November 2003 – Over the past several years, we have been bombarded with “reality” television programs. I, as a viewer, find them to be an assault on my intellect. Excluding the various faux Survivor-type series, 99.9% of these programs focus on heterosexual relationships. Marry me, my mother, my father, my daughter, etc!
Each new season brings with it a new twist to distinguish it from the cesspool of other reality programs. Bravo’s “Boy Meets Boy” was a relatively poor example of gay reality. Several straight men were secretly thrown into the mix, as an attempt to fool the poor gay man who had been so unlucky in love that he needed his drama-starved, straight girlfriend to help him find Mr. Right. He did find true love by the end of the season, fortunately for the producers, yet not without first confronting the final straight man with a heartbreaking revelation that he had almost chosen him.
I never watched “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette,” although I don’t recall either of those programs throwing any gay men or lesbians into the mix to trip up the heteros. Unfortunately, this particular twist was just another attempt to validate the straight man’s fear that all gay men must want them.
Viewers may be pleasantly surprised this fall. Anyone recall the “sit-com” concept? That’s short for situation comedy, and it’s back, albeit in small doses. There are several new shows that contain actual actors, rather than Jerry Springer contenders gone Prime Time. Whoopi Goldberg has a new show, “Whoopi.” Though weak on characters, Whoopi herself is in full force, telling it the way it is.
Immediately following is a great new, laugh-out-loud show called “Happy Family,” starring John Larroquette and Christine Baranski, who, together, portray a middle-aged married couple at their wits end with their three children, who will just never grow up and go away. The writing is fantastic and the characters gel like those from “Will & Grace” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
Ellen Degeneres has a great new daytime talk show, “Ellen,” that, ironically, has nothing at all to do with being straight or gay. Her delivery and wit are second to none, and, in a few short weeks, her line-up of guest appearances has outdone most established talk shows. If you work during the day, as I do, tape it for evening viewing. That way you can fast forward through all of the commercials and be done in time for the 10 o’ clock news followed by “Seinfeld” re-runs on Fox at 11:00, and “Will & Grace” re-runs on the WB at 11:30.
Another new show with great potential, “It’s All Relative,” portrays a cutesy-happy couple with families from opposite sides of the tracks. His folks are typical Irish Catholics from South Boston and hers are two gay guys living in an impeccably decorated manse. As a gay man, I feel the best part about this show, as with “Will & Grace,” is being able to sit back and laugh with characters that I can personally relate to.
Many heteros take for granted the fact that no matter what channel they tune into, or what blockbuster movie they see, they can relate to the characters on a personal level. Sure, the issues of life and romance are the same, whether you’re gay or straight. But, how would you feel if everything you saw on the screen was about gay relationships with gay jokes, gay arguments, gay sex, and of course, gay marriage? Not to mention all of the gay commercial breaks advertising gay products, vacations, and restaurants! If you can put yourself in my seat for a second, you just may get a slight understanding of what it’s like to be a gay individual immersed in a straight world.
So there’s my fall 2003 TV review! I’m now going to look for a book to read, because, after writing this column, I have realized that I watch way too much TV!
Keith Fitzpatrick may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org