HLN Announces the End of Journalism

Meme: Dave Franco and Zac Efron’s Homoerotic Handshake, HLN Announces the End of Journalism, “Pushing Daisies, The Musical”? – thebacklot.com.

HLN announced that they were abandoning their programming to become a social media focused network. And some of their shows will make you weep for journalism. I Can Haz NewsToons will serve up animated satire of current events, One.Click.Away will scour online classified for big buys, while Keywords is a game about searching and tagging trivia from the online world. Can somebody check and see if Ted Turner’s head exploded?

So, do you want to know what stupid looks like? Here it is. This is obviously some 50-year-old’s idea of how to attract 20-something social media users to engage with TV. Speaking as a 50-year-old (almost) IT’S THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER IN THE HISTORY OF IDEAS THAT’S NOT STARTING A WAR!!

Why? Why are corporations so stupid? Do you really want to engage young people? Turn your damn cable channel back into a NEWS CHANNEL and then — here’s a shocker — broadcast the news!

I Want My GayTV — Web and Broadcast Series Line Beginning to Blur

(Jan. 7, 2014) — Tonight, the cable channel Logo will air a movie-length compilation of the series EastSiders. [Check your local listings, but it looks like 11:30 p.m. in the East.]

Kit Williamson and Van Hansis star as Cal and Thom in the web series "Eastsiders."  Watch at www.eastsiderstv.com

Kit Williamson and Van Hansis star as Cal and Thom in “EastSiders,” which is seeing its cable premiere tonight.

So, what’s the significance of this — other than the fact that I’m a fan? Well, I think it’s because the series is at the vanguard of blurring the line between Web-based entertainment — the quality of which is seen often (and wrongly) as “less than” — and traditional broadcast/cablecast TV. Logo seems to be tentatively dipping its toes into the Web world to see what they can mine for their network. (The show was released originally on Logo’s website, after the first episodes premiered on YouTube.)

Down the TV Rabbit Hole
I’m actually not among the ones who think that a television deal is the end-all-be-all of the entertainment world. In fact, I tend to think that networks are looking to the Web for content because they are running scared — scared of the death of cable monopolies, scared of the death of cable bundling, scared of the increasingly small numbers of corporate parents, which tends to have a negative effect on diversity and innovation.

I mean, let’s get real, it’s great that Logo is out there, but it’s owned by one of the most powerful entities in the entertainment world: Viacom. And it does not exist because of any altruism; it’s because Viacom saw a niche where they thought they could make some money. Not making any money? BAM! You’re the next Discovery Health Channel.

It’d be great if the creators of EastSiders could tap into a bit of that corporate money to make a second series (or more), but not at the price that corporate tentacles usually bring with them.

Still, watch, if you’ve never seen it. It’s a terrific example of a program made independent of studio money or interference that’s simply just better than most anything you’ll find on a major network. It’s one of the first, of what I hope are many, programs to showcase different voices and points-of-view.

It’s Awards Season
It is. I know this because the New York Times on Sunday helpfully included and entire special section in the newspaper. One of the awards not helpfully included were the Third Annual Groovy Awards for Web Series Excellence.

There were a few outliers, but generally EastSiders and It Could Be Worse took home the most, er, …. well, I don’t know what groovy thing you get — statuettes? trophies? certificates? Starbucks gift cards?

Anyhow, here’s a rundown:

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Van Hansis, Kit Williamson and John Halbach of EastSiders.

Grooviest Drama Series: EastSiders
Grooviest Actor in a Drama: Van Hansis, EastSiders
Grooviest Supporting Actor in a Drama: John Halbach, EastSiders
Grooviest Supporting Actress in a Drama: Constance Wu, EastSiders
Grooviest Guest Star in a Drama: Sean Maher, EastSiders

It Could Be Worse received the following in groovy achievement:

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Wes Taylor, star and co-creator of It Could Be Worse.

Grooviest Comedy Series
Grooviest Gay Series
Grooviest Actor in a Comedy: Wesley Taylor
Grooviest Supporting Actor in a Comedy: Adam Chanler-Berat
Grooviest Supporting Actress in a Comedy: Alison Fraser
Grooviest Guest Actor in a Comedy: Audra McDonald

It Could Be Worse is the brainchild of Wesley Taylor and Mitchell Jarvis and fast-established itself as a member of that rarified position occupied by EastSiders, The Outs, Whatever This Is, and Husbands known as “Belongs on TV if TV Had the Balls to Produce It.” A second season is currently in production.

Meanwhile, I have to say, it’s an egregious slight not to include EastSiders creator and star Kit Williamson on the “groovy” list. He’s just as groovy as Van — and I’m not even being paid to say so!!

Watching a lot of TV not on TV

Back in May, I reported that I was fed up with television and was giving up the habit. Well, I did it. Sort of. I did jettison my cable so that I only have the super bargain basement basic cable just in case I need to know what’s going on locally, but other than that I just do not bother.

I get the vast majority of my television from Hulu and Netflix and YouTube and the handful of series I watch on the Web. Google’s somewhat-clunky-but-still-revolutionary Chromecast has eased the transition significantly, I have to say. Here are a few things that have grabbed me lately:

EmmerdaleEMMERDALE — American dramatic serials only wish they were in the same league as this powerhouse from ITV in the U.K. Airing six times a week (twice on Thursdays), Emmerdale is a half-hour drama about the most interesting village in Yorkshire. Fires, floods, famine, good-guys-gone-bad, bad-guys-gone-good, lesbians with children, snarky old people, elder-abusing ex-priests — you can find them all having a pint down the Woolpack. If I don’t watch, I start to twitch. Nowt better, as they say in the Dales. (Tonight, an evil bastard is going to burn down Moira Barton’s farm and this time it has nothing to do with her taking up with village shady character Cain Dingle. Oh, it’s a cracker, this one!)

Pramface Series 2 PRAMFACE — This smart and funny offering from BBC3 tells the story of Jamie and Laura. He’s a 16-year-old who has his first sexual experience at an end-of-term party with a very drunk 18-year-old on her way to university. And, of course, she gets pregnant and decides to keep the baby. From that hackneyed premise, comes a simply lovely, hilarious comedy about class, about age, about finding your own path, and about listening to others. The first two series — 13 total episodes — are on Hulu. A third series has been shot and set to air in the U.K. in 2014. Highly recommended.

Whites_(TV_series) WHITES — Alan Davies stars as Roland White, a chef who is both pompous and potentially past it. Darren Boyd is his ever-suffering sous chef. Set in the kitchen of a restaurant at a posh English country hotel, this BBC offering feels a bit like an update of the Lenny Henry classic Chef! crossed with Ireland’s Raw. The Beeb only produced one season. It’s on Hulu. It’s quite sweet.

Rev_-_main_cast REV. — Tom Hollander plays the titular reverend in this delightful BBC2 sitcom.You know Hollander from, well, every period costume drama produced in the U.K. in the last 20 years it seems. He also plays Hugo Weaving’s lover, Darren, in Bedrooms and Hallways, my entry in the most overlooked comedy of the 1990s competition. Smart and human, this is not your ordinary vicar-out-of-step-with-the-world sort of comedy. It addresses many of the struggles of modern life. It also won the 2011 BAFTA for best comedy. Two seasons are out. A third is to be released in 2014. BTW – watch for Simon McBurney’s fantastic turn as the Archdeacon. Brilliant.

The-Inbetweeners-001 THE INBETWEENERS — Laugh-out-loud funny and often raunchy comedy about a group of teenage boys getting up to what teenage boys get up to — mostly having to do with sex and drinking. But, God, is it funny. I thought I was going to have a stroke, I laughed so hard. American audiences with no knowledge of the English educational system may find terms like “A levels” and “GCSEs” and “Sixth Form College” and “revising” completely and utterly baffling. It might help you to peruse Wikipedia for a minute. For the education references; not for the sex jokes. Well, a working knowledge of “slapper” and “up the duff” and “bell end”  would help, I suppose! On Hulu.

MV5BMTQ2ODgyOTM4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDI1ODY3OQ@@._V1__SX640_SY720_ HE’S WITH ME — Web series written by and starring Jason Cicci about a friendship between a gay man and a straight man and their close circle of friends. It spirals out from that premise in some interesting ways. By and large, it’s worth a look, though there is one episode in the middle of the first series (I don’t remember which, sorry) that I thought was a total clinker, but, I liked the characters enough to pick it back up. I’m not sure that it didn’t stray a bit from its intended trajectory, but I won’t fault it too much for that. I really liked the way Cicci (and director Sebastian La Cause) buttoned up the first season. Surprise standout: Ryan Duncan as Benny Costa. You can’t help but love him! Available on YouTube.

holding_video MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES — Fabulous flapper Phyrne Fisher is at the wheel of her Hispano-Suiza as she careens around 1928 Melbourne searching for clues to solve the latest case dropped in her lap. With the help of her companion and maid, Dot, cabbies Bert and Cec, her able houseman Mr. Butler, and to the consternation of Detective-Inspector Jack Robinson, who harbors a bit of a crush on the freewheeling Miss Fisher, who helps herself to lovers and clues, as well as a “gasper” or two, Miss Fisher is to the 1920s as Mad Men is to the 1960s: costume and set and properties design to die for. Essie Davis is sensational in the title role, but I have a soft spot for Hugo Johnstone-Burt as unsure young constable Hugh Collins. The ABC series (Australian Broadcasting Company, that is) is just wrapping series two Down Under, but the first series is on Netflix. Watch it. (Based on Kerry Greenwood’s Hon. Phryne Fisher novels.)

P.S. — Congratulations to HUSBANDS on two Writers Guild Awards for “I Do Over,”  parts one and two, which aired on CW Seed.

Also kudos to EASTSIDERS on nominations for an International Press Academy Satellite award. The Kickstarter-backed series aired on LogoTV.com.

All My Children Gets the Axe Again

It’s not every television series that can boast (?) of being cancelled more than once, but that’s the case with the once-perennial fixture of early afternoon viewing, All My Children. While there hasn’t been “official” official word from the show’s producers Prospect Park (at least publicly as of this writing), tweets from star Debbi Morgan (Angie Hubbard) expressing thanks to fans have been widely circulated and quoted by generally reliable sources such as Michael Fairman On Air On Soaps and retweeted by Cady McClain (Dixie Martin).

(Update: Cady McClain [always a class act, BTW] confirms via Michael Fairman.)

The cast of the "new" All My Children included many familiar faces, including original cast member Ray MacDonnell and longtime co-stars Cady McClain, Jill Larson, David Canary, Julia Barr and others. Image: Ferencomm/The Online Network.

The cast of the “new” All My Children included many familiar faces, including original cast member Ray MacDonnell and longtime co-stars Cady McClain, Jill Larson, David Canary, Julia Barr and others. Image: Ferencomm/The Online Network.

There’s going to be a lot of snarky fan reaction on the Innerwebs in the coming days and weeks along the lines of:

  • I knew it wouldn’t last.
  • Why couldn’t it have been every day?
  • I didn’t want to watch on Hulu.
  • I couldn’t figure out how to get it on my computer, so I gave up.
  • They didn’t have Erica Kane.

And here’s what I have to say about that, quoting that wonderful singer-songwriter Phoebe Kreutzboo frickin’ hoo.

Honest to God. I’m just happy to see someone try to do something differently. I was appreciative of the opportunity, as a viewer, to meet these characters on this new canvas for a while. To have produced 43 episodes in this new format is not a loss, it’s a win. Producers are finding more and more ways to interact with audiences through the Web than they ever have before:

  • Cady McClain made a cool short movie;
  • Freddie Smith, Shawn Christian (DOOL) and company are making a web series;
  • Indie phenom Adam Goldman is producing his second brilliant web series;
  • Broadway’s Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead produce, script and star in a smart web comedy
  • Kit Williamson and Van Hansis (ATWT) starred in Williamson’s exceptional web program….

I could go on and on. But to the naysayers, just remember, small, closed minds have never discovered new worlds, written great novels, played great music, developed cures for disease or launched the next life-changing app. They laughed at Edison, too, you know.

Pine Valley
It was terrific to see folks like Cady McClain and Debbie Morgan and Darnell Williams and Jill Larson in old familiar roles — even the never-count-him-amongst-the-dead Matthew Cowles — but it was even better to watch some terrific new talent like Eric Nelsen and Denise Tontz and Rob Scott Wilson emerge and breath new life into characters whose names, but not much else, were familiar to longtime viewers.

So, again, we write the elegy — and eulogy — for Pine Valley, but we move on, figuring out what’s next and where we’ll be tomorrow and what we’ll tune into then. Something new. And different. The world still turns. Well, as it were.

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Recent Ramblings on All My Children:

Langford on Soaps: Best Gay TV Characters

Langford on Soaps: Has “My Husband’s Lover” Jumped the Shark? – thebacklot.com, Page 6.

Scroll down the linked page about halfway to get to Anthony’s top ten list. Sometimes when I read his opinions of soaps, it’s like we’re watching two entirely different shows. A wide divergence of opinion — it’s what civilized discourse is all about, Congress. This time out, however, it’s something else entirely.

Eric Sheffer Stevens (l) joined As The World Turns in its last year on the air as Dr. Reid Oliver. His pairing with Van Hansis' Luke divided audiences between those who wanted to see the electric pairing of Stevens and Hansis and those wanting a happy ending for Luke and his former love, Noah, played by Jake Silbermann. Reid Oliver's death was central to the plot of the show's finale, though it did not satisfy many viewers.

Eric Sheffer Stevens (l) joined As The World Turns in its last year on the air as Dr. Reid Oliver. His pairing with Van Hansis’ Luke divided audiences between those who wanted to see the electric pairing of Stevens and Hansis and those wanting a happy ending for Luke and his former love, Noah, played by Jake Silbermann. Reid Oliver’s death was central to the plot of the show’s finale, though it did not satisfy many viewers.

I like his list. I think I would have replaced #s 10, 9, and 5, but other than that, I think he’s onto something.

Like Anthony, I think Reid Oliver and Brendan Brady were, in many ways, some of the most important gay representations we’ve had on television. And, I, too, have a soft spot for John Paul McQueen, Aaron Livesy and Luke Snyder!

The Straight Years — A New Website and a Look Back at How it Used to Be

Got this tweet this past weekend from LogoTV —

syp

Of course, I had to check it out.

The premise is people who are out now showing old pictures of themselves when they were pretending to be straight — or simply hadn’t figured out how to come out of the closet.

Back when I was a pre-teen/teenager, there were three people on television that I knew were gay: Paul Lynde on The Hollywood Squares, Charles Nelson Reilly on Match Game, and Billy Crystal’s character, Jodie Dallas, on Soap. And that was it! At least that was it in my little insulated corner of the planet. No one talked about gay and straight. Were these my role models? No, thanks. That’s not it. I’m not like ANY of these men. (Although, I LOVED Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly — they were the epitome of hilarious to me in the 70s — I did not connect the dots.)

CNR

Charles Nelson Reilly made the 70s a little bit funnier on Match Game. A gifted actor, teacher and director, the Tony-winning Reilly filmed his autobiographical stage show, The Life of Reilly, shortly before his death. |Image: nndb.com

Paul-Lynde

TV’s center square, Paul Lynde, was bitchy and campy and threw out one double entendre after another on The Hollywood Squares for years. Also known for stage and TV work, including memorable turns as Uncle Arthur on Bewitched, Lynde died of a heart attack in 1982 at age 55. |Image: crewmagazine.

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Billy Crystal as Jodie Dallas in Soap. Allegedly gay throughout the series’ 1977-81 run, Jodie had several relationships with women. Granted the show was an over-the-top spoof on soap operas, but commercial director Jodie was nobody’s idea of a role model.

Things weren’t that much better in the 80s, when Steven Carrington on Dynasty was television’s gay standard bearer. Carrington — played by Al Corley and then recast with Jack Coleman — like Jodie Dallas before him, had far more romantic entanglements with women than any gay man I’ve ever met. Then again, “conversion therapy” and attempts to go straight were seen as serious back then, as ridiculous as it sounds now. There was no touching, no actual affection shown between two men on TV then; not in those days when, after his 1985 death, the world was shocked to learn that Rock Hudson was gay.

Looking back on those “straight years,” I think that simply because they were there and we could have a conversation about them, Jodie Dallas and Steven Carrington began to pave the way for networks like HERE and LOGO and superstars like Ellen Degeneres and Rosie O’Donnell and Zachary Quinto and George Takei and Anderson Cooper and Neil Patrick Harris and shows like Glee and The New Normal and Will & Grace and Brothers & Sisters and The L Word and Queer as Folk on cable and the networks and Husbands and The Outs and Eastsiders and Submissions Only and Hunting Season online and iconic couples like Kevin and Scotty,  Luke and Noah,  Lindsey and Melanie,  Will and Sonny and, hell, Jack and Doug on Dawson’s friggin’ Creek just to scratch the very tip of the iceberg.

I finally figured it all out in my mid-20s and came out publicly after attending the 1993 gay march on Washington. Being surrounded by the largest crowd I’ve ever seen on the National Mall, I decided that I wasn’t alone. I had back up in case coming out was a terrible idea.

It wasn’t. It NEVER is. I just wish my “straight years” hadn’t lasted quite so long. Maybe they wouldn’t have if I could have seen more of myself on television, in the movies or in literature back then.

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The Corner Bar was a 1972 summer replacement series on ABC that is credited with the first recurring gay character on American television. Played by Vincent Schiavelli, “Peter Panama” was reviled by gay activists at the time for playing up all of the worst gay stereotypes. Schiavelli, far right, is pictured with cast members Gabriel Dell, J.J. Barry, Shimen Ruskin, Bill Fiore and Joe Keyes. |Image via sticomsonline.com, watermarked argentaimages.

Oh, Myyy — Takei, Quinto, and I, Borg: A Long Journey into the Gay Recesses of Deep Space and the Soul

This is a terrific quote by gay icon and social media zeitmeister George Takei. This jump takes you to the Backlot, but it’s source is really the Huffington Post.

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Takei on Star Trek: TOS, before he charted a course for icon staus.

“Some of the cast and creatives were aware that I was gay, and I did, on occasion, bring a male date to parties. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was aware of my sexual orientation and very supportive. That was the extraordinary thing about Star Trek. That we were a diverse crew of people representing so many colors, backgrounds and heritages. That was the promise of the future. And, now, in the J.J. Abrams reboot, an openly gay actor is playing a Vulcan in love with an African American. I’m not really surprised by this. Star Trek taught us to look ahead to a time where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s dream was fulfilled. Being a part of that vision was — and has remained — a tremendous honor.”

via Meme: Gene Roddenberry Knew George Takei Was Gay During “Star Trek,” Justice Kennedy Denies Motion On Prop 8 Stay, Putin Signs Gay Propaganda Law – thebacklot.com.

And, ultimately, that’s why I’ve always loved Star Trek. The deep understanding of humanity that Roddenberry infused the series with was so important in effecting change in our culture over time. It’s place in the cultural landscape of the Western world cannot be ignored — even if you don’t give a crap about stories of space cowboys and turtle-headed aliens.

(And we won’t even get into the stories about the ST geeks who developed flip-phone and Bluetooth earpieces because they designed them to look like tricorders and Uhura’s audio receiver. [“Captain, I’m receiving a subspace transmission from the Vulcan High Command. It’s a distress call!”])

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Great photo of Del Arco, which prompts a remembrance of his iconic role as Hugh the Borg on ST:TNG and the fight for equality. (Seriously, if you don’t know what I’m taking about, just find the damn episode!)

All Trek fans have their personal favorite series. Mine was Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG). It was clunky and, frankly, downright bad for the first couple of seasons, but then it got extremely good.  My favorite TNG episode of all time was one called, “I, Borg” (here’s a clip) about a Borg becoming it’s own entity (you have to know what the Borg are, but go with it). It was a breathtaking, beautiful story about the importance of being different, of standing apart from the collective, of saying that there is difference and there should be acceptance.

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Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Their “deep space bromance” is chronicled in OUT magazine. There is obviously a high hotness score required to get into Starfleet Academy these days!

The singular Borg was played by a marvelous actor named Jonathan Del Arco. He’s an out gay man who is a passionate LGBT activist as well as an actor. Catch him on TNT’s terrific Major Crimes as Dr. Morales.

That’s a long way around the track to get to the point, which is shown so beautifully in the photograph at right. We have gone through so much to get to a world here today’s Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock look like this. Their on-and-off-screen “bromance” is chronicled in a great article in OUT magazine.  In the article, Zachary Quinto talks about how intelligent Chris Pine is and how he infuses all of his characterizations with that intelligence. And, ultimately, that’s why I think Pine’s so damn sexy. I mean, the abs are nothing to sneeze at, but ya gotta have a brain! Oh, myyy, indeed!

You’re Out? You’re Off the Air: Networks Swinging the Big Gay Axe

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NBC’s “The New Normal,” a gaycentric series the network chose not to renew.

Although most people associate the month of May with the Kentucky Derby, Memorial Day weekend traffic or beautiful spring bouquets for Mom, television has only one thing on its mind: Out with the old and in with the new. Manhattan is awash with TV folks in town for the upfronts, the annual ritual in which the networks present their fall schedules to advertisers in hopes of wooing big bucks. It is too early to tell which network will be the big winner, but this year there is a clear loser: gay characters.

via Derek Hartley: May-day! TV’s Big Gay Bloodbath. Huffington Post

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Will Horton (Chandler Massey) and Sonny Kiriakis (Freddie Smith) on “Days of our Lives,” one of the few gay couples on American television.

Sadly, Hartley tells it for the truth, but I’m not sure he actually goes far enough in his hue and cry against the broadcast networks.

Last year there was a lot of positive buzz about the numbers of gay characters on the networks. The sum total of gay characters was about 6% of all characters — lame — but it was the highest percentage ever. After wiping us off the map for all intents and purposes in primetime, in daytime it’s not much better. There seems only to be  Sonny and Will’s  front burner storyline on “Days of our Lives,” amongst the sordid lives being lived on the few remaining televised soaps. Other than that, gay characters on traditional American television are few and far between. (Eden Reigel’s Bianca stands alone — as a proud but lonely lesbian in the gay landscape of Pine Valley on the Web reboot of “All My Children.” It will be nice if that changes.)

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Van Hansis, Kit Williamson and John Halbach star in the superlative Web series “EastSiders,” created by Williamson and now available on logotv.com.

Moving away from traditional TV to find entertainment, I would encourage you to check out these great Web series: EastSiders, The Outs, Husbands, and others. If you go to Logo to check out EastSiders (highly recommended), explore some of their other Web only offerings, such as Hunting Season.

The Persistent Cult of Arrested Development

The Persistent Cult of Arrested Development — Vulture.

Jessica Walter in a classic Lucille Bluth moment on Arrested Development. “The drive-by outburst wasn’t an ad lib. “The wink was mine. Whore was not. That was our genius writers,” Walter said in an article on classic Lucille GIFs by Vulture’s Denise Martin.

Here comes “Arrested Development” again. A lot of people could care less, I assume, but there are some that feel like Will Leitch who wrote this excellent in-depth article on Vulture.

The resurrection is the direct result of the happy-go-tireless advocacy of a small but rabid group of superfans who have become, over the seven years since the show went off the air, a kind of cult—the best kind of cult. Amazingly, ­executives have actually listened to us, even thinking it was good business sense to do so. 

Netflix is releasing the entire new season (the first since 2006) of 15 episodes on May 26 for streaming. A whole lot of TV nerds (me, included, I suppose!) will be giddily streaming away watching one of the oddest, smartest and most demented TV series ever created. The new series will be dissected in minute detail by Bluthites, so there’s no reason for me to think of anything pithy to say about it all in advance.

Looking back, I’m not sure that there was a more sublimely ridiculous TV moment than this one, rendered in kinetic typography:

Gay Web Dramas Flourish

Gay web dramas flourish as TV networks cling to the status quo | Television & radio | guardian.co.uk.

Good article in The Guardian about the proliferation of gay-themed content in web series and how this might be the next new content delivery method for this type of entertainment. (Duh.) As Husbands co-creator Jane Espenson says, “We consider Husbands television. It’s just television that arrives in a different box.”

Some us have been ahead of The Guardian in reporting this. Ahem. See many links below. H/T Tommy Heleringer’s Facebook.

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(l-r) Hunter Canning, Sasha Winters and Adam Goldman star in the exceptional Web series, The Outs. Photo: Interview/Unusually Fine Photography

More HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE to get you started.