Lavender Tube:: No Trump, all queer

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Wednesday November 1, 2017
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Spoilers ahead, folks. It's been another hellish week in Trumplandia. And now, to make it worse, Det. Jack Samuels (the gorgeous Colton Haynes) has been shot through the head by Beverly Hope (Adina Porter), and that means no more hot gay sex every episode of "American Horror Story: Cult," and we are sad.

A moment of silence for the white-blonde, super-buff, Tom of Finland-drawing-come-to-life beauty that was Det. Jack Samuels. At least we got to see the, no pun intended, back story on how Jack went from brutal top to pliant bottom as Kai (Evan Peters) showed him how Jack "deserved to take after years of giving." The gay sex in "Cult" has been phenomenally good and realistic. Kai is the one truly believable bisexual man on the tube, enjoying his male and female partners with equal alacrity.

But despite the passion of the sex between Kai and Jack, even we could see that Kai's decision to impregnate his sister Winter (Billie Lourde) with his messianic seed via a really perverse threeway with Jack was the proverbial writing-on-the-wall. These "Handmaid's Tale" stories never end well.

The series ends Nov. 14, and we aren't sure where we'll sublimate our anti-Trump rage then. If you haven't watched this season, it's on demand just waiting for you in all its gay and lesbian glory. Though we'd like more than just polite fingering and kissing among the lesbians.

"American Horror Story" showrunner Ryan Murphy is making history again with his latest series, scheduled to air on FX next season. "Pose" is a drama set in 1980s New York and will feature the rise of Donald Trump's luxe world, the social and literary scene that was ultra-chic then, and of course, ball culture. "Pose" will also star five transgender actors in series regular roles. This casting means "Pose" will have the largest-ever cast of trans actors on any scripted series.

Murphy is co-creating "Pose" with his longtime collaborator Brad Falchuk and his latest protege, Steven Canals, described by Deadline as an "up-and-coming writer discovered by Murphy." Canals is doing scriptwriting with Janet Mock and "Transparent"'s Our Lady J. This show is going to be amazing.

"Pose" is part of Murphy's Half initiative, his vital new directing mentorship program. This means Murphy will bring in emerging transgender directors for some of the series, which is, you know, fantastic. As it currently stands, Murphy has already achieved his goal of gender parity in directing on his various series, with women filling more than half the slots. Angela Bassett and Jennifer Lynch have been directing this season of "AHS."

As Murphy told The Hollywood Reporter about his Half initiative last December, since his first show, "Popular" in 1999, he's wanted more diversity in TV. "I walked onto the set, and it was all straight white dudes in their 50s," said Murphy, now 52 himself, but back then a gay white guy in his 30s. "I remember feeling like a stranger in a strange land, and it was my own show."

The importance of Murphy's Half initiative cannot be overstated. Only 17% of directors are women, which may account for why women only get 23% of speaking roles. As we have written here for two decades, when we're behind the camera, we're in front of the camera. It takes directors and showrunners who are us to get us on the screen, be it small or big. Our stories - our real, true, authentic stories - only come via having us tell them: women, people of color, LGBTQ.

Murphy promotes inclusivity in a business that the Weinstein scandal has made clear is still very much a white guy system. Murphy told THR, "I sat down with every department head on every show that I make and said, 'You need to hire 50% women when you can. If you don't have them, like the grip department, train them."

Some women showrunners (there aren't many) were already doing this, but as we know, it's the men who have the power to propel this process forward.

Shonda Rhimes has had a near 50/50 gender ratio of directors on her series since her very first season of "Grey's Anatomy" in 2005. That series is now in its 14th season, and "Scandal" is in its seventh season. The Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay has hired women to direct every episode of seasons one and two of "Queen Sugar." Peter Nowalk, who is openly gay, is the showrunner for "How To Get Away with Murder," which is executive produced by Rhimes. Nowalk was a writer on "Grey's" and "Scandal," and he too has a near 50/50 mix of directors.

With "Pose," Ryan Murphy is expanding his efforts to include more actors of color and women on the small screen. "Pose" will be telling the stories of trans and gay persons of color.

Canals told The Hollywood Reporter, "Ryan has assembled a strong team of storytellers and innovators to collaborate on telling this important narrative. As a Bronx-bred queer writer of color, I'm honored to aid in ushering this groundbreaking show into homes." "Pose" begins production this month.

Madam moves

While we're happy to see Arizona with a new love on "Grey's Anatomy," we have really missed her ex-wife, Callie, because we legit love Sara Ramirez, who exited the series over a year ago at the end of season 12, after 10 years on the show. So we're thrilled that Ramirez is coming back to the tube, joining the cast of "Madam Secretary." The underutilized and woefully miscast Bebe Neuwirth exited last week, announcing that exit in a series of lovely tweets on Oct. 23. The Tony-winning Neuwirth never felt like a true fit on the CBS series, where she was in the restrictive, straitened role of Elizabeth McCord's (Tea Leoni) mostly humorless chief of staff Nadine Tolliver, who was always tasked with being the naysayer and the adult in the room.

Neuwirth was with the series from the beginning, so this seemingly sudden leave-taking mid-season was a bit of a shock. The good news is the show is replacing her with another Tony-winner, Ramirez.

The photo of Ramirez touting her new role is swoon-worthy. She previously wore her black hair long, and attired her seriously curvaceous figure in dresses that accentuated those curves. The new look, which we pray is how her "Madame Secretary" character will dress, since she introduced her character on her Twitter account with this photo, is full-on butch drag. Her hair is now short with buzzed sides and a pompadour. She was wearing a fab men's suit jacket in a muted plaid, black-dotted shirt and long black tie and black suspenders. It was full gender-non-conforming gorgeousness, and we are so here for it.

Ramirez will play Kat Sandoval, a brilliant yet reclusive political strategist who was legendary in the Beltway until she disappeared off the map, much like Elizabeth herself had done prior to being lured back by President Dalton, which is how the series began.

Ramirez, whose character on "Grey's Anatomy" was bisexual, came out as bisexual herself on Coming Out Day 2016. The Mexican-born actress has long been an activist for LGBTQ causes, particularly with regard to teens. Our only regret is that the Julliard grad will not be in a role where she can sing, as she periodically did on "Grey's Anatomy."

"Madam Secretary" is clearly excited at the prospect of Ramirez joining the show, and is touting her on Twitter. There are far too few Latina actresses on the tube outside of Fusion and Telemundo, so Ramirez' return is welcome. She debuts on "Madam Secretary" Nov. 19. We will be giving thanks for that.

Shonda Rhimes may be leaving ABC for Netflix, but she is putting 110% into her series before she goes, and that includes messaging. The Oct. 26 episode of "Grey's Anatomy" was about some of the Grey-Sloane docs when they were medics in Iraq, and actor Kevin McKidd (Owen) did a PSA at the end for homeless vets.

But it was "Scandal" that left us moved and shaken with its tale of missing black girls in America, and how the media ignores these stories while focusing on ones like that of blonde white girls like Elizabeth Smart.

There is a scene where Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) is standing before a wall of photos of missing black teenagers who the media has disregarded, and it takes one's breath away to think of the sheer volume. At the end of the show, in a PSA, Washington detailed how more than 50% of the missing kids in America are kids of color. Yet all non-white races and ethnicities in the U.S. only total 34%. Worse still is that over one-third of missing juveniles in 2016 were black, but only 13% of the population is black. Shonda Rhimes is doing vital messaging while also telling a compelling story.

A surprising side storyline on the same episode was between Cyrus (Jeff Perry) and Fenton Glackland (Dean Norris). There's something about secure, over-50 gay sex that is very appealing because it's so taboo. When you consider all the neutered gay men on the tube who are not allowed to be sexual, from Cam and Mitchell on "Modern Family" to Will and Jack on "Will & Grace," watching Dean Norris' Fenton coming on to Cyrus, then Cyrus complaining to Mellie (Bellamy Young) that Fenton isn't attractive enough because his former hustler ex-husband Michael was fabulous-looking, was hyper-realistic in a really good way. More to come on that relationship.

Connor (Jack Falahee) goes to see Annalise (Viola Davis) feeling suicidal on the Oct. 26 episode of "How to Get Away with Murder," and says he wants to die. She's less than sympathetic, even though we're sure Connor was her favorite at one point, and we're hoping she hires him back. We are worried about our fave gay slut because the visit from his gay dads was overwhelming for him and made him view his relationship with Oliver entirely differently than he had been. Maybe he's not the marrying kind after all. But there's no question he's in a serious spin.

Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) is working for Michaela (Aja Naomi King) and Laurel (Karla Souza), so he has no time to hang out with his fiance. Connor has dropped out of law school and is spending his days watching men strip, getting drunk and checking guys out on Tinder. He doesn't know what to do with himself, so he does nothing, but it's making him mentally unstable, and that means he's vulnerable to Annalise and her various schemes.

Meanwhile, Bonnie (Liza Weil) is replaying the time she kissed the bisexual Annalise over and over in her head, and reveals to her shrink that she loves her. But loves her how? Annalise rescued her years ago, as we finally learn from the backstory that was revealed, but their relationship is incredibly complex. And dangerous. Annalise vacillates between men and women, so will she and Bonnie connect in a romantic/sexual way, or has Bonnie done too much damage to their relationship? The flashback plot devices on "HTGAWM" can be maddening as we wait to discover who the next victim will be, and whether or not Annalise and Bonnie can reunite.

Crafty Amy

There isn't anyone quite like Amy Sedaris. Quirky is a word we try never to use, but it's the most apt description of the comedian-actress-author-crafter. Years ago we saw her on some late-night show, Leno or Letterman, making grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron with Martha Stewart. We're certain it was just after Stewart got out of prison, so it was a bit like an episode of "Orange Is the New Black," and Stewart seemed unamused by the peripatetic Sedaris. Yet the two have so much in common. Stewart is the queen of the old-style "hospitality" show that involves cooking, entertaining, and of course, crafting.

Sedaris is herself a queen of all those things. But she's also very odd. The strangest thing we ever saw Martha Stewart do was wash and block a sweater, which took the entire program, a T-square, a tape measure and about 100 gallons of water. The strangest things we've seen Sedaris do were show David Letterman how to make clothes for squirrels, and offer an alien who just landed a spaceship one of her famous cheese balls like the ones she used to sell out of her apartment.

That alien was on "At Home with Amy Sedaris," the comedian-crafter's new must-see series. It debuted Oct. 24 on truTV, and it is fabulous. Sedaris, who is also currently co-starring on two comedies, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and "Bojack Horseman," brings all the quirkiness to the yard in this variety show cum crafter show cum kitsch classic.

It's difficult to explain why Amy Sedaris is so hilarious. She just is. She once said, "You know when you watch old movies, it's always the small parts you remember, the character actors who come in like a breath of fresh air." That's her. She's that fresh, nothing like it anywhere, breath of fresh air.

She's not gay like her older brother David, but pretty much everything Amy Sedaris does reads as High Camp and Gay As F*ck. She's mesmerizing as she talks about crafting, with bon mots tossed in along the way like, "I think it's good for a person to spend time alone. It gives them an opportunity to discover who they are, and to figure out why they are always alone." Or, "The moment someone says, 'Hey, everyone, listen to the words in this song,' your party is over." Or, "My mother always said, 'Don't bother other people.' I think that's good advice."

Sedaris' tips on crafting will leave you howling as she removes cheese slices from those pieces of paper and explains you want to save the paper because it's good for taking off make-up, and gently pats her cheeks with one. She prepares a bath with a knee-high stocking filled with oatmeal, and as it drips into the tub suggests if one is peckish in the bath, it can be eaten.

Like Martha Stewart's and other hospitality shows, there are guests, like Stephen Colbert, Rachel Dratch and Jane Krakowski. These visitors to Sedaris' odd little set bring with them a comedic familiarity that adds a touch of verisimilitude. For a brief moment we feel as if we're watching an actual cooking or crafting show, as the guests are both interviewees and participants in the making of increasingly odd foodstuffs. There are endless jokes, sketches and cautionary tales (beware snakes in the knitting basket). The weirdness never feels forced or unfunny. It feels impromptu, unscripted and truly bizarre in a way that's incredibly engaging.

Finally, for your November viewing, Netflix began streaming its second season of "Stranger Things" on Oct. 27. You know you were waiting. Also back on BBC2 is season four of the superb "Peaky Blinders," which will be available on Netflix immediately, in the next week or so, for those who don't have BBC2, which is everybody. "Alias Grace," another of Margaret Atwood's iconic novels, has been turned into a stunning Netflix series, which starts streaming Nov. 3. "Damnation," another period piece, this one set in the heartland, premieres on USA Nov. 7.

So for all this truly luscious gay fare, plus crafting tips you'll never forget, you know you really must stay tuned.

The gorgeous Colton Haynes as Det. Jack Samuels on "American Horror Story: Cult."