’Half-Share’: The Funniest TV Sitcom You May Never Get to See
When I read about "Half-Share," an unsold half-hour TV sitcom pilot, I figured it would be another in an all-too-long line of no-budget queeny, campy, dreary, unfunny indie dramadies I’ve suffered through lately.
Well, it’s definitely campy and queeny. It also happens to be rolling-on-the-floor, pee-in-your-$200-clam-diggers funny. As a veteran of far too many share houses in Fire Island Pines, watching this felt more like a documentary than a fictional representation of that unique custom of the country, the half-share.
In Fire Islandspeak, a half-share is a room in a house every other weekend during the season (roughly a few weeks before Memorial Day to not too long after Labor Day). You don’t get your own room, unless you want to pay a lot more. The standard is sharing with someone else.
Mac, the protagonist in "Half-Share," like many in real life, doesn’t know his new roommate until he arrives via ferry on Fire Island. He is met by another Fire Island standard, the housemother, here played by Alec Mapa as a drunk who lusts after very old men.
Like one of those World War II submarine movies or ’70s disaster films, the house is a cross-section of gay types -- all of them drawn closely from life but given a life of their own by the writer-directors Sean Hanley and Jesse Archer.
The Michaels are a couple united by dysfunction, alcohol excess and bitchiness. Harold (played by Kevyn Morrow, the best in a very good ensemble of actors) is a Republican black Park Avenue lawyer during the week who magically transforms himself into a sex-crazed, coke-infused, semi-cross-dressing diva on the weekends.
Archer as the roommate is the consummate Fire Islander: WASPY-cute; given to excess in sex, drugs, alcohol and any other pleasure he can get his hands on; a bit of attitude; judgmental as hell about hair (top of head and facial), clothes, music and tricks.
Kyle Spidle is perfect as Mac, the lost puppy dog who moves to New York to nurse a bad break-up in the Northwest. Bad move, Mac! Anyone knows that New York, and Fire Island especially, eats newbies from the Great Out There for breakfast. Mac is quickly picked up by a very hot Korean-American who quips, "I’m going to be on you like rice over white."
If you find that line offensive, I suggest you do us all a favor and don’t watch "Half-Share," which has a wonderfully un-p.c. attitude about gay life. (The show fearlessly depicts the hot Asian-American as an arrogant prick.) The fact that it draws from real life only makes it more biting.
Case in point: The housemother cooks an elaborate dinner that would embarrass a French chef, only to have the drunken and coked-out housemates ignore it. In the words of that astute observer of life Homer Simpson, it’s funny because it’s true!
What really makes "Half-Share" soar over the pabulum that substitutes for entertainment on television these days are the details, such as a throwaway of a drunken drag queen who appears now and then to fall off the boardwalk or into the harbor. That, and the sweetness that lies just below the tartness. Because the show wonderfully encapsulates the way the members of a share house can truly bond over a summer and become a family.
In fact, the whole problem with "Half-Share" is that it’s too edgy, out-there and original for network and, alas, these days for cable TV. The originality is probably the result of the c.v.’s of the two principal creatives.
Hanley, who has done his time working for the suits in studios on production of various TV shows, commutes between the two coasts. Archer has been honing his craft as the writer and an actor in several gay indie films, most recently "Violet Tendencies."
They were lucky in having the cooperation of the Pines community, which is notoriously sensitive about its image as a drug-filled, sex-crazed haven for attitude-y party boys. "We were really lucky," Hanley says. "They gave us fantastic access."
The show was filmed in early fall of last year. Hanley compares it "Sex and the City," but it’s much funnier and even raunchier than that show about a group of New York gay men.
Unfortunately, given the economics of television these days, this may be the funniest sitcom you may never see. With its casual mention of sex, bodily excretions, recreational drugs and penis sizes, the networks won’t touch this. As for cable, they’ll think the appeal is too limited. The gay nets have pretty much abandoned scripted dramas in favor of reality shows.
So that leaves ... premium cable. Hanley hopes Showtime, which had such great success with "Queer As Folk" and "The L Word," will once again step up to the plate and out of the box to take a chance on a gay show that breaks all the rules. In the meantime, you can go to the show’s website for a taste of what you’re missing. Or, if you’re feeling generous, visit Kickstarter to contribute to the continuance of this show.
Honestly, I can’t think of a more worthy charity. In these parlous times when gay men are supposed to be married, monogamous and military, is there anything more urgent than showing that we can still rise to the level of drug-crazed whores?