If you’ve read any of my previous work, you probably know that I’ve been pretty much screaming from the rooftops for more older-gay representation in the media.
And, while we’re at it, less agism in the real world too. I mean, we’re kind of a special lot, us fiftyish folk, having survived pandemics (the original was still the most compelling and made the sequels “meh” in comparison), free-range homophobia—the bigots roamed free while beating and killing us—and a very inhospitable culture climate—Rush Limbaugh’s AIDS jokes gave me such a rush.
So, from my lips to Russell Tovey’s ears, it looked like a dream come true when Netflix premiered Uncoupled, an eight-part gay AF comedy series from Sex and the City’s Darren Star. An affable Neil Patrick Harris leads the all-fabulous cast of older queers dealing with daily drama under an overly saturated New York skyline. As far as maturity goes, even the therapist/drag queen, the annoying rich lady, and the female BFF are Brady Bunch born and bred.
I sat my still-toned ass down in front of the TV, put my can’t-see-without-them Tom Ford glasses on, and binge-watched the entire series in a single night. With a rebel yell I watched more, more, more, in the hope that, after one klunker after another, it might get interesting. Sorry to say, comrades, but even Doogie Howser couldn’t stitch up this rom-com.
So, what happened? If you’ve been unfortunate enough to sit through an episode of Star’s Emily in Paris, you probably know the answer is “not a whole hell of a lot for a mature audience.”
After an opening 50th birthday scene where Colin (a disposable Tuc Watkins) breaks up with Michael (Harris) then takes his shirt off (because, you see, he’s still got abs), Michael spends his waking hours simultaneously grieving over the end of the relationship while having sex with everyone he meets—in this fantasy series, every hot guy in Manhattan can’t lip-lock with Michael fast enough. Weird for a few reasons, but let’s start with the fact that, in one early scene Michael is furious and clueless that men bareback and turns down the offer, right after he’s slept with a stranger (Gilles Marini) who can’t resist pinging him on Grindr immediately after their introduction—like I said: Every. Hot. Guy.
Didn’t Michael and Marini have this discussion when they hit the sheets? And what gay man over the age of 30 isn’t aware that PrEP usually supersedes latex these days? Michael has two best buds, narcissist Billy (Emerson Brooks) and nerdy Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas), neither of whom are in a committed relationship, who, I think, would have kept their friend informed of all things new in the Big Apple and beyond.
Perhaps the writers are too busy making the supporting characters complete cliches that they didn’t have time to make the show logical. The Narcissist and the Nerd aren’t particularly interesting here, and neither is Funny Black Chick (Tisha Campbell)—in the latter case it might be miscasting, as she has the best lines in the show. Marcia Gay Harden plays the rich-but-loveable snob with her usual aplomb, but the funny lines just aren’t there. She’s a Karen, but she’s no Karen Walker. There are so few actual laughs in Uncoupled (two, yes, two vomit scenes are never a good sign), that, minus the sex and queer cheer, it reminds me of something that would have premiered on TV Land a decade ago then been canceled before season’s end. Cleveland was way hotter. Adults doing Molly, a trip to a guru—seriously, how did that make the final cut?—an obnoxious millennial (Nic Rouleau) who’s supposed to show us that beautiful, young, gay men are all snotty, but who’s about as titillating as back hair—this is pretty much the humor portion of the show.
Uncoupled does have its moments, and most of them are when the writers back off trying to be humorous—comedy, I believe, is truly harder than drama. Colin’s reluctance to let Michael have their apartment is touching and believable, and Gay Harden’s telling Michael that older, single women have it harder than older, single men gives just the right gut punch. There’s a health crisis pending, and, though it feels a bit forced, like product placement for tears, it at least touches on the concerns of the older population. In the character lineup, the Two Jonathans (Colin Hanlon and Jai Rodriguez) bring a nice, natural flavor to the show.
The finale of Uncoupled is one cliffhanger after another, everyone, apparently, prepped for a second season. I hope the creators improve it big-time, because after the first eight episodes it already feels a bit old.