Presents and presence: The Lavender Tube on holiday treats and 2022's best in shows

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday December 27, 2022
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Kyle Dean Massey and Taylor Frey in 'A Christmas to Treasure'
Kyle Dean Massey and Taylor Frey in 'A Christmas to Treasure'

We love the holidays, so in addition to eight days of Chanukah, we have 12 days of Christmas, which means there's plenty of time left to watch some queer Christmas movies and make the Yuletide gay, right?

As the year draws to a close we need as much time curled up and cozy and decompressing as we can get as the holidays can be stressful for queer and trans folks. Philadelphia Gay News

Gay gifts

Hallmark and Lifetime answered the call for LGBTQ holiday content with two new films for 2022. Lifetime's "A Christmas to Treasure" is one of those "Big Chill" style films that follows six childhood friends who reunite in their sleepy little hometown. They've all gotten invitations to return for a treasure hunt after the passing of a beloved neighbor whose house is about to be turned into a holiday resort.

But Austin Craig (Taylor Frey) and his former best friend, Everett Matthews (Kyle Dean Massey), were unaware that they would both be there and it's awkward. Yet as the treasure hunt heats up (it's a lot of fun), the connection between Austin and Everett takes center stage. Romance might be the true treasure of the story.

We watch far too many Lifetime movies and "A Christmas to Treasure" follows the network's formula well, including Lifetime's dedication to always having a Black bestie to help guide the troubled white protagonist.

A fun element of this movie is that the two gay leads are married in real life. Frey and Massey got married in 2016 and last fall they welcomed their first child, daughter Rafa Massey-Frey, via surrogate on Halloween. It does not get gayer than that, friends.

George Krissa and Jonathan Bennett in 'The Holiday Sitter'  

Sitting in
Hallmark's "The Holiday Sitter" is a sly romance about family. Single gay workaholic Sam (out gay actor Jonathan Bennett) is packing for vacation in Hawaii when he gets a call asking him to take care of his niece and nephew.

Sam is not a kid person and hilarity —and disaster— ensues. Enter Jason (out Canadian actor, musician and hottie George Krissa —you'll want to check out his pics online, seriously), the sexy single neighbor who is totally kid-friendly and knows how to do everything as he is in the process of adopting a child.

Sam literally falls for Jason (it's a cute scene). Romance sneaks into the holiday festivities and there are ugly Christmas sweaters and a fireplace and, well, it's Hallmark for gays. "The Holiday Sitter" is charming and delightful and only a Grinch wouldn't love it.

Bennett, who executive-produced the film, said in an interview with NBC News that he and Krissa would "look at each other and [be] like, 'We're about to shoot two boys meeting and falling in love in a Christmas rom-com on Hallmark.' We knew how much it was going to mean to so many people watching it."

As we always say, representation matters.

The Year in TV
2022 was a pretty terrible year for many of us. We had the monkeypox outbreak, and many incidents of anti-LGBTQ harassment, discrimination and violence. There were far too many killings of trans people (yet again). There were attacks on drag shows.

Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ policies promoted by GOP legislators made life more hellish for queer and trans folks. Brittney Griner spent most of 2022 as a political prisoner of Vladimir Putin. And Donald Trump and his quisling cohorts refused to go away.

As awful as the sociopolitical landscape was, TV was absolutely spectacular. There was so much drag, the introduction of a number of non-binary and trans actors into non-gay TV shows, and a panoply of really good series TV that held up throughout every episode.

Here's our list of what we thought was the best TV of the year. Not all of it is queer. Possibly our favorite new drama series this year was ABC's stellar "Alaska Daily." It's difficult sometimes to articulate why a series has a queer sensibility while not actually having queer characters, but "Alaska Daily" does that.

It's subversive and transgressive and female-driven. It's about racism and misogyny and truth to power and what happens when women take on the toxicity of patriarchy in all its elements. It's about the epidemic of missing indigenous women in the U.S. and how those women have been treated as expendable. It's about how local news must take on the issues that national news does not.

"Alaska Daily" is an underrated series that deserves to be on every list of the top series of the year. And indigenous actress Rita Dove is superlative, more than holding her own against two-time Best Actress Oscar winner Hilary Swank.

Perhaps the best gay show of 2022 was Netflix's "Heartstopper," a British queer coming-of-age series based on Alice Oseman's graphic novel. As the title implies, it is heartbreaking good as it tells the story of Charlie (Joe Locke) and Nick (Kit Connor) and their developing friendship and feelings for each other. It's breathtakingly lovely and you absolutely don't want to miss it.

The best drag shows of the year were, "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars" (Paramount+) and "Legendary" (HBO Max). RuPaul Charles is 62, friends, and magnificent as ever, aging gracefully and graciously. RuPaul says that drag challenges the status quo and is a political act. And haven't we seen that in 2022?

In no particular order, these are the rest of the year's best TV series. All have queer content and some have queer leads.

The hellish industry tradition of cancelling lesbian-themed series continued in 2022. The interracial lesbian love story cum vampire series "First Kill" was canceled after one spectacular and bloody season by Netflix.

HBO canceled the highly rated historical BBC drama "Gentleman Jack" after two seasons. The series is set in 1830s Yorkshire and stars Suranne Jones as the noted landowner and industrialist Anne Lister. "Gentleman Jack" is based on Lister's voluminous diaries of her long lesbian life and relationships—diaries replete with secret codes and over four million words. BBC wants to continue the series, so they could yet find another partner now that HBO has bailed.

Other queer historical dramas that were superb are Amazon Prime Video's "A League of Their Own," which melds lesbianism and baseball and racism, and AMC's "Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire," which is just sumptuous and sexy and very bloody, but so, so sexy. The AMC series is everything the film version of Rice's iconic book was not. The acting is stellar and the sets are fabulous.

The frolicsome gay historical comedy "Our Flag Means Death" (HBO Max) is simply perfect. FX's "What We Do in the Shadows" is semi-historical and 100% hilarious in the same quirky and off-beat way of "OFMD."

We love ABC's "Big Sky," which is less queer this season, but still stellar. The addition of Reba McIntire as a complex woman with many secrets was pure David Kelley. She's fabulous.

"Law & Order: Organized Crime" continued its run as the most subversive of the 33-year "Law & Order" franchise. The series maintains a Black lesbian lead in Danielle Moné Truitt's as Sergeant Ayanna Bell, along with other lesbian characters. "The L Word's" Ilene Chaiken continues to bring it as one of the show's creators.

"The White Lotus" (HBO Max), "Severence" (Apple TV+), "Los Espookys" (HBO), "Wednesday" (Netflix), "Only Murders in the Building" (Hulu), "Yellowjackets" (Showtime) and "Magpie Murders" (BBC/PBS) all succeeded in bringing captivating suspense, humor and queerness. These are all magnificent series, all very different, all uniquely compelling and all seamlessly bringing the lesbian, gay, bi and gender nonconforming characters to the fore.

Honorable mentions to the latest iteration of "Queer As Folk" (Showtime), "Uncoupled" (Netflix) and the often too bloody and over-the-top but still utterly queer "Chucky" (USA/Syfy). There was also a plethora of animated series with queer characters, though none rising to the level of wholly queer or wholly superb programming.

Not on this list are any of the straight bests of the year like "The Bear," "Andor," "House of the Dragon" or "We Own This City," all of which are worth watching. You can read those straight lists in mainstream media. When we started this column nearly 30 years ago, we always ran a segment on "news you're not seeing." There is a lot of queer TV that doesn't get rated by legacy media. We want to maintain that balance.

Here's wishing you all the most soothing of holidays and a New Year that brings you joy and good health and all of us less hate for LGBTQ people. So until we meet again next year, remember to stay tuned.

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