A Guide to What to Watch

It's cold outside, so get back indoors and check out some of the best offerings in film, DVD, television, and theater.



On Television Now:

Still So Unusual

She’s been pop music royalty for three decades and an LGBT activist for almost as long, and now Cyndi Lauper is taking some chances by exposing her life on a new 12-part WE television series, Cyndi Lauper: Still So Unusual, which premiered in January. Don’t expect Real Housewives, but there’s chaos and drama nonetheless on Lauper’s new series, which examines how she and her husband of 20 years, actor David Thornton (of The Notebook fame), and their teen son, Declyn, deal with juggling a rock star career and a healthy home life.

Lily Tomlin, Reba McEntire, and the Other Queer Eye Guy

Last fall ABC added two new out actors to its roster and seemingly a couple of openly queer characters to its lineup in one fell swoop. Malibu Country, a sitcom created by Dave Stewart (one half of the Eurythmics) stars country music legend Reba McEntire as a divorced country singer who moves her kids from Nashville to Malibu, Calif. Lily Tomlin, as her wisecracking, pot-smoking, sexually uninhibited mother, comes along.

McEntire and Tomlin together, says Stewart, are “fireworks.” For the singer, working with Tomlin was “wonderful. She’s just so much fun. She’s down-to-earth. She’s not a diva at all. She’s not pretentious. She’s always working on honing her craft and making sure that her character comes to life…I’ve learned so much from her.”

Joining Tomlin is neighbor Sara Rue, who adds, at the least, some bi-curiosity (she tells McEntire’s character about having slept with other women alongside her husband) and an on-screen stepson Sage, who is gay (or bi) as well.

For viewers, the best part is seeing Jai Rodriguez, of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy fame, as a recording industry assistant who becomes Reba’s de facto career coach.

“He is an incredible actor,” says McEntire. “Great in person to get to work with, and I smother him to pieces. He was doing Rent on Broadway when I was doing Annie Get Your Gun in 2001 on Broadway. It’s really funny how our paths have run parallel for so long. I was auditioning the people for his role of the assistant of the record executive, and when he came in it was just clear he was the one for the part.”

Gladiators Are Still Homoerotic

Spartacus, Starz’s landmark series, is back with the conclusion of the saga, Spartacus: War of the Damned. The franchise has become the network’s most successful and it now airs in 150 countries in more than 15 languages.

A few reasons: hot guys, Lucy Lawless as bi-sexy Lucretia, fierce battle action (with lightly-dressed fighters), and a fair amount of LGBT content. The gladiator-on-slave sex scenes between Agron (played by Dan Feuerriegel) and Nasir (Pana Hema Taylor) from last season are legendary; since Feuerriegel is confirmed to return, hopes are high for more ancient same-sex action.

Gay characters have been a staple of the sword-and-sandals saga since the show’s earliest episodes, according to Gay.net’s Jase Peeples, and their inclusion is a creative choice the series’ creator and head writer, Steven S. DeKnight, fiercely defends. “One of the things to this day I’m still getting comments about is ‘all the gay shit in my show’ and people asking me to tone it down,” says DeKnight. “I always say no. As far as I’m concerned, it’s barely in there to start with, and it was part and parcel of that world and it’s part and parcel of our world now, so I ignore that. If people want to stop watching the show because two guys kiss, well, I shrug my shoulders. That will always be in there.”

Onstage Now:

The Bullying Conundrum

It’s Gabe’s senior year of college, and his future looks bright. But when a campus tragedy occurs, it ignites a firestorm and throws Gabe’s world into disorder. That’s the beginning of Teddy Ferrara, the newest play from Pulitzer Prize finalist Christopher Shinn (who The New York Times placed “among the most provocative and probing of American playwrights today”). Premiering in February at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, the play tackles antigay bullying in a complex and thought-provoking way. “There was lot on the news about bullying and suicide in the gay community with young people,” says Shinn, “and I found myself thinking a lot about my own life, about my own experience, and took the opportunity to explore that part of me in a contemporary play about young people today.”