Sunday, May 19, 2024

Fall into sultry September streaming

Summer always feels too short. While September weather is often still sultry, Fall is definitely in the air and Summer fluff gives way to more serious viewing options. True crime and fictional crime top the list of must-see viewing this season.

If you’re worried about breaking solidarity with striking writers and actors, these are series that were completed well before the strikes began. The 2023 Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike has been going on since May 2 and the SAG-AFTRA actors strike since July 14, which means fewer scripted series. 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.

Last Call: When a Serial Killer Stalked Queer New York

“It’s in all of us…that fear of being hurt…because we’re queer.”

This is the fear that was engendered in gay men in the early 90s when a serial killer was stalking the gay bars. HBO’s original, “Last Call: When a Serial Killer Stalked Queer New York,,” is a true crime documentary miniseries directed by Anthony Caronna about the victims of serial killer Richard Rogers, who murdered and dismembered gay and bisexual men between 1992 and 1993. Caronna said, “It was important to let queer people tell this story.”

And tell it they do: As one man says, “Queer bars were one of the few places where we could come and feel safe… And then, all of a sudden, everything was taken away.” 

The fear and the concomitant isolation are palpable. Yet Caronna told Vanity Fair, “I wasn’t interested in doing true crime. I was very, very afraid of revictimizing the community. So I passed on it.” But a year later Caronna was convinced there was a way to tell the story that honored the victims rather than highlighting the killer. Caronna says Last Call tells “a much bigger story about the anti-queer violence movement.”

HBO gives these chilling details of the crimes: “In the 1990s, Richard Rogers, a serial killer known as the Last Call Killer, preys upon four gay men in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, including two closeted men in their 50s. The series is based on Elon Green’s Edgar-winning 2021 book Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York, documenting each murder, the etymology of Rogers’ nickname, coverage of his crimes, which included tabloid stories that harbored a homophobic tone, and even an obituary that described one victim in dismissive terms, as Caronna suggests, ‘because of how society viewed him.'”

The four-part series also examines how biases in the criminal justice system reflected attitudes toward gay men in the 1990s, when the AIDS crisis was still raging. Last Call also examines the conflicts that arose between LGBTQ activists and law enforcement, notably New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who was then a member of the openly homophobic Emerald Society. 

Streaming on HBO MAX.

Never Let Him Go

ABC News Studios’ newest docu-series, Never Let Him Go, unearths a haunting tale of anti-gay violence and one brother’s decades-long quest for justice as it follows the story of Scott Johnson’s violent and tragic death.

Never Let Him Go tells a decades-long true crime tale. In December 1988, Scott Johnson, a brilliant gay American mathematician, was found dead at only 27 beneath a cliff in Sydney, Australia. His death was quickly determined to be a suicide, but soon became a matter of much controversy.

Scott’s older brother, Steve, never believed his brother’s death was a suicide. He spent the next three decades attempting to solve the mystery of Scott’s death which included three inquests and some diplomatic intervention from the late Senator Ted Kennedy. 

Yet as Never Let Him Go explains and explores, ABC notes, “Steve could have never imagined the tinderbox he would crack open—a wave of anti-gay violence, which was systematically ignored for decades.” The series features critical interviews with investigators, vital surveillance footage presented as evidence for the case, and for the first time, an interview with the killer’s wife.

Streaming on Hulu.

Deep Water

Deep Water is a four-part Australian miniseries based in part on this same story. When a young gay man is brutally murdered near Bondi Beach, Detectives Tori Lustigman (Yael Stone) and Nick Manning (Noah Taylor) are assigned to investigate. After more bodies are found, Tori links the deaths to a series of murders of gay men in the 1980s and ’90s.

Deep Water is exceptionally good and the dramatic tension as gay men fear for their lives in Sydney is palpable. Sydney is gorgeous and the incredible Pride and Mardi Gras scenes on Bondi Beach are breathtaking as are the water shots.

Streaming on Amazon Prime.

American Horror Story: Delicate

Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have yet another season of their ongoing franchise American Horror Story. Murphy is the doyenne of queer TV, from Glee to Pose. AHS has a coterie of queer and trans actors and storylines and this new offering will bring more of that and then some.

The twelfth season of the FX horror anthology series is based on Danielle Valentine’s book Delicate Condition. As is always the case, Murphy and Falchuk have kept details under wraps, but FX writes:  “In ‘American Horror Story: Delicate,’ after multiple failed attempts of IVF, actress Anna Victoria Alcott (Emma Roberts) wants nothing more than to start a family. As the buzz around her recent film grows, she fears that something may be targeting her — and her pursuit of motherhood.” 

American Horror Story: Delicate debuts two new faces to the AHS franchise: celebrity entrepreneur Kim Kardashian and out queer actor Cara Delevingne. The two star in the season with Roberts. Also in the series are Matt Czuchry, Annabelle Dexter-Jones, trans actress Michaela Jaé Rodriguez who is beloved from Pose, Odessa A’zion and out actor Zachary Quinto, who was in AHS’s very first season, “Murder House” in 2011.

The season is set to premiere on FX and Hulu September 20 and will be split into two parts.

Harlan Coben’s Shelter

Harlan Coben’s Shelter is based on his book of the same name, the first novel of the “Mickey Bolitar” young adult series. Like all Coben’s series, it’s compelling and unsettling and has strong queer threads running through it. The new Amazon Prime limited series is set in a New Jersey town where kids go missing, murder is too close for comfort and being nerdy and queer or nerdy and straight means you’ll find your people and they will help you find yourself. 

Mickey Bolitar (Jaden Michael) is a displaced kid with a queer aunt, a queer bestie and a longing for belonging. He’s biracial, his dad is dead, his mom is in rehab and he’s living with his Aunt Shira (played by the amazing Constance Zimmer who was brilliant in UnREAL, which is so worth binging) and he feels totally unmoored. 

 “Shelter” opens with Mickey Bolitar (Jaden Michael) witnessing the sudden death of his father. But then he’s told by the mysterious Miss Havesham-esque woman in the seemingly haunted house in town that his father isn’t dead. So what does that mean?

It means a new journey in which he enlists his friends Spoon (Adrian Greensmith) and Ema (Abby Corrigan), who are the smart acerbic queer know-it-all kids that never quite fit in anywhere except with each other. They are all-in to help Mickey get answers. When a classmate goes missing, the plot deepens and so does the bonding. 

Like Stranger Things, Chucky and Heartstopper, though the structure is young adult, you’ll find yourself immersed and part of the drama because Harlan Coben is a genius of the thriller genre and most LGBTQ people had the kind of disrupted teen years these kids have. We can relate. Also starring Didi Conn (yes, Frenchy from Grease!), Peter Riegert, Adrienne Barbeau and the great Tovah Feldshuh as Bat Lady.

Streaming on Amazon. 

Only Murders In The Building

In season 3 of the stellar Hulu hit series, Only Murders In The Building Meryl Streep and Paul Rudd join Charles (Steve Martin), Oliver (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez) for an all new mystery as they investigate a murder behind the scenes at a Broadway show.

In this superb and superbly funny dramedy, three strangers meet in the building in which they all live after a murder of one of the other tenants. They bond over a mutual love of true crime podcasts and team up to talk murder. First they investigate the initial killing. Then they start their own podcast. (Watch the first two seasons before delving into season 3.)

Martin plays a semi-retired actor who was the star of a popular 1990s crime drama, Short plays an ambitious but financially struggling Broadway director who comes up with the idea of the podcast and becomes its director. Gomez is a maybe bisexual, maybe lesbian artist who is living alone in her aunt’s unit and who was friends with the first season’s murder victim. 

In season 2, out actress Cara Delevingne played Alice Banks, an artist and Mabel’s love interest. Out actor Nathan Lane plays Teddy Dimas, who has ties to organized crime and who agrees to sponsor the podcast.

Only Murders in the Building is often hilarious, but also has moments of deep poignancy. There are good scares, good plotting and stellar acting from the principles and from the amazing list of guest stars. The series secured nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Martin and Short. 

A Hulu original.

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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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