Bill Maher returns to Dallas for January concert

Real Time with Bill MaherThe last time I saw Bill Maher perform live was at the Winspear Opera House more than five years ago. “Your new theater isn’t gonna be clean for long,” he joked, before letting loose on dumbass politicians, especially Sarah Palin. (My review of that show, where I quoted his epithets against Palin and called him — favorably — “the most dangerous person in comedy” — galvanized the right wing … and send web traffic for my piece sky high.) I’m an unapologetic devotee of his HBO series Real Time, because even when I don’t agree with him, he makes audiences think more than any other comedian on the planet.

So to say I am excited — nay, elated — to see that he will return for a live show is muted only by the fact that it won’t happen until Jan. 22, 2017 — well past the current election cycle. On the other hand, it will occur immediate after the inauguration of the next president (whoever she may be), so you know he’ll be primed for politics.

This time he won’t be performing in the 2,200-seat Winspear, but the 3,700-seat Music Hall at Fair Park. That’s a huge venue for a comedian, but even Red State Texas knows the liberals will turn out for it. So get your tickets sooner rather than later — they go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. Here’s the link. And I’ll see you there.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Through the ‘Looking’ glass

How the Texas Bear Round-Up impacted one of the stars of ‘Looking,’ and other thoughts on the legacy of a groundbreaking series about modern gay life


It was “goodbye for now” as the cast and crew of HBO’s modern-queer dramedy Looking stood in the rising San Francisco sun tearfully hugging as they concluded production on the story-ending made-for-TV movie. Just like in the film’s final scene, Daniel Franzese, who plays Eddie, reminisces, “We broke night.”

Of course they did. Looking was, ultimately, extraordinarily ordinary, a time-capsule of contemporary queerness revolving around a chummy, could-be-your-own friend group navigating love and life in the Mission/Castro district.

That final diner scene — which bowed on July 24 and will be re-aired on HBO — wasn’t just our last time with Patrick and Dom and Agustin and the others who became part of our lives during these last few years; for the actors, it was, provisionally, their last time, too. “It was like the last two of weeks of high school, like the weekend after everyone graduates from college,” Franzese muses.

Premiering in 2014 to critical praise but a modest following (the series reached a peak of 519,000 viewers its first season), Looking was divisive from the get-go, with viewers either drawn to its languid style of storytelling or vehemently against it. Was it too gay? Not gay enough? When Doris, the group’s straight girlfriend, comments on a squabble between main-gay Patrick and his ex’s new boyfriend during the film, she spoke for many: “Ohh, I love it when gays argue with other gays about being gay,” she cracks.

Still, there’s no arguing that Looking broke ground merely by existing. Beyond that, however, creator Michael Lannan and director Andrew Haigh (who helmed the gay love story Weekend in 2011), spent the last several years tapping into the queer Zeitgeist, past and present. The result was special, relevant and sincere.

Jonathan Groff, who portrayed neurotic boy-next-door video game designer Patrick, shared that sentiment even before Season 1 premiered, saying, “I feel so excited to be a part of a show that could potentially be a great moment for the gay community, because it’s crazy how few shows there are where there are a lot of central gay characters. I feel really lucky to be a part of this specific show because I believe in it so much as a television show.”

So did Lannan. The screenwriter never believed his idea for Looking could be more than the images swirling around in his mind, and even when they did land on the screen, and Season 1 aired, and then the show got HBO’s go for a second season, “I don’t think I ever thought it was really happening.”

Before Looking, Lannan was living in New York, where his own group of friends and their stories became the catalyst for the series, which he initially wrote as an indie film script before HBO expressed interest. They envisioned his idea as a series.

“I always thought it should be a show,” says Lannan, whose 2011 short film Lorimer was the seed for Looking. “I think one of the reasons HBO wanted to do it, and we all wanted to do it, was because the world has changed so quickly in the past 10 years. This isn’t the Queer as Folk world — it’s a different world, and we wanted to do a show about people just living their lives in a time of great change.”

Now, he says, in the wake of its final-for-now chapter, it feels “bittersweet.” Looking: The Movie is a heartfelt send-off with Patrick, currently living in Denver, returning to San Francisco for a wedding and meeting up with BFFs Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Dom (Murray Bartlett), Doris (Lauren Weedman), Eddie and former flames Kevin (Russell Tovey) and Richie (Raúl Castillo).

“We wanted to find some midpoint between resolving their stories and sending them off on their way for new adventures and leaving that door open,” Lannan explains. “It’s tricky to do both of those things.”

Lannan confirms that they’d already been plotting a third season when HBO announced the show’s cancellation, optioning, instead, to tie up loose ends with a feature film (and to finally offer closure to Patrick’s ongoing romantic drama). And so, though “we were heartbroken,” Lannan and the writers condensed the storylines into an 86-minute movie.

“We just went back to the heart of the show, which is Patrick, and we let him drive the story,” Lannan says. “I think everyone’s lives are really reflecting on Patrick, and his on theirs. At its heart the show was really as much about friendship and the family of friends as it was about anything else.”

Eddie, one of the show’s popular periphery characters, plays a pivotal role in Patrick’s life in the film. It almost wasn’t supposed to happen that way. Initially, Franzese was only booked for a few episodes. That changed once showrunners witnessed his natural chemistry with Alvarez during his debut on the Season 2 premiere, “Looking for the Promised Land.”


Daniel Franzese, above left, had an epiphany about the important of his ‘Looking’ character — an HIV-positive man of size — when he met a sero-discordant couple at TBRU. (Photos courtesy HBO)

Even though Franzese’s HIV-positive bear character may not have had as much screen-time as his co-stars, the actor and his watershed onscreen part left an indelible mark on the show and the people who watched it. And for many reasons. According to GLAAD, Eddie was the first poz character in six years on scripted TV (since an arc on ER). His character represented what it means to be HIV-positive today, introducing PrEP to the TV landscape as he pursued a relationship with Agustin, who’s HIV-negative.

“Andrew told me, ‘Eddie will never get sick, that’s not what this is about,’” Franzese recalls. “Knowing that, I just kind of put it to the side and didn’t really think about the impact it might have. I was more happy and excited to be a larger guy, a man of stature, on a television show and shown in a sexual light and not as castrated comic relief.”

Because it was “just shown,” the feedback from viewers has been rich, which demonstrated to him that, “Representation matters, and education matters.”

Still, bears continue to reach out to him on Instagram expressing an admiration for a character on TV they can finally identify with. But “most moving,” he professes, was meeting a “magnetic” couple — one HIV-positive, the other negative — when Franzese made an appearance during the Dallas Bears’ annual Texas Bear Round-Up in 2015.

“[The HIV-positive partner] said to me, ‘You know, I hope that I’m with my partner forever, but if I’m ever not and somebody wants to date me I’m going to show them Season 2 of Looking and say, ‘If you can get through this, then you can date me.’”

Franzese leaves Looking with a fondness for his influential character, the show and also the cast. Inside jokes, that already-established vibe, the camaraderie — sometimes, he says, speaking from experience, joining a show after it’s already launched feels like a “fleeting relationship.” But Looking was different. “When I’m a regular on a show and I have a guest star coming in, I will treat them with the same grace and respect and friendship that I learned on this set.”

Franzese was only recently out when the show premiered. Now newly engaged, the 38-year-old acknowledges that Looking was “profound for me in a lot of ways.”

“I had just come out and this was my first job after that,” he recalls. “To not only be accepted for being gay but to be celebrated and to have it not be a big deal — like, it was cooler to be gay on that set — it was so freeing and reaffirming.”

Not just for Franzese. Looking’s greatest legacy could be, perhaps, how it rendered the gay experience as simply the human experience. It wasn’t about coming out. It wasn’t about gay people dying of AIDS. The narrative felt fresh because finally gay people could just… be.
Before Season 2, Tovey said, “It’s such a true voice for gay people. This is, right now, where it’s like to be a gay man who can get married and adopt.”

As the show’s creator, Lannan has been forced to contemplate the show’s legacy, and if anything, he says, he wants it to represent a moment in time… and also the passage of time.

“We wanted to see what happened when Patrick grew up,” he says about the finale, “and I think it’s exciting to see Patrick in command of his sexuality in a different way. He certainly hasn’t solved all of his problems, sexual or otherwise, but he has grown throughout the seasons and throughout the movie and I love seeing that.

“Patrick was always a character who had one foot in the past as a gay man. He grew up with the shadow of AIDS in the background, yet he wasn’t a part of that generation, so he had one foot in the past and one in the future. I hope that’s part of the legacy of the show, that it spanned a transitional period for gay men like Patrick.”

As advances in the queer community continue to evolve, could Looking become an ongoing TV narrative where we check in with these characters every now and again? What will Patrick be like in 2026? What will we all be like then?

The thought has crossed Lannan’s mind.

“We’ve definitely talked about it,” he reveals, “and I think if the stars aligned we’d all love to do it again in the future. I think it depends on a lot of things, but I would say, none of us would count it out.” He says that “one of our spirit-animal shows while we were making Looking was The Comeback ” — the Lisa Kudrow cult sitcom was renewed for a second season after a nearly decade-long hiatus — “so maybe we’ll do sort of a Comeback thing and check in again in the future.”

Franzese still has plans for Eddie and for the lives of the young transgender characters who were a part of the character’s story arc while working at a homeless shelter for LGBT teens.

“That would’ve been such a beautiful thing,” he says. “That would’ve unfolded in Season 3. I would really look forward to that in the future.”

So the end may not be the end after all. Maybe the sun hasn’t fully set on Looking just yet.

“Who knows — later on down the line I’d love to revisit these characters again,” Franzese says. “Knowing the people I worked with, I can’t even think of a production assistant who would say they wouldn’t want to be back on that set again. But I think this movie is a beautiful next step in the story, and if we all love each other and we love these characters, and I think if Andrew and Michael are inspired with some story, why not?”

— Chris Azzopardi

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2016.


—  Dallasvoice

REVIEW: Documentary short films

OUR_CURSE_stillIn the current issue of Dallas Voice, I preview the animated and live action short films, currently playing at Magnolia; the documentary shorts also screen this week, though for one-time-only showings at the Texas Theatre.

The shorts are divided into two programs — the first runs tonight at 7 p.m., and features two docs; the second on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. and features the other three. That’s a shame, because the best of the lot are in separate programs. It’s a toss-up between Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 (showing tonight) and Our Curse (showing Sunday) as to which is the best … and which will win the Oscar.

Crisis is a profile of the folks who work at the Veterans Administration’s call center for vets suffering from PTSD. With minimal explanation, we listen into the counselors’ sides of stressful calls from suicidal men and women suffering from depression and shock — sometimes from their war experiences, sometimes from adjustments as civilians afterward. These are serious, painful calls met with calm and care by ordinary folks who do their best to save lives.

It contrasts with Our Curse, a hand-held documentary from Poland made by a married couple whose young son suffers from a devastating and incurable disease where he cannot breathe a night without use a ventilator. The stress it puts on their marriage — and their even-still devotion to a child who will never get better — is chilling and hopeful, dark and tender in turn. Don’t mistake it for Joanna, another Polish doc about a woman dying and trying to make her life seem as normal as possible to her young son. It’s not nearly as good (and screens with Crisis anyway).

THE_REAPER_stillThe remaining two films — both about 20 minutes — deal with unusual jobs: In White Earth, folks in North Dakota talk about the stressful necessity of working in the oil fields; in The Reaper, a title person acts as the point man at an abattoir, having butchered 500 cattle a day for the last 25 years. Being surrounded by death has taken its toll.

Expect Crisis to nudge out Curse at the Oscars — unlike the divisive reaction to American Sniper, this shows the effect of war without any political controversy — with White Earth a possible spoiler. Or see them for yourself and decide.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Sunday TV drinking games for your viewing pleasure

Looking20152This Sunday is chock full of LGBT-favorite TV entertainment. Trying to figure out which one to watch? Our Mikey Rox has devised this drinking game that makes it all the more fun. Choose the game that looks the best for you … of DVR it all and enter rehab on Monday!

The Golden Globes (NBC, 7 p.m.). Take a sip of beer or wine when: 1. Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler change gowns. 2. Music is cued to hurry a lengthy acceptance speech that by that point is probably spilling over into soapbox territory anyway. 3. A winner recognizes his or her same-sex partner by name. Take a shot when: 1. A presenter and/or winner appears visibly drunk or high on stage; the likelihood of this will increase exponentially as each hour passes. Or if Sean Young is invited.  2. An acceptance speech turns into a political speech about freedom of speech. You’ll probably want to pick up a big bottle of tequila this year. 3. North Korea and Sony are mentioned in the same sentence.

Girls (HBO, 8 p.m.). Take a sip of beer or wine when: 1. Hannah bears her breasts. 2. Adam mentions his dick. 3. Somebody rides a bike (because nobody has a driver’s license on this show). Take a shot when: 1. Marnie laments about her music career, or sheds a tear. She’s prone to do both; sometimes simultaneously. 2. One of the girls physically hits another. These chicks are violent, yo. 3. Elijah flashes his sweet cheeks.

Looking (HBO, 8:30 p.m, pictured). Take a sip of beer or wine when:  1. You hear the words “top,” “bottom” or “vers.” 2. They refer to social media and/or dating sites and apps. 3. You see butt. Take a shot when: 1. Richie takes it off. 2. Patrick and Kevin get it on. 3. Somebody can’t get it up.

Downton Abbey (PBS, 8 p.m.). Take a sip of beer or wine when: 1. The Dowager Countess throws shade. 2. Thomas Barrow talks smack. 3. Mary acts like a bitch. Take a shot when: 1. A sexual tryst takes place that transcends the class system. 2. A new invention of the era is introduced. 3. A correspondence containing bad news arrives in the second post.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Russell Tovey: The gay interview

LOOKINGSeason 2Episode 02Day 05

Russell Tovey of ‘Looking’

Despite roles in the BBC supernatural drama Being Human and The History Boys, both on stage and screen, it’s the HBO dramedy Looking that has presented Russell Tovey with considerable exposure. Premiering one year ago, the show centers on a group of gay friends in San Francisco as they navigate relationships, family and sleeping with your boss. When Kevin (Tovey) and Patrick (Jonathan Groff) finally got down to business during a steamy lay at the end of the first season, the hunky Londoner revealed more than his acting chops.

As Looking returns to the network this Sunday,  Jan. 11, the openly gay  33-year-old opened up on a variety of topics: his mom’s reaction to his thigh thump with Groff, the advantages to shooting a sex scene with a fellow gay actor and how, despite his famous butt, fans of the show who meet him aren’t “rape-y.”

Chris Azzopardi for Dallas Voice: The Season 1 finale set the stage for a whole lot of drama. What does that mean for this upcoming season?  Tovey: Season 2’s gonna pick up three months on with the fallout from that experience with Patrick, Kevin and Richie (Patrick’s boyfriend played by Raúl Castillo). They go away on a big adventure and it all unravels. What it means is there’s gonna be tension, and what unfolds is going to be very good television. And I love it. I love seeing hashtag Team Kevin / Team Richie. People are really loyal to Kevin or Richie. They’re like, “Sorry — I really like you, Russell, but I’m Team Richie.” “Kevin’s a cheat!” “Leave Patrick alone!”

What’s your hope for Kevin and this love triangle he’s gotten himself into?  I want Kevin to be happy, but I want him to find his way to happiness with a lot of drama that’s gonna be entertaining for an audience watching an HBO show. [Laughs] But he has to fuck things up, and I think that’s part of his personality. The more Patrick gets to know him, that’s gonna unravel.

Soooo: Team Kevin or Team Richie?  Hmm … would I fuck myself? Or would I fuck Raúl? If I could have a threeway, it’d be quite nice. You know, a bit of both. But in reality, you’d want a boyfriend like Richie because he could cut your hair, and that’s great — you don’t have to worry about that expenditure every month. He’d do that for free! And he can play guitar, so he can entertain you.

Or, of course, there’s Kevin, who appears to be at least from the Season 1 finale experienced in bed.  Oh yeah, he’s very good. A lot of me went into that!

I hear you’re a method actor  Totally. I’ve done all the research.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Lisa Kudrow: The gay interview

LisaKudrow3By Chris Azzopardi

Ten years without our favorite cupcake-wearing gonzo, Valerie Cherish, is 10 years too long. But the wait’s over. You were heard.

A decade after The Comeback —the hilariously cringe-y HBO trailblazer that lasted just one season in 2005, starring Lisa Kudrow as Val, a D-lister reaching for (everything underneath) the stars — was axed, it has returned to the network this week … with the Friends actress back as our beloved hot mess.

We chatted with Kudrow — who also has her fourth season on Showtime’s Web Therapy under her belt — about “superhuman” gays, her own comeback and the future of Romy & Michele.

Dallas Voice: Lisa, you don’t know how tempting it is to say “hello” three times to you right now. How often do people quote Valerie in your presence? And how often are they gay men?  Lisa Kudrow: Frequently and frequently. You know who the next group is after gay men? College students.

Are you surprised by that?  I was surprised … until I got used to it! But it’s fantastic. That’s really thrilling, and then it struck me: Well, of course! They grew up with Housewives of everywhere, and people humiliating themselves on reality TV. When The Comeback first came out, I think that gay men were the only ones who were like, “Yes. I understand. I get it. It’s great, and I understand.”

You know, those are the people I care about the most — the people who really loved the show. That was my only fear after it was all done. Doing it, writing it, shooting it, it was, “Yeah, this is right, this is right.” Then afterwards, “Uh oh, what if it’s not?”

When it comes to Valerie Cherish, what is it about her exactly that we gay men are so drawn to?  I’ve been asking myself that too — not ’cause it’s a mystery, but I wonder why. I was watching Will & Grace once and there was this hilarious episode where Karen’s at a theater and she throws her flask and it hits someone in the head, and there’s this joke that gay men wouldn’t care because, “Eh, all in a day.” Getting, like, smacked with something is “all in a day.” So I wonder if that’s what it is — because Valerie gets, you know, humiliated, or humiliates herself, all the time. And it’s like, “Yeah, well, that’s the world.”

The other thing that I love about Valerie is, “All right, someone said something not nice, but you know what? Can’t use that. Got this other thing I gotta do.” She just ignores that that happened and keeps going.

That’s what it is too: She perseveres.  Completely perseveres! You can agree with her goal or not, but she’s got it and nothing is getting in her way. There’s something admirable about that; there just is. Except, you know, she’s willing to put up with a lot.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Laurie Metcalf: The gay interview

LaurieMetcalf1Laurie Metcalf talks roles on gay-inclusive sitcoms. By Chris Azzopardi

There’s no question that Roseanne, a show centered on the Conner family, was one of the most influential sitcoms of all time. Just look: Gay marriage is now as trendy as Jackie Harris’ hipster-desired mom couture.

Two decades later, meet The McCarthys, CBS’ primetime comedy about a zany sports-crazed Bostonian family. One of the sons, Ronny, is gay, and the clan’s matriarch is Laurie Metcalf, who played Jackie on Roseanne (and, in case you forgot, was outed during the show’s finale in 1997).

Metcalf recently chatted with our Chris Azzopardi about how The McCarthys — which debuts tonight at 8:30 p.m. on CBS — has made her feel like she’s “missing out” on a real-life gay son, the lesbian kiss on Roseanne that caused a stir, and her own lip-lock with a stage icon, her first time kissing a woman (she thinks).

Dallas Voice: Between HBO’s Getting On and now The McCarthys — and not counting , guest shots on The Big Bang Theory — you’re spoiling us, Laurie. It’s so good to have you back on TV.  Laurie Metcalfe:  Thanks so much. Yeah, it’s been a long time. I’m spoiled myself right now; I’ve got two wonderful projects. But yeah, I’ve been doing mostly just theater for the past six years.

Which do you prefer: TV or theater?  I have to say, I prefer stage, probably because it’s where I came up. I feel like I understand it best, and I like the immediate gratification of a live audience. You know, it’s been so long since I’ve been on a multi-camera show that it just felt like home walking back onto that set, so that was fantastic. I didn’t think one of those would come back around!

What drew you to The McCarthysFirst of all, I love that multi-camera format. It’s a very collaborative way of working, because you’re in there with the writers, and everybody is trying to contribute to making the show the best it can be on Friday nights for the audience. It’s a group effort, and I really like working that way. Then I talked to Brian Gallivan, the showrunner, who I adore. He came up from Second City, so I felt we had a little something in common. And he’s fantastic. So calm, so supportive and so wonderful to work with. [The scripts] went through so many changes that I know were very difficult for all the writers involved. He’s just a really fantastic leader and he sets the tone for the whole project, and he’s super funny.

Especially as “Sassy Gay Friend.”  When we first talked, I said I was a huge fan of that character and he’s like, “Are you kidding me?” Then we agreed that Sassy Gay Friend should do an intervention at some point on Jackie from Roseanne. Wouldn’t that be great?

Absolutely. You gotta make that happen. Speaking of Jackie, do you find it amusing that her mom style is now a fashion trend among hipsters? That sounds about right! I mean, it’s about time. We had our 25th-year anniversary [in October 2013], for God’s sake.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: ‘The Normal Heart’ on HBO

Matt Bomer and Mark Ruffalo in ‘The Normal Heart,’ which debuts Sunday on HBO.

In the early 1990s, the AIDS crisis and gay rights became a suitable subject for popular entertainment, with movies and TV shows like Longtime Companion, Philadelphia, And the Band Played On, Tales of the City and plays like As Is, Angels in America and Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart. The last one, coming from the most vocal (and often least well-liked) voice of the gay activist movement, was probably the most polarizing. It never had a Broadway opening, and certainly was not adapted for the screen.

By 2012, the world was ready again to deal with Larry Kramer. The play opened on Broadway (and won a Tony), and now — about two decades after the artistic fever-dream of AIDS dramas — the filmed version hits the airwaves.

HBO’s The Normal Heart has been a long time coming, but in some ways, it feels like it didn’t skip a beat. The opening segment, a trip to Fire Island cribbed from the structure of Longtime Companion, is both familiar and new, what with all the full-frontal nudity and explicit sex you wouldn’t have seen 20 years ago. And even better, many, many openly-gay actors in the major roles (among them: Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Jonathan Groff, Stephen Spinella and B.D. Wong). Not gay, but going full-bore as the hero anyway, is Mark Ruffalo as Ned Weeks, Kramer’s stand-in for himself. Ned’s something of a Cassandra, clucking his disapproval at sexual freedom (or is it recklessness?) even before there’s any indication of the coming plague.

Ned meets a doctor (Julia Roberts), who is even more of a downer than he is, insisting that gay sex is killing men and getting them to stop is the only course of action. But “promiscuity is the principal political agenda” of the gay movement in 1981, Ned argues — you can’t just get them to stop. And yet, you have to. To fail is to accede to genocide.

I’m sure The Normal Heart will shock a lot of mainstream sensibilities, and even some disdainful gays who think it both negatively portrays gay stereotypes and glamorizes anonymous sex. But you can’t have it both ways — you can’t complain about its authenticity and chastise it for being too accurate. But HBO made the formula work one year ago, with its equally shocking biopic about Liberace, Behind the Candelabra, and it won every award in the book. There’s no reason to think lightning won’t strike twice.

The weakness of the play (and now the screenplay, also by Kramer) is the character of Ned, who is so impassioned yet unlikeable that you can’t stand how he’s both right and gets in the way of getting the right thing done. In some ways, it takes amazing self-possession for Kramer to portray his alter ego warts and all, while balancing the competing issues sex-as-liberation and sex-as-death. It was equally hard for the gay community in its day.

But what sustains such competing currents is the emotional tremors the story sets off, which start nearly at the start and rarely waver for the next two hours. The first appearance of a character with Kaposi’s sarcoma … the first realization a seemingly healthy, young, blossoming young man is infected and will die … the first closeted person who could make a difference cowering out of fear of the social stigma … well, even if you did not live through those days, you can’t help but feel rattled. And it leaves you feeling that way.

That’s a ravaging effect of a movie, that sincere, wet-eyed shiver of the inevitable horror faced by a generation of gay men. Director Ryan Murphy (Glee) never lets up. He doesn’t want you to relax. You might miss the urgency, a feeling of self-preservation that, since the invention of the AIDS cocktail, hasn’t been as pressing in society, even the gay community. In many ways, this is the perfect symbiosis of Kramer and Murphy: The radical and the populist. Indeed, if it weren’t already widely known as The Normal Heart, I know the perfect title for it: American Horror Story.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

HBO renews ‘Looking,’ sets premiere date for ‘Normal Heart’

normalheart02HBO knows a good formula when it sees one. Last year, it premiered its gay-themed made-for-cable movie Behind the Candelabra on the last Sunday in May, and it’s doing so again with its latest tentpole telefilm, The Normal Heart. The screen adaptation of Larry Kramer’s Tony Award-winning play about the fight against AIDS (and the ignorance of the Reagan Era) is set to air at 8 p.m. on May 25. The production, directed by Glee creator Ryan Murphy, features out actors Matt Bower, Jim Parsons, Joe Mantello, Denis O’Hare, Stephen Spinella, B.D. Wong and Jonathan Groff, as well as Julia Roberts, and Mark Ruffalo and Taylor Kitsch, pictured.

Groff had some more good news this week as well: His HBO series Looking got a second-season pickup. The drama about 20something gay men navigating the dating life in present-day San Francisco will return next season.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Preview of episode 2 of HBO’s new gay series ‘Looking’

Groff1The excellent new gay series Looking, which began airing last Sunday on HBO, is a mature and sexy look at the modern urban gay male. We spoke with the series’ star, Jonathan Groff, here, but you can also check out a preview of episode 2, which airs on Sunday, after the jump. (Take, note, though! Episode 3 will air next Saturday, not Sunday, so as not to compete with the Super Bowl.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones