Fox goes uber-gay with ‘Allen Gregory,’ ‘American Dad’

Say what you want about their news channel and their leadership, but Sunday night on the Fox broadcast network was about as gay as TV gets.

It started, of course, with The Simpsons, one of the most gay-friendly shows on TV (though Sunday night’s was only gayish — it dealt with foodies). Also on deck was Family Guy — again, a tres gay series with a queer little baby who wants to take over the world and characters who break out into Broadway production numbers at the drop of a hat. We’re used to that.

But it reached new heights of homophilia with Allen Gregory and American Dad.

Allen Gregory is the new series from Jonah Hill. The premise of the show is already inherently queer: Two gay dads, pictured, rear their pretentious little 7-year-old Allen Gregory. There have been, in the previous few outings, several jokes per episode about gay sex between the pompous dad Richard (voiced by French Stewart) and his butch, derided partner Jeremy. But last night, not only were the dads central characters, the plot was all about a school dance where all the students in the elementary school were expected to ask same-sex partners to the dance. This is edgy stuff for established cable shows, but for “family night” on a freshman series?! Wow. The episode was not only funny (I’m already a huge fan of the series), but also witheringly insightful about perceptions of gay people. And the attempted seduction of Jeremy by Richard (including dropped towel) was hilarious.

That was followed by American Dad — again, well-established with a gay history, from the out couple across the street to the fey alien Roger who lives in the attic. But Roger finally met someone romantic … and it turned out the be Ricky Martin. The episode included Ricky and Roger kissing on a couch (and they were really going at it). You gotta love that!

I hope the ratings for both shows are good, and they are certainly worth a Hulu.com (here for American Dad, here for Allen Gregory) visit. Enjoy!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Wiz, meet Liz

IMG_6317
OFF TO SEE THE LIZ | Mikel tackles a villainous character in ‘The Wiz’ at DTC before (fingers crossed) returning to New York for a hoped-for Broadway production of ‘Lysistrata Jones.’ (Photo by David Leggett)

After a devastating fire and the loss of her mom, Dallas’ Liz Mikel wowed NYC — but there’s no place like home

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Liz Mikel sprinkles her conversation with terms of endearment like “baby” and “child” the way others sprinkle sugar on cereal: Liberally, and to sweeten you up.

Mikel deserves a little sweetness in her life. 2010 proved to be a daunting year for the actress. She was in tech rehearsals for the world premiere musical Give It Up! at the Dallas Theater Center when her house burned to the ground. Four months later, her mother passed away.

“She was a brilliant shining light,” Mikel says, tearing up. “She had a doctorate but she always encouraged me [in acting and singing]. I had no choice — performing chose me.”

Those twin tragedies challenged Mikel, but did not defeat her. Indeed, Give It Up! (now renamed Lysistrata Jones) has become a flashpoint for her career. When the producing team decided to bring it to New York, Mikel was brought along to recreate her role as a sassy madam — a casting decision that led to a full-color photo of her in the Sunday Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times.

“That still boggles my mind,” she says, slightly aghast. “I did not know the magnitude of that. I was just grateful they found a way to get me up there. You plant seeds, and then it opens a different universe for you.”

That universe includes talk of moving the musical to Broadway with Mikel intact (there’s already buzz she’d be in serious contention for a Tony Award), and though she’s crossing her fingers “waiting for the call,” Mikel prefers not to think too much about it. “It’s still just an out-of-body experience,” she says. “I don’t even know how to put it in words.”

But Dallas doesn’t need to worry too much about losing Mikel to the Great White Way. “This is my home, baby!” she says almost defensively. “I’ve been [with the DTC, where she is now a member of the resident acting company] since 1990. I’m not going anywhere.” She continues that association with the DTC when she opens in The Wiz tonight.

But Mikel has been familiar to Dallas’ gay community even longer. “If I had been born a man, I would have been a drag queen,” says the 6-foot-1 actress who rarely wears flats in public. “I was about 18 when I started going to The Landing, which is where you’d go to see drag shows. I forced my best friend, whom I had known since the fifth grade, to come out to me by telling him he had to take me there.”

Mikel began singing in piano bars, where she developed a reputation as a full-throated diva with a gospel urgency to her voice. That has translated well onto the stage, especially in musical roles. But her current part, playing the wicked Evilene in The Wiz, is something of a departure for her.

“I usually do nurturing roles, but this is just over-the-top from the word ‘go,’ cracking the whip and screaming at people.”

It’s also a chance for Mikel to take on a role in one of her favorite musicals — sort of.

“I loved watching The Wizard of Oz on TV,” she says, “waiting for that moment when Judy Garland goes from black and white to color.”

The message of the show rings especially true for Mikel after the trials of 2010, as she knows that, no matter what 2011 and beyond may bring, there’s no place like home.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Something to do tonight: See ‘Making the Boys’

QCinema continues its spring series tonight with a screening of the new documentary Making the Boys, which tracks the production of playwright Mart Crowley’s original 1969 off-Broadway production of the seminal gay play The Boys in the Band, as well as filmmaker William Friedkin’s 1970 movie adaptation.

The film screens at 8 p.m. at the Four Day Weekend Theater in Fort Worth. Tickets are $10.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones