Brought to you by the letter P

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday July 25, 2017
Share this Post:
Russia Week on "The Late Show with Stephen<br>Colbert." Photo: Courtesy the subject
Russia Week on "The Late Show with Stephen
Colbert." Photo: Courtesy the subject

Last week was Russia Week on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert." While Trump was asking his ever-changing legal team of mob lawyers about pardons and Rachel Maddow deconstructed more minutiae, the irascible comedic thorn in Trump's side began his visit to Russia on July 17, but deemed July 20 his favorite.

Thursday night was "pee pee tape" night. Colbert acknowledged this was what he had gone in search of, the site of the much-vaunted MI6 dossier alleging Trump had had a golden romp with some Moscow "hookers," to quote James Comey. "This might be my favorite night of the entire Russia Week," he began. "This is why I really went."

All of Russia Week was fun. We enjoyed The Oligarch quite a bit. But the golden night was, well, golden. "The wildest accusations in that dossier have never been confirmed," said Colbert. He told an eager audience that since the MSM had decided the "real news" in the MI6 dossier was "too salacious," he was going to investigate himself, because "it's the only part we care about! Well, guess what! There was one man brave enough to go to Moscow and check it out."

Then Colbert led a chant of "Pee pee tape," which must have made Trump furious, if he was still awake. There were interviews on the street, with Colbert asking everyone he met: Did anyone know of the tape? Then he explained he had rented the same room where the incident had allegedly transpired: Room 1101, the presidential suite of the Moscow Ritz-Carlton. Then he rolled the footage of his stay.

Wow. Those who were addicted to MTV's "Cribs," like we were, would recognize the "and here we have" tour of the suite's 10– (yes, 10) rooms with various views of the Kremlin. A voiceover explains, "But there's only one room you want to see in this suite," and then we see Colbert in the doorway of the bedroom.

This is what we came to see: Where Trump allegedly paid prostitutes to urinate on the bed used by former Pres. Obama and Mrs. Obama during an official state visit to Russia. "The room we've heard so much about, yet no one has come to check it out. I don't know why," said Colbert. "This room is soaked in history. It just washes over you. It's not even like it's in the past – ur-ine history." Oh my.

Since any tell-tale laundry would have been long gone, Colbert took a page from "CSI" and demanded, "Hit the lights!" Then, with a blacklight, he searched for clues. Finally he found what he was looking for, scrawled on the wall: "Fake news. Never happened."

"Join us as our investigative journalism continues," Colbert said, as he jumped on the bed chanting, "Pee-pee tape."

The biggest TV news of the week was the reveal of the 13th Dr. Who. The first female Dr. Who will be played by "Broadchurch" alum Jodie Whittaker, who succeeds Peter Capaldi, who took over the role in 2013 and leaves in the forthcoming Christmas special. Whittaker was thrilled, noting being chosen for the role was "overwhelming, as a feminist." She will be working with "Broadchurch" creator Chris Chibnall, the new showrunner for "Dr. Who." Whittaker said, "I'm beyond excited to begin this epic journey with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet. It's more than an honor to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope. I can't wait."

While Whittaker was embracing the Whovians, not all Whovians were reciprocating. What happened to Whittaker after the July 16 announcement was straight out of every woman-hating playbook. We were still surprised at the levels not-all-men will go to reclaim any of their lost turf. This is, btw, why we are certain there's a pee-pee tape somewhere. The territory must be marked.

The choice of Whittaker was exalted by women and girls. But many male Dr. Who fans flipped out, just as they had when "Ghostbusters" was re-made with women. Some of the hysteria was a call for a boycott of the show until the producers come to their senses and fire Whittaker. But as always, much of it was threatening and violent, claiming that the "evil bitch" Whittaker was going to kill the show.

"Dr. Who" is one of those cult franchises that has been around for so long it's deeply embedded in British culture specifically and sci-fi culture globally. There's no one who doesn't know "Dr. Who," even if they are (what's wrong with you?) not a fan. The show began on BBC in 1963, and ran without interruption through 1989. It had an unsuccessful reboot in the late 90s, then began anew in 2005, and has been golden ever since.

No doubt Whittaker, who's a superb actress with a long resume, will be ace as Dr. Who, and the furor will tamp down. But the effort to undermine her talent and the impact of a woman in the role has been disheartening, and has gone well beyond social media trolls to editorials in various dailies.

Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson contextualized the vile backlash against Whittaker, BBC and the "Dr. Who" franchise succinctly: "The Sun paired a derisive editorial about Whittaker with a collection of nude screen-captures from her previous work, including the 2006 Oscar-nominated film 'Venus.' The Sun's Adam Postans wrote via editorial: 'It is frankly nauseating that [the BBC] should now get on their sci-fi high horse and gallop into Right-Onsville to plonk a woman sheriff in town.' The editorial is regressive in its own right, but the decision from The Sun, The Mail Online, and more to pore over Whittaker's filmography for out-of-context stills of the actress in a state of undress is in even worst taste."

The language used to describe Whittaker was appalling. One piece says Whittaker "has a saucy screen past, a trip back in time reveals. At 24, she flashed her boobs at film legend Peter O'Toole in the 2006 movie 'Venus.'" As if this were Whittaker's "saucy" idea and not a scripted part of the role she was playing. "O'Toole's character licked her neck three times as she posed naked for a painting." Then there was, "She also performed a raunchy sex scene in an episode of the satirical TV show ‘Black Mirror.'" Really, guys?

On July 21, two former Drs. Who clashed at a panel at San Diego's Comic-Con in discussing the casting of Whittaker. Peter Davison, who played the Doctor from 1981-84, said he "liked the idea" of a male Doctor, and that he felt "a bit sad" the character might no longer be "a role model for boys."

His successor, Colin Baker, was succinct. "Rubbish. You don't have to be of a gender to be a role model," said the actor, who portrayed the Doctor from 1984-86. "Can't you be a role model as people?"

Such enlightenment from Baker, who has four daughters and who asserted, rightly, that "Dr. Who" had presented "54 years of male role models" and it might be time for a female. The TARDIS did right by him.

Ironically, the original showrunner back in the 1960s was female, Verity Lambert. She in turn chose a gay Asian director, Waris Hussein, for the pilot and subsequent episodes. So the handkerchief-twisting is a bit ahistorical.

Whittaker responded to the drama in perfect "Dr. Who" character. "I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and 'Dr.Who' represents everything that's exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one." That she had to say it at all in 2017, though: Sigh.

 

Misting up

We love Spike TV's newest rendering of Stephen King's "The Mist," and a gay scene in the July 20 episode surprised and shocked us. Back in episode 1, Tyler (Christopher Gray) called Adrian (Russell Posner) a "faggot" at the party Adrian and Alex (Gus Birney) attended. Adrian was hot for the blond tight end, and had told Alex so at the football game earlier.

Now that the mist has taken over the town, things are dicey, and people are taking all kinds of risks. As Kevin deals with a stricken family member he discovers at the hospital, Adrian spies Tyler and follows him into the men's room.

Once there the boys stand side-by-side at the urinals, and there's some small talk about what brought them there. Then, hand-washing completed, Adrian kisses Tyler. We see the moment where Tyler responds. Then we see fear take over (there really is a gay panic thing for some closet cases). Tyler pulls back. He starts yelling at Adrian, then punches him. Once Adrian is sprawled on the white tile floor, Tyler kicks him. It's an ugly, violent scene as Tyler, sobbing, demands to know why Adrian kissed him as he beats him.

In the End Times, people take myriad risks. Adrian staggers to his feet. Tyler hasn't left. He's flattened himself against the wall and is in a state of self-revelation. Adrian, his face bloodied, walks over to him and softly kisses him again. And again. And again. Real kisses. Tender kisses. Passionate lip-upon-lip, mouths-eager-for-each-other kisses. Soon the boys are making out, and if we could ever get past the "OMG, boys kissing on TV!" aspect of such scenes, we would be able to be more in-the-moment and appreciate the depth of their connection. Then "The Mist" cuts away from the boys to show some more horrific stuff, because this is a dystopian thriller.

Later we see Adrian lounging in a chair. Mia (Danica Curcic), who's having a very bad time of it and has had some kind of epiphany we don't yet understand, comes up to him. Seeing Adrian's bloodied face, she asks, "What happened to you?" Adrian responds, "I had sex." Mia pauses, then says, "Remember your safe word next time. Mine is dolphin." Adrian makes a dolphin sound.

It's a moment of wry levity between the two always-snarky characters in the midst of the hellishness that is their new mist reality. It feels real. We like Adrian's cat-who-ate-the-canary look, and we like Mia's totally accepting riposte. We hope we see Adrian and Tyler again.

Can it be true? Is "The L Word" returning for a reboot? The beloved series ran for six seasons between 2004-09, and we still miss Bette, Shane, Kit, Papi and the rest of the lesbo WeHo gang. In the best news of this week, creator Ilene Chaiken and Showtime are talking. Three of the show's original characters – Bette (Jennifer Beals), Shane (Kate Moennig) and Alice (Leisha Hailey) – will be bridging the gap between the old cast and the new storyline. Beals, Moennig and Hailey will be producers. Chaiken, who's been working with Lee Daniels on "Empire" since it debuted, will executive produce.

There's no overstating how important "The L Word" was as queer TV, and how desperately a reboot is needed in this era of murdering lesbian characters. GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis agrees with us. She told Deadline, "The past few years have seen lesbian and queer women characters killed off in shockingly high numbers. It's refreshing and exciting to see 'The L Word' returning to TV, where it can tell nuanced, entertaining and beautiful stories of a largely underrepresented community."

There's no group in the LGBTQ sandwich less represented on the tube than lesbians, so we hope all goes well with this revival, as it has for "Will & Grace," which returns on Sept. 28 to NBC as the pivot to their Thursday night comedy lineup.

The wake for "True Blood" actor Nelsan Ellis, who died suddenly on July 8, was held in Chicago on July 21. Ellis had been trying to detox on his own from alcohol addiction, according to his family. Heart failure was the cause of death, but alcoholism, which his fans didn't know he suffered from, killed him. He was 39.

We adored Ellis from the first time we saw him as Lafayette Reynolds, the gayest character on TV, on HBO's "True Blood." Ellis, who later was a judge on "RuPaul's Drag Race," created a character we hadn't seen on television before, although all of us have known a Lafayette in real life. Lafayette was the only black gay male character on scripted TV in 2008 when the show debuted. While it would be several seasons before Lafayette would get someone to be gay with, as Ellis played him, Lafayette's gayness filled up all the missing space where other gay characters should have been. The head wrap. The heavy eye makeup and false eyelashes. The mannerisms. The voice. The exuberant, natural gayness that was Lafayette the short-order cook who always had some soupcon of mama-done-told-me to add to your meal.

There were bigger roles on "True Blood," but there was no more central character than Lafayette, and that was down to Ellis. In a tribute he wrote for his former castmate, Stephen Moyer said, "I think it would be fair to say that [Ellis] taught all of us that intent, courage, fearlessness and freedom are the aspects of playing make-believe that spark the corners of the room where the dark is most impenetrable. Nelsan had that electricity in an abundance I have rarely seen. I can't believe he's gone."

Ellis was a gifted actor and playwright, a graduate of Julliard and of intense poverty. He'd been a ward of the state from the age of eight, and he explained in a series of interviews with Chicago Sun Times columnist Maudlyne Ihejirika the ways in which it scarred him.

Ellis's portrayal of Lafayette was real, true, and something to behold. He said he put on the makeup, listened to Rihanna, channeled his mother, and he was there. Ellis was an actor's actor. That was as apparent from watching him as it is from Moyer's touching tribute. His Lafayette was one of those gay characters who could have devolved into stereotype and one-dimensionality. Instead, Ellis' Lafayette was a fabulous, larger-than-life character whom Ellis imbued with a fierce realism that was utterly captivating.

So for the tragic and the comic, the courageous and the cowardly, the Doctor and the TARDIS, and the varied views of the Kremlin, you know you really must stay tuned.