Television

The TV Club, 2018

Entry 8: As long as there are so few shows by and about trans people, I’m OK with Pose corniness.

Hailie Sahar in Pose.
Hailie Sahar in Pose.
FX Networks

Oh, Sonia! Catch back up with Detroiters! It … just got canceled, so it’s not much of a commitment! To Willa’s question: It was the story of Sam (Sam Richardson, also of Veep) and Tim (Tim Robinson, long since ex- of Saturday Night Live). Tim’s dad was a legendary Detroit ad man until he experienced a mental health crisis that required him to be institutionalized—and, trust, my description of this is a lot more sensitive than Tim’s. Sam and Tim took over the business and tried not to run it into the ground. Robinson and Richardson, who also co-created the show, are both from the Detroit area, and their affection for the city shone in the locations they shot in, from penthouse restaurants to downtown pop-up parks to the Detroit Institute of Arts and even the tidy turn-of-the-20th-century two-story homes where Tim and Sam lived, next door to one another. But even as some episodes highlighted areas of the city that are vibrant and safe, others set up Sam and Tim to mock new arrivals taking advantage of Detroit’s cheap real estate and rough reputation.

At the heart of it, though, was Sam and Tim’s relationship, one of the sweetest male friendships on TV. Between their career partnership and their intertwined personal lives—Tim was married to Sam’s sister—the two spent virtually all their time together and appeared to treasure every moment of it. They supported each other in all their worst ideas and impulses, defended one another against criticism from outsiders, and loved each other fiercely and without shame (or any of the winky gay panic that, for instance, has aged so poorly with Chandler and Joey on Friends). On top of being hilarious, the show’s central duo was touchingly pure.

Pose is a very different kind of show. But it also takes great care in portraying unromantic love between characters who are bonded by choice. Blanca certainly could not be more of a mother to Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain), Angel (Indya Moore), and Ricky (Dyllón Burnside) if she had raised them from childhood, but Pose shows us how the characters keep choosing each other as their circumstances change. Elektra’s arc, and the peace she and Blanca made after all the betrayal and heartbreak they’d put each other through, was one of the most beautiful stories I watched on TV this year. Like Sonia, I can’t dispute that it has saccharine tendencies. But given that this is one of two TV shows about and by trans people, I’m OK waiting until there are five or 10 before their characters start displaying major flaws. While I wait, I will—speaking of flawless—pass the time watching the series premiere cold open on a loop.

I guess that word brings us back to Willa’s description of The Americans. I think it’s more than fair to say that the series was flawed, that sluggish fifth season in particular. But like Todd, I waited eagerly for screeners during its final season this spring. I raptly devoured them. Months later, I can still mentally summon every beat of the sequence in which Elizabeth (Keri Russell) finally exhales with relief after a customs officer fails to recognize her in her glasses and wig—her very last disguise!—only to see Paige (Holly Taylor) on the platform as the train glides away. The Americans appropriated a lot of songs I loved, but “With or Without You” is now embossed with that moment forever.

And just as one era-defining spy drama was wrapping up, we got a new one in Killing Eve. Farewell, Cold War dread; hello, Hell World nihilism. Not only does Jodie Comer’s Villanelle not have children of her own to agonize about between assassinations, she has open contempt for everyone else’s who cross her path. She and Elizabeth do share a love of impeccably tailored designer clothing, though—and what would you give to see Eve Polastri and Stan Beeman comparing notes over beers? Someone should already be writing this sketch for the Golden Globes.

You know where else Villanelle would shine? The ring. Willa, talk to us about GLOW.

Tara

Read the previous entry. Read the next entry.