2011 Year in Review: Tube

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GAY FAMILY TIES | The two-dad household on ‘Allen Gregory’ takes a big turn from the suburban kookiness of ‘Modern Family.’

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

In a year when most people began to feel broadcast and cable television had become all but irrelevant in the era of streaming, the most proletarian of American entertainment still managed some remarkable work — both from returning series and new entries (marked with a •).

10. American Horror Story (FX)• You have to begin watching this series — as you do Ryan Murphy’s other current show, Glee — understanding that it’s a fantasy that does not, and is not intended to, make a lick of sense. Why doesn’t the family in the cursed L.A. “murder house” move out? Why do they constantly lie … and get caught? How can so much drama happen to just a few people? You’re asking for trouble if you think — you’re meant to just go along for this ride, a grotesque riff on Gothic horror movie clichés with a spicy bit of kink added. Jessica Lange as a creepy neighbor rockets into a stratosphere of kook that’s unmissably delicious.

9. Glee (Fox) Murphy’s other series is already showing its age after only after its third season, but whoever expected it would be anything other than what it is, a flash of gay brilliance that couldn’t last longer than a high school career anyway? It remains in the top 10, especially for gay audiences, largely because of the end of last season, which featured touching work by Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch.

8. The Killing (AMC)• A moody mix of Twin Peaks and 24 with a Scandinavian bleakness, this investigation into the death of a girl in Seattle, laden with dread and impenetrable characters who often do the wrong thing, was an addictive mystery. The season finale didn’t quite work, but that only makes me look forward to Season 2.

7. Happy Endings (ABC)•

6. Modern Family (ABC) This one-two punch of queer-friendly sitcoms — as perfect a pairing of half-hours since Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley — show the gay experience from the perspective of boring suburbia and slacker 20-something with wit and true character development between ModFam’s couple Cam and Mitchell and Happy Endings’ gay Oscar Madison, Max.

5. Raising Hope (Fox). The sleeper sitcom hit of last year continues to delight audiences who can detect the sophistication lurking in creator Greg Garcia’s comedy about lower-class denizens. (He did it before with My Name Is Earl.) The clever gay-friendly message is conveyed ironically, but for a story about child-rearing, it’s as raucous as a sitcom can be.

4. RuPaul’s Drag Race (Logo). The third season of Drag Race was just as good as the second (the first was really a training ground for the style). Campy but also incredibly sincere, it’s one of the funniest reality shows ever on TV and one where most of the contestants actually seem to have skills. When Season 4 starts next month, we’ll be glued.

3. Allen Gregory (Fox)• Jonah Hill had, for me, fallen into the Seth Rogen category of overstayed-his-welcome with a repetition comic persona in his largely crass movie roles, but Allen Gregory changed all that for me. A smart, stylish animated sitcom about a pretentious kindergartener and his two-dad family (including a hunky former straight man and an adopted Asian sister) has some of the best jokes about gay characters on any show. Ever.

2. The Walking Dead (AMC)• There is virtually no gay content in this zombie series, just some of the most chilling action sequences ever on TV (and the hottest guy on TV in the totally ripped Jon Bernthal). It’s really the sound editing that gets to you in this drama about the end of world at the hands of ravaging flesh eaters. Who knows where it will go? But you sure wanna find out.

1. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report (Comedy Central). The 12 months leading up to presidential primary season would simply not have been the same without the genius commentary (with Stewart, confrontational; with Colbert, ironic) about the crazed political atmosphere we have found ourselves in. Colbert’s establishing of a SuperPAC, which he actually uses to point out the insanity of our laws, was as mind-blowing as comedy has ever gotten.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Don’t forget the thrilling season finale of “The A-List: Dallas,” with guest star Ann Coulter

For those who love to hate A-List: Dallas, you’ll either be sad or glad to see the show’s season come to an end tonight. And by the previews, boy does it. Taylor Garrett needles at the community with his friendly exchange with conservative pundit Ann Coulter. Castmate Chase Hutchison is naturally infuriated but then also has to deal with Garrett lip-locking on his sorta beau Levi Crocker. As the season comes to a close, I’m fascinated that we never got to see the incident that happened at Jack’s Backyard. Remember this whole to-do?

I tweeted a couple of the A-Listers about what to expect on tonight’s episode. Hutchison was kind enough to reply.

“Tonight’s episode is definitely going to piss a lot of people off, including myself,” he tweeted back. “Everything comes to a head tonight; relationships, politics, friendships… And having Ann Coulter being part of the show was enough to make my blood boil with Taylor. But I do like that very different views are being shown, as much as some of those views disgust me. It will be worth watching for sure.”

Fellow reality star, Drew Ginsburg from Bravo’s Most Eligible Dallas chimed in as well with his response to tonight’s episode.

“Supporting Ann Coulter is a like a Jew supporting the Nazis,” he tweeted.

The Hayyy List is hosting a watch party tonight with cast member James Doyle at Axiom Sushi, or you can seethe or snicker on your own. Either way, here’s the preview clip after the jump to get you going before tonight’s episode.

 

—  Rich Lopez

‘Big Rich Texas’ cast members to host watching party at Drama Room benefiting Trevor Project

What does the television community see in Dallas? The A-List Dallas debuts next month, and Most Eligible Dallas is already humiliating our fair city, but there’s also the not-especially-gay Big Rich Texas show, which airs on the Style Network. The season finale of the series, about well-heeled mothers and daughters who snipe between credit card purchases, will be holding a watching party on Sunday … in, of all places, the Drama Room on Cedar Springs. Bon and Whit Blossman, above, who appear on the show, will host the viewing party on Sunday, Oct. 2, as a benefit for the Trevor Project. (You can watch some of their antics here.)

Donations will be taken at the door. The show airs at 8 p.m., but arrive early — it’s better watching if you’re already a little drunk.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Ink monster

tube-1
MERCURY RISING | Although Robear claims not to see it, the heavily tattooed gay reality star says many in the gay community say he looks like Freddie Mercury.

‘NY Ink’s’ Robear adds a queer twist to the straight tattoo universe

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

When Robear, the manager of the tattoo parlor at the center of the TLC series NY Ink, began to be recognized as a reality TV star, the first thing his friends noticed was that he didn’t use his last name.

“Who do you think you are, using one name — Cher?” he says in a heavy Noo Yawk accent, repeating the allegation leveled good-naturedly at him. “It wasn’t that, I just didn’t want to use it!”

But the man born Robert Chinosi (“Robear” was a nickname given to him by a girlfriend 20 years ago, reflecting his furry body) doesn’t have much to hide. As one of the employees on the show, which aired its season finale Thursday, Robear stands out for being a contradiction of stereotypes — as he puts it: “A big, burly, masculine but slightly feminine gay guy, heavily tattooed in the straight culture.”

Robear came to tattoo culture fairly recently. He held jobs in the corporate world in design and construction until 2007, when he was laid off. A girlfriend who owned a tattoo parlor on Long Island “did me a favor and asked me to run her shop,” he says. He got his first tattoo at 17, so it wasn’t wholly new to him, though immersing himself in the culture was eye-opening.

“Tattoo art is a small niche in the art community, but they are so famous in this world!” he says incredulously of his co-workers.

Robear ended up on the TV show almost by accident. His employer heard about the casting call and wanted to audition for NY Ink; he agreed to come along for moral support only.

“The casting agent loved my looks, and took my hand and threw me in the [audition] room. I had no head shots or applications filled out but they didn’t care. It was destined to happen in a weird, funky way.”

A few weeks later, TLC showed up at his doorstep. Before long, he found himself filming 14 hours a day.

“I never watched reality TV, even Miami Ink or L.A. Ink, so I thought, ‘How could this possibly be real?’ But it’s not scripted — you’re spending so much time with these people, more even than your own family, every day for three months. I’ve had a lot of positive responses, though I really am just being who I am. My parents and friends watch it and when I say something, they say, ‘That’s you.’”

The gay community, he says, has been especially supportive: He’s been recognized at Gay Pride events in New York, and was recently asked to do an appearance at a Chelsea gay bar. Oddly, he doesn’t understand fully why gays are attracted to him … though he has a few theories.

“I’ve been more embraced by the gay demographic because people say I look like Freddie Mercury, though I don’t see,” he says. (They’re right — he’s a dead ringer.) “Maybe it’s because I’m breaking some stereotypes. I’m a secondary character [on the show], but a rarity in this straight, macho world:  I’m 6-foot, 245 lbs. and heavily tattooed but I have a swish in my walk. Some of the [straight men on the show] test me emotionally and physically, because straight men still think since you carry a man-bag and talk with a higher voice that that’s a type of weakness. But I grew up with two older brothers and a dad right off the boat from Italy, so I was surrounded with a lot of testosterone. I have a high tolerance of pain and I won’t take shit from anybody.”

Trust us, Robear — you’re the last gay we wanna meet in a dark alley — man-bag or not.

………………………..

tube-2‘Diva’ goes gay with lesbian prom-isode

Lifetime’s series Drop Dead Diva — a body-switching comedy where a zaftig female lawyer Jane (Brooke Elliott) secretly holds the soul of a hot bottle blonde — already enjoys a strong gay following, what with Margaret Cho in a supporting role. But it’s aiming for even deeper appeal with the upcoming episode “Prom.” In it, Jane agrees to represent two teenaged lesbians whose high school refuses to let them attend prom as a couple.

The episode (airing Sunday) pulls out all the stops, with a guest cast that includes Clay Aiken, Wanda Sykes and Lance Bass, pictured left, as well as a subplot about modeling that includes some beefcake. In typical Drop Dead Diva fashion, though, the plotting is two dimensional and the storyline fairly tamed down (the lesbians may love each other but they never kiss). Nevertheless, it’s great to see a show on the “Network for Women and Gay Men” get political about gay issues in a (serious-for-them) way.
— A.W.J.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Beautiful day in the neighborhood • Defining Homes

Neighbors in Oak Cliff’s Kessler Park talk about why their ‘hood is the best ever

By Steven Lindsey

Stewart Street residents
Stewart Street residents from left to right Jerrett Morris, Alan Stolleis, Clyde Greenhouse, Michal Taylor, Darrell Ward and Linda Ronk come together often for neighborhood block parties, planned or impromptu, within their classic homes and lush greenery of Kessler Park. Photos courtesy of Jef Tingley.

There’s a little group of homes on Stewart Street in the Kessler Highlands neighborhood of Oak Cliff in Kessler Park that may be just about the gayest block in town — and not just the homosexual kind of gay; the happy kind, too. The neighbors who live here are closer than the pals on Friends, more into each other’s business than a season finale of Knots Landing and their parties have a higher production value than anything Bree’s ever done on Desperate Housewives.

The quiet, tree-lined street is filled with quaint bungalow-style homes from the ’20s and ’30s and over recent years, several gays and lesbians have chosen to put down roots on this one particular block, one which throws out the welcome mat any time somebody new moves in.

“We first met all the gays and lesbians on our block the same way we met all of our neighbors — through a welcome party,” says Jef Tingley, an eight-year resident. “Who knew that years later so many of these people would not just be neighbors, but individuals that I consider dear friends.”

The neighbors gather for two major events a year: Blocktoberfest, a yearly bratwurst cookout held in a neighbor’s yard where everyone brings a dish to share; and a progressive holiday event, where everyone moves from house to house for food and drinks. Halloween is also quite a production with an estimated 1,500 trick-or-treaters each year snatching up 60 to 70 pounds of candy per house in the process.

“It turns out to be one of the most fun events of the year for me and my friends,” says Alan Stolleis, who’s lived on the street for nearly 13 years. “We do tend to go a little crazy with fog machines, huge spiders and scary music.”

But the neighbors on Stewart don’t need a bold-font holiday on the calendar to have reason to celebrate.

“One of the first things we learned when we moved on to the block is that if someone is on the porch, there’s a good chance that you can stop on by for a glass of wine. Many a dog walk has ended with an impromptu porch party,” Tingley says. In fact, everyone interviewed said the same thing about the frequent porch parties and how often they pop up.

Clyde Greenhouse and Michal Taylor, co-owners of the Oak-Cliff-based Kessler Cookie Company, have been on the block for 12 years and have the newest home in the neighborhood. It was built in 1942.

The character of the neighborhood is what initially interested Taylor and Greenhouse, as well as most other people who found Stewart by chance. But for at least one neighbor, buying a home here took a village.

“We had the opportunity to have our best friend buy the house next to us, and when the house went up for sale, while our friend was negotiating his contract for purchase, some of the neighbors would take the ‘for sale’ sign down every day,” says Jerrett Morris, Tingley’s partner. “And whenever a prospective buyer might even give the hint of interest, they would wander out in their boxer shorts and generally try to look like nightmare neighbors any way they could to drive the prospect away.”

It must’ve worked, because Keith Murray closed the deal, quite possibly not realizing the extent to which the neighborhood had helped make it happen.

“At the time I wasn’t looking to buy a home. It was by chance that the house next door to my best friends went up for sale.  It was in complete disrepair, but with the encouragement and help of friends and neighbors, I bought it and we collectively rehabbed it. It was a lot of work, but looking back on it now, it was completely worth it,” Murray says.

It’s just one of many examples of the ways neighbors here look out for one another.

“This neighborhood will definitely take it upon itself to investigate anything that seems suspicious,” Morris says. “It’s like a block full of good Gladys Kravitzes [the nosy neighbor from Bewitched].”

“We know almost everyone by name. It’s not uncommon to see a gay couple standing out in the front yard talking with a straight couple and their children. I even loaned a pair of cuff links to a neighbor’s daughter’s boyfriend for prom one year when he needed them in a pinch,” Tingley says.

Linda Ronk, who has lived on Stewart for 16 years, believe the neighborhood transcends any sort of labeling.

“To be honest there is no gay or non-gay. We are just Stewart Street folks,” she says. “We have keys to each other’s homes and we watch out for each other.”

“Not everyone believes me, but our street is like something out of Leave It To Beaver,” Tingley says. “All the neighbors are really vested in making it a great block, but it’s also not a creepy police state where you have no privacy. I tell everyone to move to Oak Cliff. It’s like a small city in a big town. And if you can find a place on Stewart, you’re even luckier.”

“We didn’t know it going in, but it would be impossible to recreate the mix of neighbors we have on our block,” Morris says. “They’re absolutely priceless and will keep us in our house for a very long time,” says Morris.

Or at least until the city starts requiring liquor licenses for these very busy porches.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of Defining Homes Magazine October 8, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Not-so-straight acting

Comedian Jason Kane loves show tunes and cats — so why isn’t he gay?

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

HOMO NEUROTIC | Kane’s has accepted himself as a straight man — not that there’s anything wrong with that. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice).

WHY AM I NOT GAY?
Tucker’s Blues, 2617
Commerce St. Aug. 17–19.
7 p.m. $10.
TuckersBlues.com.

Jason Kane isn’t kidding himself: He knows when a man proudly talks about his collection of original Broadway cast recordings, the season finale of Kathy Griffin and his two cats, he should expect to be gay-tially profiled as family. He’s one Bette Midler concert shy of legally irrefutable proof of queerness.

Only Kane is straight — and that throws everything off kilter.

After a 12-year stint in New York (and sometimes Boston), Kane has returned to Dallas. He was doing the budding stage actor bit in the Big Apple, but when he found himself couch-surfing with a healthy dose of uncertainty, he headed home to regroup. Without wasting time, Kane has revamped his show Why Am I Not Gay?, which begs the question this week at Tucker’s Blues in Deep Ellum.

“I’m probably one of the gayest straight men out there,” he says. “I’ve performed this show in New York and Boston but coming back, I have to ask the question again.”

When he talks incessantly about being a “completist” and how that demands his need to have every version of the cast recording of Les Miserables (Broadway and London casts), then yeah, this question might come up. But is it fair to rule a man as gay just because his two pets, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer are named after felines in Cats, or that some of his interview replies are done in song?
In his show, Kane deconstructs his own life to figure out what the hell happened. While doing so, he keeps score between “gay” and “straight” labels with tic marks and sings along the way — what better way for a hetero to prove he’s not a homo than through a Sondheim medley?

He tries to justify it.

“I would have no reason to be in the closet,” he says. “I’ve had gay friends for a long time. I sing ‘What Can You Lose?’ from Dick Tracy and a couple of Elton John songs, but I throw in some Barenaked Ladies and the Rolling Stones!”

Kane isn’t trying to laugh his way out of his admitted fondness for Erasure and Madonna and his ease of use with terms like “bear,” “twink” and “homo.” Instead, his show may say more about his audiences than just his funny look at his own professional and personal life. Why Am I Not Gay? takes a peek at the contrasts between gay and straight — which, according to him, are few.

“I think part of the show conveys the message that we really aren’t that different,” he says. “What we do in the bedroom is the only real place we diverge. The more I do theater, the more I realize that you can’t pin the tail on the homo donkey so easily.”

He’s reluctant to compare his high school experience to the gay experience, but he finds some parallels in “not being the cool guy” or being the weird theater dude. Even his parents broached the issue when Kane committed to a life in the theater. Weirdly enough, you could say the misidentification of Jason Kane gave him the gay youth ritual without being gay.

But Kane’s moved past his younger travails and he’s just working with what he’s got, which resulted in creating his own show alongside musical director Daniel Ezell. He’s just going for the laughs where he can get them.

“I know audiences will get the jokes and maybe even relate to them,” he says. “And I know, like in the past, some people will come up and say, ‘I’m still not convinced.’”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Flippin’ crazy

The ex is gone, but OCD real estate designer Jeff Lewis is not a ‘fun gay’

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

2.5 out of 5 stars
FLIPPING OUT
airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Bravo. Season 4 premiere Aug. 10.

……………………………..

DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY | Jeff Lewis and his stable of largely incompetent assistants make you wonder why the unemployment rate isn’t even higher.

It’s ironic that the most fun gay reality program on Bravo is the one about a straight woman, but with the season finale of Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List now in the books, our sluggish replacement is settling into her time slot.

“I used to be a fun gay,” Jeff Lewis, the OCD real estate speculator on Flipping Out, says in the season 4 debut. “Now I’m not a fun gay anymore.”
Ummm, I’ve watched this show for three years … when exactly was he ever a “fun gay”?

The Botoxed, demanding little martinet who drives his (admittedly) incompetent staff crazy with his nitpicking is an oddly compelling reality TV personality. His drama doesn’t seem manufactured — he really is a black hole of bad vibes.

The new season kicks off with some major changes. Gone from the series is Ryan, Jeff’s ex lover and long-time business partner, who last season apparently Google-pirated search engine results from Jeff, building his own company at his friend’s expense. The post-season reunion wrap-up last year was the most dramatic moment in the show’s history, and Ryan’s absence lingers like a ghost over all relationships gone sour.

But there’s still Zoila (the deadpan Latina maid) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus lookalike Jenni, Jeff’s Zen assistant, plus relative newcomer Jett, the hunky house assistant, and Sarah, his useless helper.

Jeff’s flat affect belies a droll sense of humor, but ultimately, as with most non-competition reality series, it’s a mystery as to why we should care at all about his life: The business is not all that interesting, his life no harder than mine and the season opener feels unfocused, even rote. What I’d give for a decent flip out this time.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

As the lights fade on ‘Friday Night Lights’ at the Cotton Bowl, Dallas welcomes 3 new TV series

David Taffet, Channel 21 News, Dillon, at the Cotton Bowl

I’ve spent most of the weekend at the Cotton Bowl, where we filmed the season finale of “Friday Night Lights.” But “FNL” fans take heart. The episode we were filming is the last of season five. NBC is just airing season four this summer. So there’s one more year of Panther, I mean Lion, football. (I still haven’t gotten used to cheering for EAST Dillon.)

And while we may have said goodbye to the Lions and Panthers from Dillon, Texas, we’ve also said hello to three new series being filmed in Dallas beginning this summer.

The Good Guys” on Fox is a cop show. They’ve aired six episodes and were picked up for another seven. The Fox 4 news anchor is played by Clarice Tinsley. One of the cops lives in a trailer under a ferris wheel in an amusement park (Fair Park). It airs Mondays at 9 on Fox.

Chase” has been in production all summer for NBC. The Jerry Bruckheimer (“Pirates of the Carribean,” “Amazing Race,” “CSI”)  show “drops viewers smack into the middle of a game of cat-and-mouse as a team of U.S. marshals hunts down America’s most dangerous fugitives.”

According to local actors on the set of “FNL” who’ve already worked on “Chase,” it looks like another winner.

A third show, “Lone Star,” is a Fox January replacement. Jon Voight stars as the head of an oil family that likes football. The original series title was “Midland.” So it’s completely different from “Dallas” or “Friday Night Lights.” This takes place in Midland and Houston. It’s just filmed in Dallas. And “FNL” football is based on Odessa Permean and, again, this is Midland.

Why film in  Dallas? We have the equipment, facilities and talent. And several successful series under our belt.

Dallas” and “Walker Texas Ranger” each had runs of more than 10 years. “Prison Break” filmed two of its four seasons in Dallas and its ratings didn’t drop off significantly until its last Los Angeles-filmed season.

So what about the series finale of “FNL”?

No spoiler alerts here. It was all over the news that “FNL” was up in Dallas filming at the Cotton Bowl, which can only mean one thing. The East Dillon Lions made it to next year’s Texas High School playoffs. Or was it the Dillon Panthers? And being the finale, they won. But maybe not.

The ending was filmed both ways, just in case NBC decides to pick up the show for a sixth season. Ratings have (finally) picked up for season four.

But just because it’s picked up doesn’t mean they don’t win. The Panthers won in season one. We’ll have to wait until next spring (or maybe summer) to find out.

And look for me on the field as usual. I stretch my acting ability on this series playing — a reporter. No really. It’s a stretch. I report news for Dallas Voice. I’ve written arts and travel. But on this series, I’m a sports reporter. Completely different. Really. Nothing like when Clarice Tinsley plays Fox 4 news anchor on “The Good Guys.”

—  David Taffet