Thursday, October 20, 2005

Three Reviews

Noah's ArkThough I'd badly wanted to see Patrik-Ian Polk's Noah's Arc, the first Black gay (male) series on TV, which premiered last night on Logo, the new gay channel, my local cable company does not yet have the station (in this most cosmpolitan city that is the heart of the Heartland). But my partner C. did catch it. He left me a phone message after catching only a few minutes, and then sent me this e-mail review, which made me laugh out loud before I headed off this morning to my introductory fiction class (in which we read a Richard Bausch story that also contained lines that were outrageously funny--an achievement I am always willing to praise). Rereading the review this evening made me laugh again.


Opening Scene; 4 dizzy queens clumsily rollerblading on some boardwalk in Cali. Doris Day, I mean, Noah, breathlessly, lips pursed, clutching his chest runs into a "friend" who the other gurlz don't know and spends the next 2 minutes breathlessly, lips pursed, clutching his chest introduces said queens to said friend all of whom stumble over themselves like cats in heat to make an impression on him, he being Wade.

Turns out man is straight but heavily mackin' Doris, I mean Noah. Entire episode revolves around should he or shouldn't he, can he or can't he sleep with Wade and... his girlfriend, which is the only way Wade will slip it to him.

Other themes in this episode; Slut friend sleeps with male employees, Dame Edna friend discovers partner of 7 years has online sex life, Rudolph Byrd friend moves in with lover after only 6 months of dating. And so it goes. Empty stereotypical characters, HORRIBLE acting from everyone but especially Doris Day, I mean Noah, who can only communicate breathlessly, lips pursed and, clutching his chest and sighing while running around in some of the most frightening early 80's madonna outfits I have ever seen. The entire episode, though contemporary, seems somehow stuck in 1983. The only characters who seemed interesting were Dame Edna's partner, Wade, and the thugged out brother the slut plays around with in the store.

They reeeeeeeally need to re-tool this.. i think that's the lingo...

Did anyone else catch the premiere? What do you think? C. also pointed me to this Post-Gazette review, "Noah's Arc is racy fun but shallow," which took a similar stance. (One question: why is the character on the far right featuring a Liza Minnelli do and wearing what looks like lipgloss? Do Black gay men in Los Angeles run around looking like this? They certainly don't in New York, Chicago, Washington, Boston, Atlanta...or is it an LA thing?) The outtakes on the Noah's Arc website give a little bit of its flavor and lots of shots of sexy men, but little of the what the series' narrative arcs might look like, the fullness of the characterizations, the overall quality of the writing.... A friend of mine, whom I'll call J., was in communication with Polk at one point, and J. has written spec scripts and is a great writer, so maybe he can take up C.'s challenge and help with the re-tooling. I want this series not only to be as good as the standard HBO has been setting, but to succeed and perhaps last a few years. If it's as shallow as it sounds, it might not last that long, especially once the novelty wears off.


Other reviews: In today's Salon, Andrew O'Hehir harshly reviews Steve Martin's new film, Shopgirl, which he adapted from his best-selling novella of the same name. (Once while in a Waldenbooks in New York, I picked this book up, read a page, and then experienced a moment of despair that this trite crap would sell unaccountably more copies than 10 other, better written books ringing on the bookshelves.) O'Hehir really, really dislikes it. But what he especially dislikes is Martin's performance. He calls it a bad film. A very bad film. He even devises an analogue for Martin's character/performance, and it ain't pretty:

I'm not quite sure what has happened to Steve Martin; I was never his biggest fan, but some of his early movies are silly and fun and some of his mid-period ones, like "Roxanne" and "L.A. Story," are enjoyably sweet. If I were his therapist, I would no doubt applaud his desire to reinvent himself as an author of worldly-wise fiction. I haven't read "Shopgirl" and am hopeful that it's better on the page than on-screen (although Martin's snippets of voice-over narration are not encouraging: "...he had hurt them both, and he cannot justify his actions except that, well, it was life"). But his character in the film, resembling more a Madame Tussaud waxwork of Steve Martin than the real thing, crystallizes all the discomfort below the surface of "Shopgirl" and turns a dreary movie into an awful one.

Ray is supposed to be the suave older guy with money and taste who sweeps Mirabelle from behind the glove counter at Saks (if indeed the Saks store in L.A. even sells gloves) and makes her feel appreciated, in body and spirit, for the first time. First of all, this is a trite and slightly unpleasant theme that cries out for original handling and doesn't get it here. Martin's performance is one of implacable, rubberized unhappiness; you get the feeling he saw Bill Murray in "Lost in Translation" and thought, "I can do that."

He can't, though. Is Ray a damaged divorcé who falls in love with Mirabelle, after his own fashion, but can't express his feelings? I guess that's the idea, but you can't really tell. He could also be planning to add her to his collection of chopped-up girlfriends beneath the pool. He could be a narcoleptic. He could be the reanimated corpse of Richard Nixon, nervously sweating embalming fluid. He could be shot so full of Botox it's a wonder he can speak at all.

Yikes! "The reanimated corpse of Richard Nixon!" Oh well. Jason Schwartzman, a really annoying, unattractive actor is in this film. He's not Jon Cryer, but he comes close. I know he's well-connected, but he's really not very photogenic nor is he particularly talented (he was good in Rushmore, and that's about it). So please, Hollywood, let's use him sparingly in films. Very, very sparingly. Also, O'Hehir points out that this is yet another "aging celebrity's unpleasant" personal fantasy that's been made into a major Hollywood film, and for this, I thank him. In fact, one of the reasons I loathe most Hollywood films is because far too many of them are drawn from a very narrow racial, class and gender perspective, or from an equally narrow bank of fantasies--which is to say, most of the original screenplays for major Hollywood films that get churned out strike me as the products of a small set of people who appear to have little knowledge of the vast majority of people out in the country, of regions outside a few enclaves on either coast, of anything beyond their immediate ken. And the older, male, hetero fantasies, from screenwriters, celebrities, directors, and producers, and those that fit all four categories, are also grating. Please, no more such films. We know you lust after nubile, adolescent and post-adolescent, preferably blonde females (or in Spike Lee's case, lesbians of color). It's neither fresh nor interesting any more, if it ever was. It hasn't been for years. So please spare us. Seriously.



Yesterday the award-winning poet and University of California, Irvine professor Michael Ryan came and read at the university. I was only mildly familiar with his work, and totally unaware that he too was a native of St. Louis (till the age of about 7). After a sparkling introduction by my colleague Robyn Schiff, he read for only about 35 minutes or so, beginning with a light and humorous poem, "Airplane Food," that actually made the phrase "baby bundt cake" work, and then turned towards some of his darker materials, which included a poem addressing a murdered young woman ("A Dead Girl"), an injured sister ("Ashpits, St. Louis, 1951"), a voyeur watching a "Brazilian-thong clad courier" ("Open Window, Truck Noise, 3 AM"), a character known as "Dickhead" ("Dickhead"); larger themes included sexual desire, suffering, disappointment, death. A number of the poems, which dealt with everyday lives and pedestrian subjects (on the surface at least), were in 16-line quatrain form, and all featured not only vivid and memorable lines

"Last night I got shot in the head...." ("Flimsy")
"Cruelty turns to astonishment." (ending of "Dickhead")
"Maybe you're a verb / or some lost part of speech" ("God")
"As Chekhov put it, compassion down to your fingertips" ("Reminder")
"Their light — their light — / pulls so surely. Let it." ("Reminder")

but a sure grasp of narrative drama, portraiture and concision. I vowed after Ryan was finished to pick up his New and Selected Poems, and when I see a bit more of a clearing to read new work, I plan to do so. (I also will post my little drawing of him here soon.)


  1. Noah's Arc was "cute" and I'll probably watch it again just on GP. But it was everything Curtis wrote. Shallow, superficial, stereotypical. And yes, I think it's a uniquely LA thing.

  2. ive heard some different opinions of Noah Arch's -- one person thought it was just queer as folk with black faces. i didnt see it- we dont have logo here either!

  3. I can not believe we have Logo in B-more and you don't have it in Chi -- What up wit dat!? Our cable is out, however, so I missed it -- but a friend and co-worker was SO excited about it that he taped it (and will tape the whole season) so I can report later. So far "black gay Sex and the City" seems to be the majority take on it. I hope it does well enough that we can have more and more different expressions of our lives on TV.

    As for Steve Martin: That "Richard Nixon" quote in the review is astounding! LOL. I do think hes in a TAKE ME SERIOUSLY mode now, to his detriment. And the whole 'older man, younger woman' thing in Hollywood has got to stop! But then since it's run by old men, it seems not bloody likely.

  4. I've been checking out NA, and I have been stunned into silence. It is sooooo tacky, that I keep looking behind myself to catch the dude playing tricks on me. (He must be back there somewhere). BUT! Like any train wreck, I must keep watching.

    All of these shows, The L word, Queer as Folk, SITC, piss me off because everyone is thin with a rock hard body.

  5. Bernie, I'll take your word on it being an LA thing. (And I still haven't seen either the movie or the premiere!) Cane, what also comes to mind is "Girlfriends." Reggie, I've also heard "Sex and the City," though it was fascinating that both C. and Rod (of Rod 2.0) picked up on the Doris Day undercurrent! I also thought, when C. told me about all the phone c(h)atting, of that famous scene and song bit in "Bye, Bye Birdie!" (Wade sounds a bit butcher than Conrad Bird-HEE!) Martin: yes, O'Hehir wasn't playing! But then A. O. Scott of the NY TIMES praised it fulsomely, as did someone on NPR (I can't recall). And Terry (Terri? Teri?) Gross also praised it as she interviewed Martin. Only O'Hehir has brought up that this is yet another realization from the tiresome id of old male Hollywood; I guess that not seeing the forest for the trees does apply at times. Treasure, I love your phrase, "like any train wreck, I must keep watching." I'm with you on the "thin with the rock hard body." One of the things I wish Hollywood (and cable TV too) would depict realistically is how BIG most Americans are. SHOW THE BIG PEOPLE! That's one of my new mottos. Not even most American gay men--Black American gay men included--are thin with rock hard bodies. (Around 1980, the "thin" part, especially compared to now, might have been closer to the truth.) Except maybe in LA, which I haven't visited since I was 5...but elsewhere, NO!

  6. Noah's Arc got nothing on "The Closet" available only on the Q Television Network (

    Logo is so gay-lite and too censored! Oh yeah, too much damn commercial too!

  7. Hmmm..."The Closet"." Just the name alone is problematic. We don't need any more stories designed solely to titilate curious heterosexuals. We need stories with main characters who live their lives without shame or apology. "Noah's Arc" at least has that going for it. And from that Closet trailer footage, the acting on Noah looks Academy Award-worthy by comparison.

  8. Did you guys read Rod Online's take of the show? It's hilarious....

  9. Noah's Arc is a bubble-gum image and shallow gay series. And it truly does belong on Logo since Logo is just gay-lite.

    Believe me, Q Television will eventually become the premiere glbt cable network!

  10. While I enjoyed the idea of Noah's Ark, it was quite predictable and pretty annoying---especially Doris. What the hell was up with his hair?! But since there is little else of us on television directly related to me as a black gay man I'll have to settle for it. (for now)

    As far as The Closet is concerned, I've been robbed. I don't know why I subscribed, but I thought hey, why not support the brothers. After 3 payments of $90.00 and two extremely late DVD's I want my money back. Unfortunately no one answers thier e-mails or phones. Maybe I need to give AMEX a call and see if I can get my money back.

  11. I think this review was a little harsh, but I understand the frustration with the show.

    Read and/or listen to Sex and the Second City's review of Noah's Arc:

  12. So here i was on a lonely saturday night at my boyfriend's house (who was not there happened to be partying with his brothers)flipping though the channels when the words NOAH'S ARC catch my eye. Not knowing what the LOGO channel was, I assumed it was a religious program. Boy was I surprised and instantly intrigued. I have never watched "gay/lesbian" TV unless you count that season where Samantha goes lesbian on Sex and the City. And lucky me I caught a marathon. All I can say is I really enjoyed Noah's Arc and am now a diehard fan but this is coming from the perspective of a heterosexual African American female so what do I know.

  13. I enjoy Noah's Ark and Im happy that we have LOGO in the state of Wisconsin. I wasnt too sure about the first 2 episodes, but it has become a part of my regular TV lineup. I think its funny, original and most of all daring. Hats off to Mr. Patrik-Ian.

    I thought PUNKS was cute too.