Must See (?) TV

Cable’s rolling out the rainbow carpet for Pride month. ‘OutSmart’ offers this guide to what’s miss-able and what’s TIVO-worthy.

by Steven Foster

The Doc Is In!
DOCDAY, Sundance Channel
Every Monday in June at 8 p.m., Sundance Channel airs the U.S. television premiere of a hip new gay documentary. Redford’s netlet is famous for pulling out the stops during Pride Month, and this year is no different. Check out the feverishly hot exclusives they’re airing just for us.

Monday, June 1
Influential Brit filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman is profiled by three of his most creative friends and collaborators—artist Isaac Julien (who directed), producer and film historian Colin MacCabe, and Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton. Jarman’s influential films famously rebelled against standard linear narrative, opting for dreamlike, challenging explorations of sexuality, love, art, religion, politics, and history. The doc has made the rounds at the festivals and is generally considered to be a staggering portrait of a groundbreaking artist. Highlights include Swinton, who starred in eight of Jarman’s films, reading “Letter to an Angel,” a heartbreaking message she wrote to Jarman eight years after his death from AIDS.

Monday, June 8
Suddenly Last Winter
When Italy’s left-leaning government proposed extending legal rights to domestic partners, including same-sex couples, the Vatican and conservative politicos acted with a hateful furor usually reserved for “DaVinci Code” novels. Young journalists and lovers Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi took their camera to the Roman streets, exploring and challenging the views of their countrymen who were angered and threatened by the law and the filmmakers’ own homosexuality. Honest and surprisingly humorous, the film smashdances a society in tumult with a couple in love.

Monday, June 15
Santa Monica beach boy-turned-artist Don Bachardy met famed novelist Christopher Isherwood when Bachardy was just 17 and Isherwood was 39. That’s not nearly as shocking as the fact that the two were together for three decades and, in 1953, were one of L.A.’s few openly gay couples. This absorbing doc explores their glittering social circle that included the likes of iconic actress Leslie Caron and firebrand filmmaker John Boorman, the brazen openness of their sexual relationship, and their tender and tragic final years when Isherwood slowly succumbed to the ravages of cancer and Bachardy exhaustively chronicled his decline with unflinching portraiture. If you’re going to see one gay documentary this year, this is probably your best bet.

Christopher Isherwood (l) and Don Bachardy (in the late '70s) in Chris and Don: A Love Story.

Chris and Don: A Love Story

Monday, June 22
Rise Up and Shout!
Three years ago, gay activists Don Kelhefner and Mark Thompson had an idea—bring older generations of gays and lesbians directly to the their younger LGBT tribe members who were enrolled in Los Angeles schools. That mentoring program resulted in an exuberant theatrical showcase for young gay artists. Featuring interviews, auditions, and intimate conversations, Rise Up provides a fascinating glimpse of a community comprised of young and old, black and white, shy and bold. High School Musical should be
so cool.

Monday, June 29
Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell
Matt Wolf directed this look at the life and music of little-known composer, producer, cellist, and singer-songwriter Arthur Russell. The film follows Russell from his native Iowa to Haight-Ashbury San Francisco and finally to New York’s bohemian East Village of the ’70s and ’80s where his personal eccentricities and experimental orchestrations made him somewhat of a gay raconteur, collaborating with Allen Ginsberg, Phillip Glass, and underground disco queen Lola Love. It’s a wild, rambling, somewhat ramshackle tribute to a lesser-known mind who was taken by AIDS far too early.

D-List? Hardly
Someone’s gonna have to change the name of her show. After two Emmys, a string of successful sold-out concerts, and being both Larry King and Anderson Cooper’s go-to broadcast buddy/bitch, Griffin’s D-List status is the most modest statement to come from any celebrity ever . And her fifth season ups the star ante considerably, including an eclectic mix from idiocy (Paris Hilton) to Hollywood hierarchy (Bette Midler). Griffin also jets to Miami to samba with Gloria Estefan and Rosie O’Donnell, swings by Savannah to cook up some Southern sass with everyone’s favorite butter-pusher Paula Deen, hits the casino circuit with Lily Tomlin, and hangs with fellow media whore Al Sharpton in Harlem. Expect the usual wine-fueled hijinks from mother Maggie—and another slew of Emmy nods. She might have pissed off the religious right with her “Jesus can suck it” comment, but she must have made Him laugh. He’s blessing her all over the place.

Kathy Griffin on Bravo

Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List,

Logo, at Last

New Now Next Awards,

LGBT stepchild Logo continually runs ugly sibling to the gayer-than-gay Bravo. But while Bravo pats its own back with the abysmal A-List Awards, Logo goes for cool with their own tripped-out awards show. Last year, NNN featured the first TV performance of it-girl Lady Gaga, for example. This year, they kick things up several notches. The night’s hosted by RuPaul (Logo’s own nod to self-service). But the presenters are a fabulously frenzied fray of crazy cool including Vanessa Williams, Lance Bass, Robert Verdi, Lisa Lampinelli, and Cheyenne Jackson.
Musical performances will be by Morningwood, The Fire and Reason, Ru herself, and Britney, who will be there to receive the NNN version of a lifetime achievement award, which is pretty funny if you think about it. Categories include Brink of Fame, OMG Internet Award, Best Show You’re Not Watching,
Most Guiltiest Pleasure, Best Lesbian Kiss, Best Gay Couple, and the hysterically titled Feel This Bitch Award.
Saturday, June 13, at 8 p.m.

RuPaul on Logo.

Speaking of RuPaul…

The drag show now has its own dedicated casting site to find stars for its next season. So hit the site and take your own shot at drag fame and fortune. Well, maybe not fortune. Seriously, the first season gave away, what? A PediEgg and a $50 gift certificate to Ross or something? Maybe now that Drag Race is a cult hit, the show can find a sponsor to pony up a prize that’s more than something your grandma might get you for your birthday. Which brings us to . . .

RuPaul’s Drag Race

You Go, (Older) Girl!

Can’t stand those anorexic idiots on Tyra’s freakfest? Then check out TV Land’s first original reality competition that sets out to discover a beautiful woman who is— gasp —35 or older! And the prizes, a contract with Wilhelmina Models, a photo spread in SELF magazine, and— gasp —$100,000! really put the old drag queen contest to shame. Reason to care? One of the finalists is a mother, lesbian, and Brooklyn rocker Sandy Young. Thursday, June 11, at 8 p.m.

TV Land

She’s Got the Look,

Love, Martina
There’s a Tennis Channel? Seriously? Yeah, yeah. Who knew? At any rate, the sport net that, for your information, is the “only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to both the professional sport and passionate lifestyle of tennis”—gotta love press releases—airs a comprehensive bio on tennis icon Martina Navratilova. While occasionally dipping into the E! True Hollywood Story territory with synth-heavy drama moments (Her father committed suicide! A crush on her tennis instructor drove her to greatness!), the show nevertheless covers the amazing story of an woman who witnessed Soviet tanks and soldiers suddenly appearing in her country, causing her to defect at 18, and becoming one of the most recognizable athletes and activists in the world. And unlike previous portraits on Agassi, Lacoste, and Sampras, this one features Navratilova herself as the sole narrator. Catch it on, yes, The Tennis Channel, Monday, June 8, at 6 p.m.

Martina Navratilova on the Tennis Channel.

The Tennis Channel

Signature Series: Martina Navratilova,

Out With ’em Already!
Independent Lens
Acclaimed filmmaker Johnny Symons examines the military’s failed “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, focusing on the gay activists, inside and outside the military, who are working to overturn it. Got that sketchy drug conviction still on your record? The U.S. Army’ll look the other way. Did that high-falutin’ C blow your all-D average in high school? Buck up, soldier, you’re in! Did you say you were gay? Well … in that case … ah … you’re not fit to serve. Can we please get rid of this? Please? Somehow it’s hard to imagine the brave soldiers of Thermoplyae or The Battle of the Bulge taking a poll on who was a fag before dying for their country and cause. Tuesday, June 16, at 10 p.m., with repeats on the 18th at 9 p.m. and the 24th at 10 p.m.


Ask Not,

Higher & Higher
Weeds, Showtime
The 5th season of the Showtime smash takes a big bong hit of cool by casting gay faves Alanis Morissette and Jennifer Jason Leigh for multi-episode arcs. We’ll show up to watch Leigh in anything. And after Morissette’s played everyone from God herself in Kevin Smith’s Dogma to Carrie’s spin-the-bottle partner in Sex and the City, ditto. Will she play gay here? Don’t know yet. But she is playing the obstetrician of the now-pregnant pot-dealing mom Nancy, played by yet another gay-friendly girlfriend of ours, Mary-Louise Parker. Premieres Monday, June 8, at 8 p.m.


Ste7en Foster

Steven Foster is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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