)

"Quantum Leap" returns with Raymond Lee, Caitlin Bassett, Mason Alexander Park and Ernie Hudson. The new series is set 30 years after the original, with Lee's Dr. Ben Song trying to learn about the Quantum Leap machine. Big Dr. Who vibes here. (September 19, NBC)

Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) is TV's longest running prime time character, as "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" enters its 24th season. She and the series keep changing it up, and Hargitay has never been better as she navigates life with her young bisexual son, her former partner and the worst crimes in New York City. (September 22, NBC)

We fell in love with Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire" and its characters when we were at school and welcome a new iteration of it. Starring Jacob Anderson ("Game of Thrones") as Louis and Sam Reid ("The Newsreader") as the vampire LeStat. Bailey Bass is Claudia and Eric Bogosian is phenomenal as reporter Daniel Molloy. (October 2, AMC)

FX announced that "American Horror Story" will return this fall, date TBA. This will be the 11th season of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's long-running and always queer horror anthology. What will the plot twists be this season? We can't wait.

We also can't wait for "Wednesday," Tim Burton's new horror comedy series for Netflix based on Wednesday Addams of the "Addams Family" franchise, starring Jenna Ortega in the title role, with Catherine Zeta-Jones as Morticia, Luis Guzmán as Gomez. "Smallville" alums Alfred Gough and Miles Millar are the show runners.

House of Hammer
Docuseries have become a streaming staple in recent years and the latest hyped series is "House of Hammer." The Discovery+ doc goes beyond the sexual assault allegations against Call Me by Your Name star Armie Hammer, tracing the Hammer family tree to reveal the violent and abusive men who came before the latest scion of the billionaire Armand Hammer. Be advised that the series includes raw discussion of extreme sexual and other violence and sadism.

The three-part docuseries directed by Elli Hakami and Julian P. Hobbs tells the story of the Hammer men who came before Armie: great grandfather Armand Hammer, uncle Julian Hammer, and father Michael Hammer. And it is controversial af, with the Los Angeles Times quoting one of Hammer's purported victims accusing the directors themselves of abuse in a Sept. 3 story on the series.

It's chilling. Accusations of increasingly over-the-top non-consensual S/M by Armie Hammer to relentless texts to women about his cannabalistic urges and desires to completely obliterate the personhood of his partners are stomach churning. The texts and the women are right there on the screen, but Hammer denies there were any non-consensual acts. Armie's aunt Casey Hammer reveals a lot here, as well.

Effie, the 26 year old former partner of Hammer's whose allegations against him last year led to other women coming forward told The Times that she declined to be interviewed for the docuseries, responding, in part: "It is extremely inappropriate of you to exploit such a tragic, vulnerable time in many people's lives, with no regard whatsoever for our healing process and privacy."

Despite the fact that she did not participate in "House of Hammer," Effie's experience is detailed thoroughly in the series. She alleged that Hammer raped her over four hours in April 2017 as she "tried to get away but he wouldn't let me."

Entertainment Tonight reports that "Armie is trying to prepare himself as much as he can for the 'House of Hammer' documentary. He has an idea about what's coming. Despite this, Armie has been trying to move forward as much as possible emotionally speaking and in terms of his career."
House of Hammer premiered September 2 on Discovery+.

Serena Williams  

Court and sparks
Serena Williams has left the court. We watched her play her final tennis match at the U.S. Open. We sobbed as she lobbed. It's impossible to imagine tennis without Serena at its epicenter. Yet the player who was ranked world No. 1 in singles by the Women's Tennis Association for 319 weeks, winner of 23 Grand Slams, is retiring at 40, moving on to her next chapter.

In a heartbreaking three-set loss to Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, Serena was unable to nab that 24th Grand Slam title. But as she left the court she said, wiping away tears, "It's been the most incredible ride and journey I've ever been on in my life."

It was a journey Serena Williams took us all on: a journey that over 27 years taught the world that women athlete's bodies are not all white, that Black women can excel in sports outside track and field, to succeed in sports historically perceived as "white."

It's impossible to fully articulate all Serena did to sunder restrictive norms about women's bodies and how women are allowed to play tennis. Nor how she rendered the color barrier that had still kept women's tennis nearly all white null and void.

We love Serena. We will miss her on our TV, with her iconic twirl. But we look forward to her next chapter, and to all the Black women and girls coming up through tennis for whom she opened—and held open—the door.

President Biden's Sept. 1 speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia  

CNN's shift
TV is great for taking us right into breaking news, except when it isn't.

You know the scene in "Rosemary's Baby" where Mia Farrow realizes that all her husband's friends are witches? Or the scene in the original version of "The Stepford Wives" where Katherine Ross realizes that all her friends have been turned into fembots?

That's how we felt watching CNN after President Biden's historic speech in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The speech was about saving democracy from the encroachment of what he calls "semi-fascist MAGA Republicans." As the kids say, we've been knowing about those folks because we've been their victims for the past five years and counting.

Throughout the Trump years, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlyn Collins regularly chased then-President Trump out of the briefing room with her incisive bull's eye questions that made him name-call her in tweets. CNN anchor Brianna Keilar bitch-slapped Trump's stooges frequently and once ordered Trump's senior advisor Peter Navarro off her broadcast for lying about the coronavirus.

CNN's Erin Burnett was our favorite news anchor throughout the Trump years. Burnett, who had previously reported from war zones in Rwanda, Libya, Lebanon and Democratic Republic of the Congo, called Trump a liar more than any other news anchor.

In June 2020, Burnett stated that Trump's proposal under the Insurrection Act to use military forces to remove protestors from Lafayette Square would constitute "invoking an act not invoked since 1807 to deploy U.S. military troops on American soil." She later issued a correction, noting that the act has been invoked previously, the last time in 1992. Still.

Burnett and Keilar each had daily segments devoted to showing clips of Trump's lies. These were go-to broadcasts in a media world increasingly given to normalizing Trump's behavior.

Burnett has been MIA for a few weeks, on vacation or perhaps refusing to have the new "both sides journalism" chip CNN's new upper management seems to demand be implanted. But Poppy Harlow, filling in for her? Sigh.

It's much more than disheartening. Veteran TV journalist Dan Rather, now 90 and a fixture of commentary on Twitter, queried, and was quoted by Newsweek, "What is going on at CNN? It's a serious question. There is a lot of speculation on directives and motives. What's really going on? And is it being noticed by the audience?"

MSNBC has always had this problem, but CNN at certain hours (never Jake Tapper's) felt like safe space for honest Trump reporting. Not during the Biden speech, though. And the weird takes felt like losing a friend who eloped with some toxic dude: gutting.

We know there have been changes at the top. CNN has let Brian Stelter go, and on Sept. 2 John Harwood announced his own sudden departure.

We also know all MSM is cheerleading for neutrality. But if networks that could skewer Trump fearlessly —before the way Burnett, Keilar and Collins have done— cease to do so now, where does that leave us for keeping the fascists Biden is so rightly alarmed by at bay?

Biden kept talking while Trumpists in Philly went wild trying to interrupt his speech. Biden said it was democracy. Whereas Trump tear-gassed sitting protestors so he could have a photo op with an upside down Bible during the George Floyd protests in 2020 that Burnett had alluded to.

People who aren't journalists always make the ludicrous claim that news should be neutral. Impossible. But what it can be is honest. In both our critic's hat here and our news hat elsewhere, we do that. Most of our colleagues are doing that. But that's not what's taking over. Instead we are getting that 'both sides' neutrality.

It's dangerous. Neutrality asserts there is no moral clarity, no moral compass. Just random statements of what happened. We can't have that. We have to speak truth to power. It's the job. Do that job. Or find a new profession where truth is a variable, not our very lifeblood keeping us going.

The Washington Post published a piece September 2 with this headline: "As Biden warned about democracy's collapse, TV networks aired reruns." Yikes. WaPo wrote, "While broadcasters typically air a prime-time address by the president, they determined that this speech was more 'political' than newsworthy for live coverage."

We shudder to imagine their decision-making in Weimar Germany. What bigger failure of American media could there be than the President of the United States gives a prime time address in front of Independence Hall about the serious ongoing threat to American democracy and not one of the networks carried it? What an absolute disgrace.

LGBTQ people have been in the MAGA cult's crosshairs all along. We welcomed Biden's speech in which he signaled his support for LGBTQ civil rights in the first five minutes. But anyone who isn't alarmed that all five major networks, not just Fox, refused to air Biden's speech need to get woke. We are at a pivot and if Kevin McCarthy ousts Nancy Pelosi as Speaker in November, queer and trans people will be the first to feel the effects.

So for this, that and the other, you know you really must stay tuned.

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