Fabulous & fractious: The Lavender Tube on drag queens, death cleans, and CNN's careen

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday May 16, 2023
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Neil Patrick Harris, Bianca Del Rio and David Burtka in 'Drag Me to Dinner'
Neil Patrick Harris, Bianca Del Rio and David Burtka in 'Drag Me to Dinner'

With the GOP passing anti-LGBTQ laws every week and taking a stronger stand against queer and trans people existing than against sedition, watching drag feels like a revolutionary act. So watch we shall!

The late Heklina in 'Drag Me to Dinner'  

Drag Me to Dinner
Hulu's "Drag Me to Dinner" is hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and husband David Burtka. It's a drag show, cooking show, home improvement show, Real Housewives-ish show and generally entertaining as it promises "Culinary Costumed Chaos."

"Drag Me to Dinner" also includes the last filmed appearance by the late, great San Francisco legend Heklina, who passed suddenly in London last month.

Another local queen, Peaches Christ, makes an appearance. Judges include Bianca Del Rio, David Burtka, Neil Patrick Harris and Haneefah Wood. The presenter is New York City comedian and drag king entertainer Murray Hill. The show debuts on Hulu May 31.

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars (season 8)
Season 8 of "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars" promises lots and lots of queenly drama.

'RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Season 8'  

The series continues with RuPaul as host and judge, with Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, Ross Mathews, and Ts Madison returning on the judging panel. Other fun drop-ins include JoJo Siwa, Zooey Deschanel, Idina Menzel and "Saturday Night Live" alums Ego Nwodim and Bowen Yang.

According to Paramount+, the season will feature a new twist to the show's format. In addition to competing for a spot in the Drag Race Hall of Fame, a parallel competition for the title of Queen of the Fame Games will take place. Over the course of the season, viewers of the show will vote on unused runway looks from the eliminated contestants and the queen with the fan-favorite outfit will win a $50,000 prize. Look forward to catfights on the catwalk!

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning
"The Art of Swedish Death Cleaning" is that show you didn't know you needed. Based on Margareta Magnusson's bestselling book, this transformation series (yes, that's a thing now; we all need transformation) is narrated by Amy Poehler. People are given a chance to organize their homes, lives and relationships before it's too late. "Listen up: everyone is going to die!" Poehler tells us. Now what?

An organizer, Ella, a designer, Johan, and a psychologist, Katrina ¬— known as the Death Cleaners — head to America from Sweden to help eight people in Kansas City face their mortality, speak honestly about death and confront all that has been collecting dust for years. It's sort of like Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" meets Ikea. The concept is that transforming one's home will lead to transforming one's inner self.

It's powerful stuff, but with an air of lightness. As one of the lucky de-clutter-ees says, "I knew you were going to declutter my house, I didn't think you were going to declutter my soul."

Sue, a lesbian artist, in 'The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning'  

In one episode, The Death Cleaners aid Sue, an artist who helped build a lesbian-safe section of Kansas City in the 1980s, who hasn't been able to clean her "organized heaps" of art since the love of her life died of COVID-19. In another, The Death Cleaners help Suzi, a sassy 75-year-old woman surrounded by phallic souvenirs from her travels and a lifetime of photos from her years as a singing waitress, let go of the past. In another episode there's a drag show and there's quite a lot of queerness throughout.

Speaking as someone recently bereaved by the death of a spouse, I think everyone can benefit from the lessons of this show.

Executive producer Poehler talked to Today show host Hoda Kotb about the Peacock series and its impact on her.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton
Everybody loves a period piece and everyone loves a thriller. BritBox's "The Confessions of Frannie Langton" is both. A servant and former slave are accused of murdering a plantation owner and his wife. Moving from Jamaican sugar fields to the fetid streets of Georgian London, exploring one woman's haunted fight to tell her story, BAFTA-winning director Andrea Harkin takes us on a deep and haunting journey in this four-part British series.

Sophie Cookson, Karla Simone-Spence and Jodhi May in 'The Confessions of Frannie Langton' (photo: Itvx/Drama Republic)  

Based on the novel by Sara Collins and adapted by Collins, the series stars Karla-Simone Spence as Frannie Langton, Sophie Cookson as Madame Marguerite Benham and Stephen Campbell Moore as George Benham. Frannie's relationship with Marguerite Benham begins over their shared enjoyment of books and reading and then becomes deeply, irrevocably emotional and sexual., and complicated by their respective roles.

The sets are lush and very "Bridgerton." The acting is superb, the direction deft, Collins script crisp and emotive and believable. It's absolutely stellar and must-watch TV; on Britbox Apple TV Channel , BritBox, BritBox Amazon Channel.

Tony Awards Off
The Writers Guild of America writer's strike is beginning to hit hard. Late night TV is nothing but reruns, and now the first big prime time casualty is the Tony Awards, often referred to as the gay Super Bowl. Attempts to negotiate a work-around on a live broadcast with the Writer's Guild failed (as it should!) and the June broadcast is now on hold, threatening some shows like "Some Like It Hot" in desperate need of a win. (Twitter)

Donald Trump and CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins  

In political TV
On Mother's Day, "Fox & Friends" host Rachel Campos-Duffy said more men should be killers, if they really want to prove they are masculine. Campos-Duffy was talking about the killing of a homeless man, Jordan Neely, by ex-Marine Daniel Perry, currently charged with manslaughter. She said, "I think we live in a culture that already has a crisis of masculinity where so many young people are walking around."

Campos said "gender-confused" men could forget they are supposed to kill other men to protect women. "There are plenty of videos of online of, you know, crazy people punching women in the face and then the men around them doing nothing."

She said, "They don't know. They're gender confused. Am I a woman? Am I a man? What am I? Am I binary?" Wow.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. isn't just a radical anti-vaxxer QAnon loon whose own family has disavowed his politics. The Democratic challenger to Biden's presumptive nomination next year who already has a disturbing 20 percent in the polls, Kennedy came out last week as anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans. Kennedy told CNN's Michael Smerconish, "I am against people participating in women's sports who are biologically male," the Democratic presidential candidate said. "I think women have worked too hard to develop women's sports over the past 30 years. I watched it happen, and I don't think that's fair."

We would be remiss if we didn't comment on all the hand-wringing and fist-shaking about CNN's town hall with Donald Trump. If you didn't watch, or are suddenly on team #BoycottCNN, we did watch and live-tweeted and came away with a critical takeaway. Trump will be the nominee next year and his devotees are more committed than the folks swigging the KoolAid at Jonestown (not to make light of that horror, simply to contextualize).

The handful of Republicans running for president alongside Trump who are already declared: Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, Vivek Ramaswamy (who helped get Don Lemon fired from CNN) and the almost-declared Gov. Ron DeSantis, Gov. Chris Sununu, Sen.Tim Scott and former Gov. Chris Christie haven't a prayer of beating Trump.

What was clear from the town hall, which was deftly moderated by CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins, is that Trump is not changing one iota, nor are his voters. Collins is an ace reporter. She was so good in the White House press corps during the Trump years that her hard-hitting questions chased Trump out of his own press briefings on more than one occasion.

And in 2020, Trump's animus toward her — on full display again in the town hall where he called her a "nasty person" because you can't say the C word on TV — made him ban her from the White House.
(The Hill)

It was an international incident. So much so that even the lily-livered White House Correspondents Association issued a statement over it and every network decried the ban. Did CNN's Christ Licht set Collins up with the town hall hoping that her hard-hitting questions and constant pushback of "That's not true, Mr. President," would get Trump to act out? Probably. For her part, Collins, who deserved hazard pay for the abuse she took from Trump and the audience, was unflappable and never backed down.

Collins did us a service. She understood the assignment and she performed it well. She wore suffrage white and her questions revealed a Trump who is ever more deeply entrenched in his own lies, ego, misogyny, racism and narcissism.

Collins also took one for the team. She let the audience abuse her so that our side could be reminded that the reason Trump is the front runner and will be the nominee is because he gives mild-mannered New England Republicans permission to behave like Deep South Bull Connor throwbacks.

These people aren't anomalous. They are the Republican Party. Reagan neo-cons transformed into Tea Party "patriots" and now we're in MAGA world. It's gonna be a long road to the primaries.

And as we learned from the Midterms, the GOP is going to use anti-LGBTQ animus to fuel their agenda and garner questioning Independents. Ramaswamy, who wants to raise the voting age to 25, has been spewing his "only two genders" and "trans folks are mentally ill" rhetoric on Fox and on Twitter.

So for the fun, the fabulous and the fractiously fetid, you really must stay tuned.

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