Why Is the Best New Gay TV Show
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
February 15 2012 5:00 AM ET
On one of TV’s most highly anticipated new spring series, NBC’s Awake, Jason Isaacs plays detective Mark Britten, a talented cop who is in an auto accident that seems to have killed his wife. Hannah (Laura Allen, who played the bisexual drug addict on Dirt). and teenage son. Rex (Dylan Minnette, Medium). Yet when he awakens each morning, he’s living one of two parallel lives: one in which his son survived, another where his wife survived. This new take on a police procedural is what Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment, calls a sliding doors concept. “The implications of this are complicated,” says Salke. “But we think that the viewers will get hooked into the clever mythology in the way the stories overlap and affect each other in very interesting ways.”
As he moves between worlds, two very different therapists help Mark address his ingenious coping mechanism. It’s these conversations the surprisingly self-aware cop has with these two shrinks that fuel much of what’s wonderful about Awake. B.D. Wong, the gay actor who played the moral compass at the heart of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for a decade, is the confrontational therapist Dr. Lee. Cherry Jones, the lesbian actress best known as the president on 24 — and for being the first gay person to thank their partner when accepting a Tony Award, in 1995 — is warm and comforting Dr. Evans. Each struggles to gain control over Mark’s sanity, knowing with certainty that he or she is in the only “real” world. It’s the first time we’ve had a prime-time TV show that lets two openly gay actors play a cat-and-mouse game with each other — doing so as central characters in a storyline so completely unrelated to sexuality.
Jones and Wong are each sure of their own reality on-screen.
“I am sure that she is not right,” joked Wong of Jones’s shrink, at the Television Critics Association discussion in January. “That’s all I can be sure of. It’s really interesting and fun to play a character which is having an argument with someone who they never speak to.”