Gay Times Articles I
GIMME GIMME GIMME
Gimme Gimme Gimme celebrates
a number of firsts for British television. It's the first to centre on the
relationship between a gay man and a straight woman, and it is the first
sitcom to flow from the pen of Jonathan Beautiful Thing Harvey. It's
also the first time Kathy Burke has ventured into sitcom land since... well,
since ever really, unless you count Ab Fab. And finally, it's the
first time I have had to write eight hundred words on a single thirty minute
It is a difficult job to do, trust me. One programme
a whole series doth not make and, as has been witnessed by Victoria Wood's
recent sortie into situation comedy with dinnerladies, the opener
is no predictor for the next five, either for richer or poorer. And I was
already at a disadvantage as I am not a fan of the male protagonist, James
Dreyfus. I've always held his acting to be the ultimate in ditzy queening
and shrill camp that did little to further the progression of gays on television.
Even worse, Dreyfus's constant denial of his own homosexuality while playing
such outrageous queer stereotypes just stuck in my throat. Still I thought,
I can offset this disappointment with the delightful prospect of Kathy
So... welcome to the world of Tom and Linda,
a world of "lives, loves and laundry" says the PR, then continues: "She's
a girl, he's a boy and they both have the same taste in men" - a potential
predicament blatantly played out in the opening cartoon titles. Forgive my
inherent cynicism, but it could be argued that this is a pretty thin basis
for three hundred minutes of air time... So can anything save this new sitcom
in my jaded eyes?
Let's see. The first thing that struck me was
the scenery: a stomach-churning mixture of geometrically patterned brown
and biege wallpaper, orange and shit-coloured furnishings, olive green bath
fixings and Linda's fuzzy pink and swirly purple palace might have been enough
to send me scuttling to the Off button. But hang on... this could just be
another way that the BBC have allowed Harvey et al to queer the pitch,
so to speak, and present gay lifestyle under non-IKEA, light!
Well, it was a nanosecond of nice thought.
You only have to briefly watch Tom Farrell (Dreyfus), a resting actor (and
no wonder) who wears "velour-look combat slacks and Baby Spice pumps" and
launches with little warning into pansy slapping fights with his flatmate
Linda la Hughes (Burke). His CV marks his special skill as "lisping". He
is privy to panic attacks that would shame the acting repertoire of a seaside
panto dame and his wrist is limper than the proverbial lettuce
Admittedly, Linda is all caricature too, with
a frightful orange coiffure atop some Timothy Mallet specs, an obsession
with Liam Gallagher that borders on psychotic (but allows for some delightful
physical and visual comedy) and a night job with a firm called 'Mattress
Busters'. But oddly, I found myself saying, "I ask you, what else does any
self-respecting sitcom viewer need?" Am I letting my thespian preferences
hinder my judgment?
No, and I'll stand firm on that. Within the first
five minutes, it is obvious Burke is the saviour of this piece. She has all
of the prime lines, all of the optimum moves, far superior facial expressions
and a knack for comic timing that just tramples over anyone else. Her portrayal
of a woman with "the functions of an angel" who throws her knickers over
the lamp and sincerely believes that lesbians are attracted to her "like
flies round shit" is certainly novel, no doubt aided by Harvey's someties
abrasive, often surreal and occasionally hilarious dialogue. Maybe it's just
because she spends most of the time berating Dreyfus as a "overgrown streak
of piss" that enamoured me to her character...
Okay, time to be fair. Keeping in mind that I
am a huge fan of Burke and Harvey's previous work (in particular, Boom
Bang A Bang) but not of Dreyfus (or of a surfeit of Seventies decor)
I guess I'd have to say that, on balance, I do like Gimme Gimme Gimme.
If you find episodes two through six appalling, don't blame me that you're
still watching: I've only seen thirty minutes! So far, I find it quirky enough
to be engaging, peculiar enough to maintain my attention and whatever you
think about it, it's still a step forward in mainstream BBC2 programming,
although maybe not as far as the press release would have you believe ("bizarre
and always hilarious"). Ask me again when it's all over.
©Megan Radclyffe Publ. Millivres
GAYTIME TV BBC2
Could it really be twelve months since Gaytime
TV last blessed the airwaves ? Hold your breath no more, as the light
entertainment strand of gay television is back. Are you excited ? I thought
for a brief moment that I might be, but I stand corrected.
I met with the producers Neil Crombie and Danielle
Nay at the concrete carbuncle that is the Planet 24 Building in Docklands,
with only a month to go till showtime. After a short walk (past buildings
blown to smithereens by the IRA a stone's throw away) we settled down to
Spanish sausage, Russian salad and squid rings, and they laid bare the plans
for the second, seven-part series. "This was the longest consecutive run
we could get," Neil explained, stumping rumours of a 12-part run, which would
have been interrupted by a grand sporting fixture.
No doubt you'll be chuffed to hear that Rhona
Cameron and Bert Tyler-Moore's contracts have been renewed, while Amy Lamé
has been re-deployed to cover the wonderful world of American queers. But
poor old Mark Anthony won't be seen flexing his pecs on windswept, sandy
beaches and frankly, who wanted to tighten their tush at 11.15pm at night? It's no loss.
As the content for 210 fun-packed minutes of TV ? Not much has been
absolutely finalised, although a piece profiling the work of the Albert Kennedy
Trust and a look at Mr Gay UK has been promised. But is Gaytime TV
celebrity'd-up ? "Quentin Crisp is coming over from New York. We promised
to give him an escort, so we sent the prettiest boy in the office, but he's
straight!" he snickered, almost rubbing his hands in glee.
Beryl Reid has been persuaded to leave Honeypot
Cottage and her dozen darling cats to perform "Every Time You Say Goodbye",
Boy George will be back (but warbling this time), as will McAlmont and Sandra
Bernhard. There'll be a spot for the more unusual lesbian and gay groups,
and a torch song at the end. Ooh, my head's gone all funny. I had an awful
sense of déja-vù... I desperately needed to know if there have
been any changes. I was assured that some changes have been made. For those
who thought the studio set was a nightmare, there's a resplendent new one
- "It's a sort of 1950's Hollywood Roman," Neil said, showing me some "extremely
rough" pencil sketches - "and there'll be an audience of about sixty people,"
Danielle said. "Hopefully, they'll react to items that have been on. We might
even get Rhona to wander around like Esther," she continued, almost bubbling over
with the prospect of it all. "We're hoping that a live audience will benefit
Rhona and Bert because they both started in stand-up."
Of course, it's too dangerous as a live concept,
so each programme will be pre-recorded a few days in advance. "We didn't
want a Word-style audience," Neil staunchly informed me, scuppering further
any plans one might have to upset their rosy-coloured apple cart. "It'll
be more in-the-round, an intimate club atmosphere."
"Will there be more items based in Britain, or
even Europe ?"
"Ah," said Neil. "I remember you kept banging
on and on about the American bias. You see, all the best stories are in America
- the scene out there is fabulous - and Americans will speak to us. British
gays don't like going on camera. They're scared their parents or a neighbour
or their boss will see them."
"And we did something on Europe last year," Danielle
chipped in. Ah yes, I do recall something about European boys being used
for gay soft porn films, but precious little else.
"And will you be covering Pride this year?" I
"Well," they both hummed and aahed. "It's difficult
to get a new angle on it..."
"You could do a critical overview," I suggested.
"Ask why people have been complaining over the last few years, whether Pride
has outgrown itself..."
"Oh, you're just so negative!" Danielle
But not negative enough for them to refuse a viewing.
We traipsed back to Neil's office ("It used to be the photocopy room") to
glimpse at the only piece that's been completed: Amy Lamé's trip aboard
a women-only cruise. Now I think Amy's a scream, but presenting does not
appear to be her forté. It's possible that standing on a ship surrounded
by 650 dykes gave her the collywobbles, but lively she was not. You'll be
treated to a woman who has three sequined outfits for dinner and dancing,
single women who are tagged to ID them, and lesbians dressing each other
in scanty lingerie in a swimming pool. Two interesting aspects of the trip
hit the cutting room floor: the fact that none other than Candice Gingrich
and Margaret Camameyer were cruising too (although you'd never know), and
that most of the women on board started menstruating at the same time. Obviously
too contentious (or squeamish) for viewers of late-night TV...
I left with the distinct impression that Neil
and Danielle are far better at PR for Gaytime TV than they were at spotting
a good scoop, and I believe that they were tremendously skeptical about the
chances of a fair review. Maybe if I hold my breath when it's on air, the
lack of oxygen to my brain will help me to be objective about
©Megan Radclyffe Publ. Millivres
TINKY WINKY of THE TELETUBBIES
'The Outing Of Tinky Winky' declared the Mirror.
'Tinky Winky A Gay Pinky?' asked the Express. 'Teletubby Gay Shock' the Guardian
cried. There I was thinking that the chap inside the costume had revealed
his true sexuality, but no!- nothing as truly newsworthy as that! It emerged
that Jerry Falwell, founder of the defunct Moral Majority movement in America,
had claimed that Tinky Winky was gay! (Tinky Winky was not available for
comment, but Dipsy said: 'Eh-oh!')
How could this be?
Very simple really. In an article entitled 'Parent
Alert: Tinky Winky Comes Out Of The Closet' Falwell said that Tinky Winky
is purple, has a triangular antenna and carries a handbag ergo he must
be gay. Now, run that by me again?
'He is purple - the Gay Pride colour,' Falwell wrote in his own 'National
Liberty Review'. Well actually Jez, a generic gay pride colour does
not exist and purple is the recognised colour for lesbians, but go on. 'And
his antenna is shaped like a triangle - the Gay Pride symbol.' Fair enough.
Yes, the pink (or black) triangle is an accepted gay (or lesbian) emblem
but then it's also a musical instrument and a plane figure with three sides
and three angles. And finally, Jez says that while Tinky Winky has a 'boy'
voice he carries a handbag. This means the Teletubby is a 'gay role model'
and that's a bad, bad thing. No! It's a magic bag and is not jam packed
with Teletubby lipstick or Teletubby lube.
But in a classic 'Shock Horror!' way the tabloids,
obviously lacking more crucial news to cover, became frantic. The story ran
for days, as more and more characters from children's television were 'outed'
by - who else? - the Sun. Reports that masses of under-4s flocking to the
nearest gay club were not posted.
Really, this is sodding
Would any self-respecting 'gay role model' really
wear purple then accessorise it with a red bag? I doubt it. And while we're
on the colour thing, the 'Gay Pride Group' Falwell referred to has eight
- including green, yellow and red. Wait a minute! The the other Tubs
are those colours - aren't they gay too? Well no, they seem to have missed
Falwell's eagle eye. Dipsy (who is 'dreadlocked and black') has a large erection
on his head. Is this not racist? Po (the red one who, it is rumoured, is
a radical Left-wing Cantonese woman) has a hole. Is this not sexist? And
Laa-Laa (the yellow one) has a definite kink to his antenna. Now what an
earth could that mean? I was initially bemused by Laa-Laa's tutu as
I thought all four Teletubbies were male. Hold on a minute! If Po's the girl,
then Laa-Laa's a boy and he wears a tutu - hey, Jez! Isn't that one
of those 'subtle depictions' you were waffling on about?
I have watched Teletubbies a number of
times since it started broadcasting two years ago. I make no apologies for
that. I ignored all the crap about it hindering the development of children's
language skills. After all, I thought, I was brought up with the mutes of
'Playschool' and 'Bill and Ben' and I never said 'Flob-a-lob'. (Just an aside
- Hambel was a dyke if ever I saw one.) I was more curious about the pink
and gold sparkling dust that blew gently across Teletubbyland and sent them
all to sleep! But it's just a kid's programme. Kids like bright colours,
rabbits and counting games. They're not thinking about being gay: they just
want the see the balloon 'Again! Again!' and eat Teletubby toast.
While I would roundly condemn Falwell for being a hopeless idiot with
way too much time on his hands, it could get worse. He could get hold
of a copy of the BBC's official Teletubbies magazine. There on page
one, in orange and yellow, it lays out the Tubs' philosophy:
'Teletubbies' world, full of love and hugs, creates a secure atmosphere
where children are made to feel everything is right and acceptable.' So far
so very good. 'Young children love the Teletubbies because they recognise
themselves in everything they do.' Oo-er. Let's misinterpret that, shall
Teletubbies and kids like 'Waving hello and goodbye'.
Gays do that but then so do 'normal' people like Falwell and his fetid followers.
The Tubs love 'Jumping up and down, rolling and falling' - they've been to
a gay club then. And then they enjoy 'Dancing and marching, together and
on their own' - I'm thinking any gay club and any Pride march here... 'Singing,
talking, thinking out loud...' hang on! Those are gay things! Definitely!
And there on the cover, the words 'Up and Down'... well, that settles
it! They're all bloody pinko subversives hell bent on encouraging young
kiddies to have deviant sex! Falwell would no doubt turn to page 11 and see
the photo caption, 'Now I'm down at the bottom and he's up at the top' as
something worthy of criminal investigation and moral condemnation. Actually,
it's two kids playing on a see-saw.
As far as I'm concerned, the Americans should keep their opinions to themselves
when it comes to British television programmes. Teletubbies is one
of the few programmes around that teaches the dying art of 'big hugs'. Putting
sexual innuendo onto something like a bag and the colour purple in a simple
children's programme is the real immorality here.
©Megan Radclyffe Publ. Millivres 1999
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