Grey areas: The Lavender Tube on banned books, guns, abortion and more

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday March 7, 2023
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Gina Rodriguez in 'Not Dead Yet'<br>
Gina Rodriguez in 'Not Dead Yet'

It's Women's History Month, so I'm highlighting some women and women-centric shows.

I haven't mentioned ABC's charming "Not Dead Yet" because I really don't like sitcoms much. But my late wife did, a lot. As a new widow, I wasn't sure I could watch a show with a lot of newly dead people and a widow as a main character. Despite crying through every episode, I really love this series.

Gina Rodriguez plays reporter Nell Serrano, who's been through a bad breakup that screwed up her career and now she's stuck doing obituaries at the only place that will hire her thanks to a favor from her old friend Sam (Hannah Simone).

The show's premise is that Nell sees dead people. All the folks she writes about appear to her. Some of whom stick around after, most of whom move on. Oh, and only Nell sees these people, which leads to lots more hilarity and pathos.

Rodriguez, who everyone loved over the five years she was "Jane the Virgin," is equally, but differently, fantastic here. She captures that sense of being unmoored that kicks in after one's devoted years to a relationship that blows up. Nell moved to the U.K. to be with this guy so now has to completely rebuild her life stateside while being totally broke and heartbroken.

Nell has a bisexual neurodivergent semi-genius environmentalist roommate, Edward (Rick Glassman), who has lots of quirks and hooked up with her first dating app date.

She has a gay guy editor friend, Dennis (Josh Banday) who assigned her obits. And Monty (wonderfully played by Martin Mull), one of her early dead people, hangs out with her to give her advice and watch over his widow.


Million airs

"Not Dead Yet" is sandwiched between the also fabulous award-winning "Abbott Elementary" and the ever-more queer "A Million Little Things" that we hate-watched for several seasons, but genuinely love now in large part due to the remarkable casting of Cameron Esposito as Katherine Kim's (Grace Park) girlfriend as Greta Strobe.

The cast of 'A Million Little Things'  

Katherine was always a fave character of ours, but her surprise relationship with Greta after her marriage with Eddie (David Guintoli) broke up when he fell apart after he was paralyzed, has been all about gender fluidity, bisexuality and chemistry. It's so real and Esposito is just terrific as she tries to navigate the complexity of her relationship with Katherine and Katherine's son Theo (Tristan Byon) and the omnipresent Eddie.

Through it's an ensemble cast, "A Million Little Things" has been addressing cancer, mental illness, Alzheimer's, disability, racism, teen gayness, homeless and pregnancy. It's a lot, but there are strong performers and solid storylines.

This is the fifth and final season of this Boston-based "Big Chill"-ish ensemble series about a group of friends who try to cope with their loss after a central member of their group commits suicide, taking many secrets with him. The show's title is a reference to the saying "Friendship isn't a big thing, it's a million little things." Previous seasons are available on Hulu and You Tube.


Shades of Grey
At season 19, "Grey's Anatomy" is the longest-running prime time series on ABC. The show has been breaking ground for nearly 20 years and still holds the record for the longest-running lesbian or gay relationship on primetime. (The beloved Callie and Arizona.) On the March 2 episode "Grey's" showed a first trimester abortion in real time with the doctor giving a step-by-step explanation of what she was doing.

Adelaide Kane and Briza Covarrubias in 'Grey's Anatomy'  

It was wild to witness, and my tweet about it appeared in People magazine the next day.

A young mother (Briza Covarrubias) comes to the ER with spotting. But when she's examined and told she will be okay, she's devastated and decides to talk to the doctor about an abortion. In her two previous pregnancies, she experienced severe post-partum depression for which medication was not helpful.

She explains that she "went to a dark place" and that she was ill for months. She's worried for the children she has and what might happen to her after another bout of similar depression. It's apparent she thinks she might harm herself and that her children, who she loves, will be hurt.

The abortion doesn't take long. The woman is on her cell phone with her husband the whole time, as he holds her hand virtually. In demistifying the procedure and giving fully accurate medical information about the abortion, "Grey's Anatomy" makes it easier for women to know what to expect. Most importantly, how the series handled the abortion was portrayed as many abortion advocates always describe it: abortion is healthcare.

Joy Behar featured the banned book 'And Tango Makes Three' on 'The View.'  

Two to Tango
Having been sick with whatever this non-COVID virus is that's been traversing the country in our wild climate crisis winter is my excuse for watching "The View" this week. While I remain unclear how this show remains so popular or how otherwise seemingly smart women among the co-hosts can be Republicans, I did catch a fabulous new segment.

Host Joy Behar, who, with Whoopie Goldberg, has been on the show the longest, debuted "Joy's Banned Book Club" on March 3. Her first choice? The delightful award-winning children's picture book, "And Tango Makes Three." The 2005 title by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell tells the story of two male penguins who bonded at the New York Zoo and raised a chick together.

Behar said, "Book bans have become an almost daily occurrence. Last school year alone, there were more than 2,500 instances of books being banned in over 5,000 schools ... even children's books are under fire."

She continued, "So with that in mind, we're introducing a new segment on the show this week, which we like to call 'Joy's Banned Book Club.'

This is a sweet, graceful way to introduce children to the concept of same-sex relationships and non-traditional families."

Fabulous. We hope the book goes viral.


Jon; boy!
Over on Apple+'s "The Problem with Jon Stewart," Stewart eviscerated a GOP State senator from Oklahoma, Nathan Dahm. He wants to ban drag shows but not guns, and has written bills relaxing gun restrictions, including the nation's first anti-red flag law against restricting gun access to those deemed dangerous while putting forward bills to ban drag shows. Dahm says guns make us safer and no child should be allowed anywhere near ... a drag show.

Jon Stewart and Oklahoma GOP senator Nathan Dahm  

On the March 2 episode, "Chaos, Law, and Order," Stewart reads Dahm for the filth he is.

"You're saying more guns makes us more safe," Stewart says. "So when? We've got four hundred million guns in the country. We had an increase and gun deaths went up. So when, exactly, does this curve hit that takes it down? Would a billion guns do it?"

Dahm made some weak First Amendment arguments and Stewart tripped him up repeatedly.

"The leading cause of death among children in the U.S. is not drag show readings, it's firearms ... You don't give a flying fuck about kids."

It's a masterful takedown and Stewart totally owned Dahm. I'll never understand why Republicans keep coming on his show. They never win.


'Alaska,' 'Accused,' awards
"Alaska Daily" is back for the final four episodes of season 1 (hiatus due to star Hilary Swank's surprise pregnancy at 48) and even more powerful. Addressing rightwing inspired violence against journalists, missing Indigenous women, the environmental threat to the Alaskan wilderness and much more.


"Accused" continues to break ground by addressing communities marginalized, dismissed and forgotten by white cis het society. The February 28 episode featured an all-Native/Indigenous cast. This series is too good not to watch.

Are the Oscars going to be fabulous when only Asian actors win March 12? That's our prediction. "Everything Everywhere All at Once" for all the wins. "Everything Everywhere All at Once" is now available to stream with a Showtime add-on on Paramount+ and Amazon or to purchase on Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video.

Martina Navratilova and Julia Lemigova on 'Real Housewives of Miami'  

Double whammy
Finally, tennis legend Martina Navratilova was diagnosed with a breast cancer recurrence as well as throat cancer late last year. Navratilova, 66, told People January 2 she's "processing the dual diagnosis with hope for a positive outcome." She said, "This double whammy is serious but still fixable. I'm hoping for a favorable outcome. It's going to stink for a while but I'll fight with all I have got."

Her spokesperson told People, "The cancer type is HPV and this particular type responds really well to treatment," later stating that the breast cancer is "completely unrelated to the throat cancer. Both of these cancers are in their early stages."

On March 4, Martina's wife, rowdy "Real Housewives of Miami" star and a Russian former model who was Miss USSR 1990, Julia Lemigova told People, her wife's cancer diagnosis has "opened her eyes and altered her outlook on life."


Lemigova said, "After your wife is diagnosed with two cancers, it really changes your perspective. We all have to be strong for her. There is no time for sitting around and crying."

Lemigova, who just cut her long "RHOM" hair as a statement for Martina, said, "And I wanted my hair to illustrate that I am reconnecting with my, well, sophisticated, strong woman who I am, but also showing that in a way I'm doing it for her. And something that I know for sure will put a smile on her face." (People)

Continuing, she said, "I'm a strong believer that when life hits you with a tragedy, no matter how big the tragedy is, you have basically two choices. You submit, or you push back and rebel. And all my life I was, I'm a rebel in a way, and I always push back. So this is just one of those huge tragedies that hit our family. And there is no time or space to sit and cry because that will not help. That will only make things worse."

Lemigova added, "And Martina doesn't need me crying, because even if I want to cry, I'm not going to show it to her."

We wish Martina all the best for remission and a full recovery.

So for the sad and the hilarious, provocative and profane, you know you really must stay tuned.

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