Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys
A new "reality" show.
The reality show Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys (Sundance, Tuesdays at 10 and 10:30 p.m. ET), intriguingly ridiculous, plays a variation on two themes that are regularly intertwined on the Bravo network—the consumption habits of a certain kind of conspicuous woman and the cultural sensibility of a certain kind of gay man. The show's great advance, to degrade a phrase, is in treating the consumption of the sensibility as a central theme. In a voice-over, a woman introduces the premise and, perhaps unwittingly, a sitcom-ish point of view: "There are millions of women in New York City who have the perfect love life"—wait a beat—"with gay men." Then the show's four female stars chime in to discuss the good qualities of their gay male friends—their trustworthiness, their candor, their good humor, their listening skills. ... These friends are, "above all, men who will never leave us." You immediately get the sense that, with the us, the series is both expressing its own perspective and reaching to gather the audience in its first-person embrace. A naive viewer may develop the impression that gay men are prized as companions for resembling dogs gifted with the power to talk about cute shoes. Here we are again in Gotham, its enchantments represented by the Lake in Central Park, the waggling G-string pouches of go-go boys at Chelsea clubs, and the dining rooms of restaurants there's no great urgency to get to. Down in SoHo, Elisa, a 45-year-old divorcee with one daughter, runs a vintage boutique with the assistance of David, a pal since college. "I don't know what drew me into her room," he fails to reminisce, "whether it was the Joni Mitchell album or the smell of cannabis or what ..." They have a genuine bond, and also they bring a lot of energy to dramatizing that bond in cartoonish terms. Note the scene in which David goads Elisa, who effectively professes never to have seen a running shoe, into going for a jog in the park. Initially, she is tentative, and he is bushy-tailed. Shortly, his knee acts up, and she trots gamely on. Eventually, they take a pedicab home, after David has had a chance to sit on a bench and smokes a cigarette in an Art Nouveau posture. The producers must have thought that a hansom cab would be over the top. David should have stretched, perhaps. Naturally, a show like this would be incomplete without a scene set at Fashion Week, which is where we meet up with Crystal (lawyer, author, single mother, ex-NBA wife) and Nathan ("I'm the sidekick!"). They are apparently partners in an entertainment enterprise; at least, that was the pretense for her happening to mention that she spent New Year's in St. Bart's with Jay-Z. Nathan is 34, apparently a fine age for exploiting one's own insecurities. He says he wants, as a 35-year-old, to be a father, despite being single and obliged, being a party promoter, to stay out all night chugging Veuve from the bottle. (What happens when the kid wakes up at 6 a.m.? "That's what you have nannies for.") Nathan sits in a studio telling the camera about a depressive period during which, lamenting the absence of his own father, he sat in Central Park and cried for hours. Simultaneously, through the magic of editing, he sits on a bench in Central Park, re-enacting the dolor. A duck quacks. Nathan says, "I don't think Crystal takes me seriously when I say that I want to have a child, and that hurts my feelings." In fact, on the evidence, no one takes him seriously, including the show itself, which presents him as a combination of younger brother, support-group partner, and kicky accessory. Out in Brooklyn, Joel, a writer and composer, is preparing for a trip to Iowa to marry his doctor boyfriend. His pal Sarah is an ace at failing to repress her envy of him. You can tell by the way she combines words like "fear" and "spinster." Where's her perfect guy? I refuse to condemn Sarah for her whining partly because I know how lonely it can feel out there and partly because there are more interesting things to condemn her for. It is one thing to sit in front a TV camera and talk about the difficulty of caring for a mother suffering from dementia, and it is another to bring that mother toddling onto the screen, as Sarah does, a moment that the editors, nudging the bathos along, juxtapose with a shot of the daughter stroking her teddy bear. But now I waver and wonder whether to give Sarah the benefit of a doubt. Perhaps she entered the series under the impression that it would explore human relationships with a degree of sobriety or try to say something halfway serious about sexual identity. Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys does have some pretensions to seriousness. Exposing them, it betrays its core triviality. Episodes feature these soundbite speed-round segments in which the girls and the boys take two-second swings at social issues and cultural politics—gay marriage, for instance, and the use of the term "fag hag." Earlier this year on FX, an episode of Louie featured a riveting bit, by turns hilariously raunchy and solemnly thoughtful, on the matter of when and if it's correct for a straight comedian to use the word "fag" in his act. If you are a sucker for indie-film branding, then you might expect Sundance to attempt a similarly intelligent treatment, and you will get what you deserve. "Why can't we be 'fag princesses'?" is the sum of one comment. Is that anything like a frog prince?
Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic.
Still from Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys © 2010 Rainbow Media Holdings LLC. All rights reserved.