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.

To The Courts (Television Thoughts: Allen V Farrow Episode Three, HBO)

Episode Three of Allen v Farrow focuses on the legal proceedings that transpired after the allegations were lobbed against Woody Allen. Mia brought Dylan to a pediatrician and afterwards the doctor reported the incident to the police (he was probably legally obligated to) The prosecutor on the case wanted to do but quietly but was sidetracked by Allen himself who held a press conference at The Plaza Hotel.

And then it gets more complicated. There’s a report from Yale that had two social workers interviewing Dylan nine times, and the show presented experts who said that was probably excessive. The same report concluded that Dylan seems to be not a credible witness. A big part of the puzzle is Mia’s videotaped interviews of Dylan. And you be the judge: do you think or feel that Dylan was partly coached by her? Allen’s narrative is that Mia is a woman scorned (he had started a relationship with her daughter Soon-Yi, itself an icky situation)

Here are my thoughts: something happened to Dylan and I believe her more than I don’t. And I also believe that Allen used his power to try to manipulate things – this is of course the era when Harvey Weinstein was producing his films – and powerful people have their way.

Do I think he’s guilty? Probably.

Guilty (Television Thoughts: Allen v Farrow, Episode 2, HBO)

Watching Episode 2 makes it effectively clear Woody Allen’s guilt. This episode presents mostly Mia Farrow’s case concisely, with more than enough evidence to back her claims. Allen’s side is obviously unrepresented, but then you ask, what can he say?

I remember watching ‘Manhattan’ as a teenager and being enamored by the film. To be honest, I did not even think twice about the age gap between Allen and Mariel Hemingway’s characters. I don’t know if I could ever go back with that lens if I ever saw this movie again. The documentary explains how in most of all of Allen’s films there is always a relationship between an older male and a younger female. It does seem like he may want us to normalize that behavior. I still feel queasy about Allen’s relationship with Soon-Yi Previn, and thsi episode just more than highlight that.

But the most damning piece in this episode? The video of Dylan Farrow as a child telling Mia that her father touched her private parts. In my opinion, there is just no way a kid that age would lie. I said to myself, wow, he’s guilty.

Allen Accusations (Television Thoughts: Allen v Farrow E01, HBO Max)

HBO Max’s Allen v Farrow’s first episode is a bit of an eye-opener for me. I have always been a fan of Woody Allen, the director, and even though I have read about all the allegations about him (and for the most part, believe it) seeing the case visually presented is a different matter altogether. I would think that for a lot of people, this show is the final nail for his coffin.

The first part of the documentary, by filmmakers Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, and Amy Herdy, features interviews mainly with Mia Farrow and her daughter Dylan, and credibly lays out accusations against Allen. I could n’t help but felt sympathetic towards them, because you can see the pain in their faces – how this has caused them terrible grief.

But as has been reported everywhere else, though, this is sort of one-sided. Allen’s side is not presented (it should have been titled Farrow’s case) so you can make of that what you will. But the Farrows’ case is pretty compelling, with visual evidence and eyewitness accounts from friends and families. This show is riveting.

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.

Great is Great (Television Thoughts: The Great, S01 E01, Hulu)

I know I am late to this party, but I just started watching Hulu’s ‘The Great.’ It has been on my list for a while now, but I never really started it. Nicholas Hoult is one of my favorites and you would think I rushed to see it, but I dragged my feet…and it is just my loss. Hoult is great here as Emperor Peter, sly and funny and annoying and hateful all at the same time, changing minute by minute. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised how goo he is, as I have been following him since his ‘Skins’ days. But Elle Fanning is the real draw here. She plays Catherine The Great, and already in the first episode she has shown range few actresses show in a whole season of a show. In just the pilot episode, Fannign has shown Catherine to be at once innocent and virginal, to victimized, to a young lady showing great ambition to a young lady driven by ambition to be the historical figure that Catherine was. I don’t know how accurate this story is (it points to mostly fictional, I read) but this is one delicious watch I shall be savoring.

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…