What’s Real, For Real (Television Thoughts: The Real World Homecoming S01 E01, Paramount Plus)

I am a child of the very first ‘Real World.’ I watched it and was obsessed with it, and saw these episodes over and over when it originally aired on MTV in 1992. It was a revolutionary show that changed the landscape of television as we know it now. felt like I knew these people, that these were my friends. I used to pass by that building on Broadway and Prince Street where they shot the show and looked at it longingly – and devoured everything I could see and read about this case.

So of course I would be on board with ‘The Real World Homecoming’ (streaming now on Paramount Plus) which is their first complete reunion since the 90s. And they all seem to be there, all seven of them, with a little twist – Eric Nies contracyted Covid shortly before the started filming, and is in a New York hotel room not far from the loft.

First, I have to admit I got teary-eyed when I saw all of them together. It’s all nostalgia, and the producers milked this – back to back shots of the cast arriving then and now – there’s so much flashback from the original footage to hammer the fact that you remember and knew them before. And the ‘where are they now’ stories emerge. Julie is married with teenaged kids, Kevin works for CNN, Andre has a daughter, Heather B brings booze. It’s all heady and nice, for now, just like the first episode when it first started. But you know, people top being polite at some point, and there will be fireworks.

I can’t wait.

It’s Good to Sin (Television Thoughts: It’s A Sin, BBC4)

I was right – I had a nagging feeling that the show, as I watched it, would break my heart. I can’t remember watching. show that made me cry so much. Maybe because I have some personal stake in this show, as I lived through what most of these characters did, and saw what they experienced. In a way, it was like seeing departed friends go through their experiences again, and with the same unhappy ending,

I know the show is getting accolades, and I think it’s well deserved. My most favorite actor in the series is Lydia West, who plays Jill. She is the heart of this piece, as she is the witness to how the disease has ravaged her friends one by one. I remember West from years and Years, where she had a smaller role, but she is front and center here, and well worth your time. I have to say that I found Olly Alexander more than competent as well, and frankly, I had doubts since I never saw him act before.

The best thing about the show is how it captured the spirit of the times – the way the times started as fun, how the early 80s carried over the sexual liberation of the 70s, until everything went to a halt because of the virus. I remember how the mood changed from carefree, to denial, to fear, to acceptance and the dread of what is happening to the gay community. Younger gays who are so lackadaisical about AIDS can learn or two from this show. Humanity can learn a thing or three about how to be kind to one another from this show.

Sin is Sensational (Television Thoughts: It’s A SIn, S01 E01, Channel Four)

Russell T Davies’ new show ‘It’s A Sin’ starts off so much fun – it tells of the stories of three young gay men in 1981 – Ritchie, Roscoe and Collin. I always love these stories of young people starting their life, and I don’t know what it says about me. The show is set in 1981 London, and that would have been a perfect time and place for me to be in, so from th every beginning I am all in.

All three young men come from conservative-ish families – and you can just imagine how the wild explosion of post 70s London blasts in their faces. One of the funniest early scenes for me is Roscoe leaving his Nigerian family as they plan to bring him back to the outskirts of Laos, and he dresses up in drag as he dramatically leaves their house.

Neil Patrick Harris stars as Henry, a colleague of Collin in a Saville Row tailoring house, and his presence is a breath of fresh air – an out, confident gay man of the times. But of course the shadow of AIDS looms, and he dies before the end of the episode. I got so much joy from the earlier scenes that I am dreading what is about to come next – there are hints of what is to come, and if I were to guess, it will break my heart. But this is our story, my story, and I will be tuning in.

The Cat Lady (Television Thoughts, Call Me Kat, Fox)

‘Call me Kat’ on Fox is the American adaptation of BBC’s ‘Miranda,’ and I note that even though I have never seen the original show. The premise is certainly kind of cute – Kat has a cat cafe, and is a 39 year old single woman. And of course, the cast is very gay – it has Cheyenne Jackson and Leslie Jordan, So I knew I just had to check it out.

And I like it, mostly. Enough for me to want to check out the next episodes after the pilot, which I saw. The ‘gimmick’ of Kat breaking the fourth wall is a bit on the annoying side, but I am able to to tolerate it. Mayim Bialik could probably take it down a notch (two spitting water gags in an episode?) but I guess that’s just what the director ordered. But above all, the show has a sensibility – a gay one – that I like. It celebrates someone who is single, and kind of eccentric, and a little bit lonely, but above all, mostly happy.

My New York (Series Thoughts: Pretend It’s A City S01 E01, Netflix)

They say once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker, and I would like to hope that’s true. At times I certainly still feel that way a lot of the times, even if I no longer live there. ‘Pretend It’s A City,’ on Netflix will probably not appeal to a lot of people, but I bet you any New Yorker will love it.

I wonder, though: Fran Lebowitz polarizes a lot of people, and she is honest and raw in here, in conversation with Martin Scorsese. I tend to agree with a lot of her ‘rants’ – she opens the first episode of the series by saying ‘I hate Times Square,’ and I dare you to find a real NewYorker who disagrees with her.

All throughout the first episode, she raises very important points. For example, one always loves the New York they knew, however horrible that may be in retrospect. My New York is the New York of the 90s, and she mention s that she loved the New York of the 70s even though in reality the city had a lot of struggles then.

So yes, it’s that kind of show – you will either nod in agreement with her, or disagree vehemently – but for a New Yorker, this show will definitely not be boring.

Visible Scars (Television Thoughts: A Teaacher S01 E10, Hulu)

I have to say that I really liked the way this series ended. I initially thought everything was just a little too abrupt but as I think about it, perhaps not. On this episode, we see both Eric and Claire ten years later. It’s the High School reunion, and Eric is older (he looks older) but there are things about him that remain the same – you can see how the whole episode has lingered with him. Meanwhile, Claire has (kind of) moved on – she has remarried, found someone who can accept her and her past, and even children with him. A chance encounter at the supermarket triggers everything again for her – she texts wanting to meet. The restaurant meeting is awkward, but kind fo cathartic for both, as he tells her that it has taken years for him to accept the fact that he had no fault in any of this – that she initiated the affair, and he was young and wouldn’t have known better. This made me realize how something like this would make a difference in someone’s life, of someone so impressionable. What Claire did was really awful, and even though she has had a chance to move on, it will never be the same for her, too. (She can’t go to PTA meeting) But the effect for him is worse – it has scarred him forever…

Swing! (Television Thoughts: Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas with Vanessa Williams, PBS)

Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas’ is one of the most well-known and beloved Holiday albums of all time. So here comes PBS with a tribute to that album: an outdoor concert at The Meridian International Center in Washington. Luke Frazier and the American Pops Orchestra has recreated the original arrangements by Frank DeVol and Russ Garcia, and modern singers, led by Vanessa Williams have been recruited to interpret them. It’s marvelous that these songs sound so vibrant in these orchestrations and the singers, including DeeDee Bridgwater and Norm lewis sing them in a contemporary manner without losing any of the appeal. Ms. Williams is particularly wonderful, especially in ‘What Are You Doing new Year’s Eve.’ This special is worth seeking!

Still the Feels (Television Thoughts: Celebrity IOU, S02 E01)

Celebrity IOU’s first season delighted me, and it came out just in time – back when the pandemic first hit. It made me laugh, it made me cry. And when I read that the show was greenlit for a second season, I wondered how the show would continue. But here it is, Season Two has started, and it looks like the show hasn’t skipped a bit. the pandemic isn’t even mentioned, all the better for syndicated episodes!

And we have Zooey Deschanel (Host Jonathan Scott’s girlfriend, and of ‘New Girl’ fame) in the debut episode, giving back to her. childhood friend, transforming her 900 ft square house into a better space – it could be tight for a family of four (and a newborn in there)

So yes, it was nice. But – and this is a big but for me, something felt amiss. The fact that Zooey is Jonathan’s girlfriend lost a little bit of the appeal for me. Surely when her friend saw them, she had an idea what would happen. But other than that, the formula still works, and the next episodes should be better – for me anyway.

Christmas is Love (Series Thoughts: Dash & Lily, Netflix)

I’m in love with the Netflix Holiday-themed series ‘Dash and Lily.’ It’s light without being dumb, and it oozes romance from its pore, and it never feels forced. Looking at the poster, you might be tempted to think that it is a generic Christmas story, like something you would see on Lifetime or The Hallmark channel, but it is much better than anything you will find in those channels. It is smartly written, and even though it has YA sensibility, most people, especially hopeless romantic, will not be immune to the show’s charm.

The series is about two teenagers, Dash and Lily, who ‘meet’ through a red notebook filed at The Strand Bookstore right next to Franny and Zoeey. From there they give each other a series of dares where they both get out of their shells, and int he process get to know each other more. The series give their love story obstacles, but they are all plausible – the show never insults your intelligence.

It also celebrates New York City during the Holidays. I have always felt that this is the time when the city is most beautiful, and the show captures that completely. I will probably be alone on Christmas this year and I plan on re-binging this show during then.

The Getaway, and He gets away (Television Thoughts: A Teacher S01 E06 E07)

The past two episodes show the fallout from Eric’s affair with Claire, both short term and long term.

In Episode Six, we get a glimpse of where Claire’s head is at: she feels guilty about the affair, and is in denial mode. Eric calls her, but she doesn’t want to talk to him, leaving him dejected. And then a break: she leaves the house and calls him, and they get away to a motel. By the end of the episode, we see Eric escaping her. he goes back to his mother as Claire goes to school to ‘turn herself in.’

We learn the aftermath of their actions on Episode Seven, where we see Eric at his first year in College. Apparently, Claire is now in County Jail, and the case was aggravated by that getaway the two of them had. Eric blames himself for sending her to jail. She had to take a plea deal because of it. The incident still haunts Eric, who refuses to go to counseling. He carries everything on his shoulders until it becomes unbearable.

Nick Robinson shines in this series. He is able to show Eric’s vulnerability, and the pain of the guilt his character is carrying.