Fur the boys

Andy Stark brings reality TV to bear — with sights set on the networks

 

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BEARS ON FILM | Andy Stark, left, created the reality show ‘Bear It All’ with a mostly Dallas-based cast including Matthew Moriarity, right, who has already made quite an impression. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

On shows like The A-List or Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, TV audiences get a peek into the inner workings of gay men (at least the ones Logo thinks represent us). But Dallasite Andy Stark isn’t so sure the current crop of reality shows profiles our community in the best light — or in all its glory.

He’s not the only one. Where those series may rely on caricatures or fabricated storylines, Stark is delivering his own show that he sees less as a drama fest and more as just a good time.

“The show is going to be a positive natured show,” he says. “I want it to be appealing across the board.”

Stark is talking about his reality/travel series Bear It All, which follows a cast of hirsute gentlemen in different cities around various bear events. Clips of the show have made their way online, with some containing footage taken at this year’s Texas Bear Round Up, but it makes its full-episode debut at a screening party Sunday at the Round-Up Saloon.

“The idea originally came up at Southern Decadence last year, so it’s almost a year old,” Stark says of the germ of the series. “I didn’t think it would take that long, but it’s nice. You know, we had the idea and the tools to make it and just said, ‘Let’s do it — we don’t need money, just the will to do it.’”

Pulling together a cast of mostly locals — including Butch Compton, Charlie Himmler and Michael Herrington — Stark pulled in Philadelphia-based bear Barney Philly and Indiana native Matthew Moriarity, who just might be the breakout star of the show.

“The one bit of feedback I always get is how adorable he is,” Stark says.

“I got involved with it when I was in North Carolina,” Moriarity says. “I didn’t really go to a lot of bear events or gay events, but I got in contact via Facebook.”

Initially, Moriarity hadn’t heard anything back other than “stay tuned.” But as TBRU approached, he received a call: He was now in the cast as he was making his way to Dallas for the bear event.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he laughs.

As the Dallas-based episode came together, Stark entered Moriarity in the Mr. TBRU contest. Figuring on his random entrance into the contest, Stark had developed the arc of the episode and began planning the rest based on Moriarity not winning.

Only he did win.

“I had to rethink the entire thing,” Stark cries. “But we ran with it.”

The show has cemented a certain foundation for Moriarity. He moved to Dallas at the end of June, found a job as a bartender three days later and now finds himself a recognizable face among the local community. Of course, he’s modest about it and steers the conversation away from himself.

“The show is a great portrayal and good-natured of just us regular guys,” he says. “I think its great to bring that certain community to the frontlines. You don’t see that too much in mainstream portrayals.”

Andy Stark has the cred needed to produce his own show. He does production work for HDNet and MavTV so this isn’t some guy with a camera and an idea. Stark has a plan.

“I’ve had the idea of what I wanted in my head, but also it’s been an experience that we’ve manifested ourselves,” he says. “I wanted the travel documentary built into the concept of the show and so perhaps we’ll highlight cities and bear events as well as meet interesting people from all around. Hopefully we do something awesome with it.”

While Stark and Moriarity have only experienced positive feedback so far, they got a big push from the bear-oriented phone app Scruff. In one episode, Philly is wearing a shirt with the app’s logo on it; founder Johnny Scruff noticed and posted a notification so when people clicked onto the app, they were served with a pop-up announcing the show and its Facebook page.

Stark and Moriarity are affable guys — the kind that good luck seems to follow, which seems to be the case here. With the help of producer J. Louie Partida, Stark feels that the only way is up after Sunday’s screening. He’s even planned to have the show adjustable for different networks should they be interested.

“I’m aiming for the 25-minute mark. We call the show ‘bear-satile’ because it can be formatted to any network,” he laughs.

Hmmm. Maybe it’s better Stark stays behind the camera.

……………………………

Eligible for a reason: Obnoxious

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Here’s my big problem with reality TV: Most of our lives aren’t scripted, but they are made to seem so if you watch too many of these shows. It’s not a problem on competition-based series like The Amazing Race or Survivor (how many of us get to travel that much anyway?), or even episodic series with a sense of humor, like Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List (Kathy’s inherent wittiness feels authentic). But the Bravo-style throw-six-people-together-and-pretend-they-are- the-shit egothons like The Real Housewives and The A-List? They are merely soap operas where the actors are underpaid. And not very good actors.

Add to that list the latest little disaster of preening incorrigibility: Most Eligible Dallas.

It’s one thing to cajole your way onto America’s Got Talent by wearing goofy clothes or exaggerating your personality for a performance; it’s another when what sells you as a TV star is being the biggest asshole you can be. I don’t wanna sound like a curmudgeon blaming TV for the ills of society, but when I see drivers who take left-turns from right lanes with arrogant disregard for the rest of humanity … well, it’s difficult not to think that because they see everyone on the tube behaving the same way.

Most Eligible takes a half-dozen single 20somethings from Dallas and follows their appallingly wonderful singleness. There’s Drew, pictured, a car-loving gay guy who self-medicates with female hormones to keep from getting fat again; Glenn, the muscle-bound football wannabe who’s been passed around more locker rooms than a Kardashian; Matt, the obnoxious “playa” who goes on dates with multiple women; and Courtney, the big-haired bimbo who has such a blatant unacknowledged crush on Matt that her venom forms the basis of the Sam-and-Diane (or Reichen-and-Rodiney) thread on the premiere.

The calculated way the series tries to create personalities — Drew is, to my knowledge, the only person who has ever been shown smoking a cig in the address-the-camera interviews, just to show what a rebel-outside-the-box-gay he is — feels incredibly fake, exacerbated by the over-reactions to banal activities (Glenn in particular seems like a real drama queen). Easily the best thing about the series is seeing local landmarks. The rest just perpetuates negative stereotypes about Dallas.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Premieres on Bravo Aug, 15 at 9 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Broadcast TV getting gayer, GLAAD says

Every fall season, GLAAD issues a report about LGBT characters on the main networks’ scripted series, and whether that indicates an improvement from years past.  This year’s report notes a “significant increase” in gay characters, according to the study — the most, in fact, ever.

ABC leads the pack with 11 of 152 lead or supporting characters (7.2 percent), helped by shows like Modern Family and Brothers & Sisters. Fox has  5 of 100 (5 percent), including Kurt from Glee, pictured, animated character like Smithers on The Simpsons. NBC marked a decline from last year (only three of 143) and CBS was again in last place with one of 125 (Emmy winner Archie Panjabi from The Good Wife).

The study has its flaws. For instance, the report claims zero gay characters on Fox in 2007, yet one listed now includes Smithers, who has been on the show since 1989 but is considered “recurring” (the study doesn’t including recurring characters in the main figures). And it doesn’t account for, frankly, qualityBrothers & Sisters has never been good, but this season has swan-dived into especially odious melodrama with gay stereotypes.

A separate report counts basic cable series, where gay characters (often with more interesting and frank storylines than on broadcast) are more common and realistically portrayed. I mean, True Blood: Who doesn’t watch that for the hot bodies? The study also doesn’t include reality shows, which really dominate the TV landscape. With Dancing with the Stars judge Bruno Tonioli swishing up the most popular show on TV right now, as bisexual comedian Margaret Cho dances, you’d think that would warrant a mention, as would Jeff Lewis, Jackie Warner and half the contestants on Bravo’s competition series. That would paint a fairer picture. But it’s still nice to see progress.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones