Friday, June 21, 2024

Cool drinks and hot TV for post-Pride doldrums

Since summer was meant for relaxing and having fun, invite a friend or more over or just loll around in your underwear and watch some LGBTQ+ TV made to entertain you without much work. 

The 2023 Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike has been going on since May 2, which means fewer scripted series and more dating, cooking, remodeling, game and contest shows. But there’s still plenty to watch. If you want to know more about the strike, this is a good explainer about what’s happening and what it means for viewers.

A new HBO original documentary from Stephen Kijak examines the life and legacy of one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars in Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed which premiered June 28 on HBO MAX. Archival footage and interviews with lovers, close friends and co-stars provide new insights into the life and career of the closeted Hollywood icon who was permanently outed when it was revealed he had AIDS in 1985.

Nearly 40 years after Hudson’s death, there is still tremendous interest in the actor who captivated Hollywood for decades. The new documentary borrows heavily from Mark Rappaport’s 1992 documentary Rock Hudson’s Home Movies in both style and content. (Watch on Amazon and KINO.) But the new documentary has more interviews and delves more deeply into what it was like for Hudson to navigate between his gay personal life and his on-screen persona as leading straight heartthrob to millions of women. 

Well worth watching to be reminded of how harsh a place the closet is and how it kept Hudson from living his best life and perhaps doing his best work. While Hudson was best known for his bedroom farce comedies (the dialogue of which Rappaport and Kijak use intriguingly for double entendre in their films), his dramatic roles are among his best. You can watch his all-time best performance in John Frankenheimer’s chilling 1966 film Seconds on multiple streaming services. Giant (1956) with Hudson, James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor is available on HBO Max. It was Dean’s last role before his tragic death at 24. Taylor is also 24 and Hudson 29. A tour de force for all three. 

You think you might be too old for coming of age stories and then you fall into them as if they are your own. Perhaps the best gay show of 2022 was Netflix’s Heartstopper, a British queer coming-of-age series based on Alice Oseman’s graphic novels. As the title implies, it is heartbreakingly good as it tells the story of Charlie (Joe Locke) and Nick (Kit Connor) and their developing friendship and feelings for each other. If you missed season 1, time to binge watch, because season 2 is about to drop. Charlie and Nick return to the halls of Truham Grammar School for Boys when Heartstopper returns for Season 2 on Aug. 3. 

According to Netflix, “Nick and Charlie navigate their new relationship, Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) face unforeseen challenges, and Tao (William Gao) and Elle (Yasmin Finney) work out if they can ever be more than just friends. With exams on the horizon, a school trip to Paris and a prom to plan, the gang has a lot to juggle as they journey through the next stages of life, love and friendship.”

But as we learned in season 1, Heartstopper is about “exploring real, serious issues that can be dark, but trying to balance that with that feeling of hope that things can and will get better,” said writer Alice Oseman, who crafted the graphic novels on which the series is based. “From a writing perspective, that can be really difficult to achieve without making it too dark or without skimming over the darker elements of the story. But striving for that balance is the point of Heartstopper.”

You may not feel up to dating in the heat, but you can watch others do it on The Ultimatum: Queer Love on Netflix.

The premise is one member of five long-term couples—all queer women and nonbinary people—have been told it’s time to get married or get out. The couples are forced to come to terms with their love–or lack thereof–and figure out what they really, really want. The twist is that they have to work out their conflicts on camera. And also figure out if they want more—or something completely different by going into trial relationships with other people in the group.

Drag Me to Dinner on Hulu is a a buffet with a little bit of something for everyone. The result is a delightful hot mess. Created and hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and husband David Burtka, Drag Me to Dinner is a drag show, but it’s also a cooking show. It’s a home improvement show, but also a Real Housewives of Drag show. It promises “Culinary Costumed Chaos” and it delivers. Harris and Burtka have brought 40 superstar drag queens and into the kitchen. Think Drag Race meets Chopped with a little bit of Worst Cooks in America

In the opener, Drag Me to Dinner puts Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme in the kitchen with Sherry Vine and Jackie Beat. These duos are supposed to compete for the best tropical kiki bash. The judges will decide based on food and drink, design and decor, and entertainment and overall vibe. If you think that’s wild, you would be correct.

It’s a soupcon of delightful dish with judges Bianca Del Rio, David Burtka, Neil Patrick Harris and Haneefah Wood. The presenter is New York City comedian and drag king entertainer Murray Hill. You will not be disappointed.  

The Art of Swedish Death Cleaning on Hulu is so much more than even the quirky title suggests. Based on Margareta Magnusson’s bestselling book, this transformation series is narrated by Parks and Recreation alum Amy Poehler. The premise is to give people the opportunity to fix what’s a mess in their lives while they still can–be it their hoarder-ish homes or their complicated personal lives.

A team from pristine Sweden, the country that brought you the pared down housewares, Bau Haus furniture and more allen wrenches  than you could ever need in IKEA now brings the Death Cleaners to America. An organizer, Ella, a designer, Johan, and a psychologist, Katrina. The trio will help everyone they meet confront both their mortality and the messes they have built to protect themselves.

In one episode, The Death Cleaners aid Sue, an artist who helped build a lesbian-safe section of Kansas City in the ’80s, 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. It’s mesmerizingly good.

Glamorous on Netflix is the queerest thing on TV right now. If you wanted to know what really happened to Kim Cattrall when she was cut from the Sex and the City reboot, she decided to star in her own show on Netflix as makeup mogul Madolyn Addison, role model for queens and queers.

One of those is Marco Mejia (Ben J. Pierce–YouTube breakout star Miss Benny) who aches to be an influencer. Then one day, Madolyn notices Marco and everything Marco had dreamed of seems within reach.

Also within reach is romance—Madolyn’s son Chad (Zane Phillips) and the nerdy-but-nice Ben (Michael Hsu Rosen) both find Marco enchanting, making for a complicated love triangle. Also in the cast are out queer actor Ayesha Harris (The L Word: Generation Q), Jade Payton and some fun queer cameos from Joel Kim Booster and drag star Monét X Change. There are a lot of intersecting queer and trans storylines, which makes the series feel very fresh. Cattrall is superb and Miss Benny holds their own against Cattrall’s mystique and élan. 

Rurangi on Hulu is a groundbreaking transgender drama series set in rural New Zealand in a fictional small-town dairy community. It tells the story of Caz Davis (Elz Carrad, who is amazing), who comes home as himself for the first time since transitioning. 

It’s absolutely fabulous. Full of incredibly powerful scenes of really deep emotional heft, carried beautifully by the extraordinary cast, “Rurangi” is captivating from the first scene and compelling throughout.

In season two, Rurangi’s culture war intensifies between the transgender activists, farmers, and local Maori, all while ancestors from the past reach out to the living with unfinished business. There are a myriad of conflicts that include Caz’s coming out to his family, a love story he’s part of, the environmental crisis, Maori conflicts: Rurangi has got so much in it. It’s mesmerizing.

The cast stars Carrad, Awhina Rose Henare Ashby, Ramon Te Wake, Aroha Rawson, Renee Lyons, Renée Sheridan, Cohen Holloway and Liam Coleman. Rurangi began as a web series before being edited into a feature film. The film premiered at the New Zealand International Film Festival in 2020, and won the award for Best Feature at the 2020 Frameline Film Festival.

Rurangi showrunners are out gay filmmaker and screenwriter Max Currie and Briar Grace-Smith (“Waru,” “Cousins”), a Maori screenwriter and director. Seasons 1 and 2 available on Hulu.

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Victoria A. Brownworth

Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated and Society of Professional Journalists Award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter and Curve among other publications. She is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life.

Victoria A. Brownworth has 42 posts and counting. See all posts by Victoria A. Brownworth

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