'Friends,' and a family's 'Fall' — The Lavender Tube on 'House of Usher,' Matthew Perry and more

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday October 31, 2023
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The cast of 'The Fall of the House of Usher' (photo: Netfllix)
The cast of 'The Fall of the House of Usher' (photo: Netfllix)

Could there be a more queer show right now than Netflix's fabulous new iteration of the Edgar Allen Poe classic, "The Fall of the House of Usher?" If there is, we haven't seen it.

As Netflix explains, "Loosely based on various works by 19th-century author Edgar Allan Poe, the series adapts otherwise-unrelated stories and characters by Poe into a single nonlinear narrative set from 1953 to 2023, and recounts both the rise to power of Roderick Usher, the powerful CEO of a corrupt pharmaceutical company and his sister Madeline (Mary McDonnell), and the events leading to the deaths of all six of his children. It stars an ensemble cast led by Carla Gugino as a mysterious woman, plaguing the Ushers, and Bruce Greenwood as an elderly Roderick."

Paola Núñez and T'Nia Miller in 'The Fall of the House of Usher' (photo: Elke Schroter/Netflix)  

"The Fall of the House of Usher" is the latest series from Mike Flanagan, who brought us two other very queer series with classic horror roots, the acclaimed "The Haunting of Hill House" and the incredible lesbian drama, "Bly Manor."

"The Fall of the House of Usher" starts in 2023, right after Roderick Usher, the wealthy and powerful CEO of corrupt pharmaceutical company Fortunato Pharmaceuticals, lost all six of his children from oldest to youngest. Frederick (Henry Thomas) and Tamerlane (Samantha Sloyan) are the only two Usher children not born from different mothers or outside marriage.

Then there are Victorine (T'Nai Miller), Camille (Kate Siegel), Napoleon (Rahul Kohli) and Prospero (Sauriyan Sapkota), within two weeks. The evening after the final funeral for his children, Roderick invites C. Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly), an Assistant United States Attorney who dedicated his career to exposing Fortunato Pharmaceuticals' corruption, to Roderick's childhood home, where he tells Dupin the true story of his family and progressively unveils its darkest secrets.

The series follows two timelines in addition to the conversation between Roderick and Dupin, depicted onscreen when told by Roderick. The first, taking place from 1953 to 1980, recounts Roderick and his twin sister Madeline's youth and progressive rise to power, while the second follows all of the Ushers during the two weeks leading up to the discussion, revealing the truth behind the deaths of Roderick's children.

Who's queer? Napoleon "Leo" Usher lives with his boyfriend Julius (Daniel Jun). Perry Usher is pansexual. Victorine (played by out actress T'Nia Miller from "Bly Manor") is a lesbian scientist dating a surgeon, Dr. Alessandra Ruiz (Paola Núñez). Camille is bisexual and there's quite the threesome here. Dupin has a husband and children.

It's wild, it's so, so, so dark, it's mesmerizingly binge-worthy. And it has Mark Hamill as Arthur Gordon Pym, the family's ruthless attorney and fixer, which is amazing casting in and of itself. And Gugino is Emmy-worthy. Lots of good scares, too; streaming on Netflix.

RIP Chandler Bing
The guy who brought sarcasm to sit-coms has died. "Friends" star Matthew Perry, 54, died suddenly at his Los Angeles home in the late afternoon of Oct. 28, from a likely drowning in his hot tub. His body is now with the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner's Office and an autopsy is pending, according to online records from that agency. (CNN)

Matthew Perry's memoir  

No foul play is suspected, a law enforcement source told CNN, however, the incident remains under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department Robbery-Homicide Division.

For so many, Perry was a figure Gen Xers could identify with. His Chandler Bing was hot and edgy and walked that line between depression and sarcasm and did it with flair. "I'm not good at advice," he told Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). "Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?"

Chandler also had a complicated family like so many of us. His mother, Nora Tyler Bing, was an erotic romance novelist, and Charles Bing, his father, was a gay female impersonator (later redefined as trans and star of a Las Vegas drag show called "Viva Las Gay-gas" as Helena Handbasket. Charles was played by Kathleen Turner, Nora by Morgan Fairchild. Incredible, right?

Perry played Chandler on "Friends" for the show's entire 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004. In May 2021, he was part of an HBO Max special, "Friends: The Reunion."

In 2022, Perry wrote a sad and revelatory memoir, "Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing" about his roller coaster ride to fame at 24 and how he crash-landed into addiction. Unlike most celebrity memoirs, Perry's was written without a ghostwriter, which makes the best seller all the more poignant.

Here are the top 10 Chandler moments from "Friends," which include the gay tailor scene, the stolen cheesecakes and the shark porn.

Perry was also great in the too-soon-cancelled Aaron Sorkin drama "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" which we loved and others didn't.

And before Sorkin tapped him to star in that series, Perry was on "The West Wing," the show that made folks fall in love with Beltway politics and believe Democrats could make it all work.

Our good friend, writer Leslie Gray Streeter, wrote on Twitter/X when his death was announced Saturday night, "He should have been getting amazing character actor roles at his age. He was so talented. I wish he'd have been able to. What a terrible loss. He struggled and tried and I'm just so sad. Godspeed."

Indeed. May his memory be a blessing to all who loved him.

Texas town
"A Town Called Victoria" is a scarily timely three-part docuseries from PBS about Islamophobia in Texas. On January 28, 2017, a mosque in South Texas erupted in flames in an apparent hate crime. Now, this quiet community, Victoria, must reckon with the deep rifts that drove a man to hate. Victoria must overcome its age-old political, racial, and economic divides to find a collective way forward.

Part of The WNET Group's "Exploring Hate: Antisemitism, Racism and Extremism," "A Town Called Victoria" is directed by Li Lu and Anthony Pedone. Check local listings or watch online. (www.pbs.org)

Nicola Walker in 'Annika' (photo: PBS)  

Back for a second season on PBS's Masterpiece Mystery, "Annika" stars the always-fantastic Nicola Walker, one of the best actresses in British TV. Though we preferred her in "Unforgotten," which also has a new season, in "Annika," Walker plays a detective in an isolated community with lots of secrets, including her own and those of her lesbian daughter.

PBS understates it: "Detective Inspector Annika Strandhed works for Glasgow's Marine Homicide Unit which investigates the puzzling crimes and unexplained murders that wash up on the shores of Scotland's waters."

Yeah, it's disturbing. But everyone is great and there's a lot of queerness in the plotting.

Tyrese Gibson ("Fast and the Furious"), Theo Rossi ("Sons of Anarchy") and out actress Kate Moennig ("The L Word") star in "Squealer," a terrifying thriller inspired by real events. When young women begin to disappear across a small town, a police officer and a street-smart social worker follow clues to a remote pig farm and discover the local butcher has been bringing his work home; watch online.

SNL and anti-Semites
"Saturday Night Live" had a brutal cold open Oct. 28 with Biden at Halloween, Speaker Mike Johnson's "Adult Black Son" (what is up with that?) and the always incredible Christopher Walken as Papa Pumpkin.

Finally, "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper." So wrote iconic queer poet T.S. Eliot in his poem about war and its consequences, "The Hollow Men."

There's nothing more deadly nor deadly serious than what is happening in the Middle East right now, as we've been writing since the latest conflict began. (www.epgn.com)

Like most people of conscience and with a large Jewish family, including in Israel, we urge an immediate ceasefire. Fears of escalating antisemitism and Islamophobia in America are justified and for those of us who have experienced the former and reported throughout the post-9/11 waves of Islamophobia and racial profiling of Muslims, we do not want to see this get any worse than it is, which is bad.
(www.curvemag.com, www.pbs.org)

As Jake Tapper said on CNN's State of the Union Oct. 29, "This shit is not a game." Tapper, who is Jewish, called out Trump and the GOP and their attacks on Palestinian American Rep. Rashida Tlaib and calls to censure her.

Saying, "Antisemitism is not a cudgel to be used for political points," Tapper broke down GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's history of antisemitism as she introduced a resolution to censure Tlaib, accusing her of being a Hamas supporter. Tapper noted that Greene is a white nationalist supporter, who, like Trump, hangs out with Holocaust deniers. (www.cnn.com)

So for the Sturm and the Drang, you know you really must stay tuned.

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