Pick-up Programs: The Lavender Tube on Viewing to Cure Winter Doldrums

by Victoria A. Brownworth

Bay Area Reporter

Tuesday January 24, 2023

Pick-up Programs: The Lavender Tube on Viewing to Cure Winter Doldrums

Dry January and post-holiday doldrums can leave us aching for a pick-me-up and that's where queer TV comes in.

Oh, do we love Alan Cumming. We were blessed to see him on stage in "Cabaret" and will never forget it. Cumming hosts Peacock's new unscripted reality competition series "The Traitors." It's described as "a nail-biting psychological adventure in which treachery and deceit are the name of the game."

Alan Cumming in 'Traitors'
Alan Cumming in 'Traitors'  

Twenty contestants compete in a series of challenges to earn a cash prize. The series takes place in a castle in the Scottish Highlands, and the prize is a cool $250,000. The players are referred as the "Faithful," but among them are the eponymous "Traitors," a group of contestants selected by Cumming, whose goal is to eliminate the Faithfuls and claim the prize for themselves. Should the Faithful contestants eliminate all the Traitors, they will share the prize fund, but if any Traitors make it to the end, they steal the money.

Each night the Traitors get together to choose one Faithful contestant to "murder," and that person will leave the game immediately. The remaining Faithful contestants will not know who has been eliminated until the following day, when they will not enter the castle for breakfast.

This series is so much fun, and of course there are queer folks among the contestants who include some big names from other reality TV series, including "Survivor," "Below Deck," "Big Brother," "Summer House" and "The Bachelor." Enjoy lots of backstabbing, lots of in-fighting, and Cumming in some pretty cool regalia, including a tartan and a beret. You will love it. As he says to one contestant, "And you thought the 'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' was bad."


Poker Face
"Poker Face," starring "Orange Is the New Black" alumnus Natasha Lyonne, is fabulous. Are you missing "The White Lotus" and "Only Murders in the Building?" This new Peacock series, which debuts January 26, is for you. With Emmy- and Tony-winning lesbian actor Cherry Jones, queer-friendly icon Chloë Sevigny, British actor Jameela Alia Jamil, who publicly declared herself as queer after her appointment as a judge of the voguing reality series "Legendary," Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, Emmy-winner Ellen Barkin, and lesbian actor Clea DuVall.

Natasha Lyonne in 'Poker Face'
Natasha Lyonne in 'Poker Face'  

Created by Rian Johnson ("Knives Out," "Glass Onion"), this mystery-of-the-week series follows Charlie Cale (Lyonne), and focuses on her uncanny ability to know when someone is lying. Traveling across the country in her Plymouth Barracuda, she meets a new cast of characters and strange crimes she can't help but solve every time she stops. An inverted detective series, the crime and perpetrator are shown at the beginning of each episode, then Charlie tries to solve the mystery, à la "Columbo." This show is so queer, and you are so going to love it. Lyonne is spectacular, and the cast is extraordinary.


"Velma"
New from HBO Max, "Velma" is an American adult animated mystery horror comedy series based on the character Velma Dinkley from the "Scooby-Doo" franchise. Developed and created by Charlie Grandy ("SNL," "The Daily Show") for HBO Max, it stars executive producer Mindy Kaling as the voice of the eponymous character, with Sam Richardson, Constance Wu, and Glenn Howerton in supporting roles. Grandy also serves as the show runner.

'Velma'
'Velma'  

The series revolves around Velma and the other human members of Mystery Inc. before their official formation, making it the first entry in the franchise to not feature the Scooby-Doo character and as a sort-of prequel to "Scooby-Doo." Kaling is also a writer on the series.

"Velma" serves as an alternate universe origin story for Mystery Inc., pitched as a "love quadrangle." It primarily focuses on Velma as she tries to solve a mystery regarding the disappearance of her mother, as well as the numerous murders of local teenage girls.

Velma is a snarky teenage would-be detective with a lifelong passion for solving mysteries, a trait she inherited from her mother. Velma is portrayed as bisexual and a South Asian American due to Kaling's ethnicity, a first for the character.

Velma was revealed as a lesbian last fall, but now is bi, so whether the new series will address that shift is still a question. Nevertheless, it's Mindy Kaling and Constance Wu, whose Daphne has "complicated feelings" for Velma. (Also, Daphne has two lesbian moms.) The cast of voice actors has a lot of lesbians and queer women: Cherry Jones, Jane Lynch, Fortune Feimster, Nicole Byer, and Shay Mitchell.


"Los Espookys"
HBO started the new year by offering their inexpensive $9.99 launch of their LGBTQ+ Voices package which the channel says is to "celebrate stories that are unapologetically queer, all year round." Among the offerings are the fabulous "Los Espookys." The critically-acclaimed bilingual comedy series, from creators Julio Torres and Ana Fabrega, "follows eccentric friends who turn their passion for horror into a peculiar business."

We love, love, love this series. Season 2 is even better than Season 1. Brush up on your Spanish and watch. https://www.hbomax.com/collections/lgbtq-voices


"Sky Rojo": Season 3
A Spanish black comedy action drama television series, "Sky Rojo," created by Álex Pina and Esther Martínez Lobato, follows three sex workers — Coral, Wendy, and Gina — who flee from their pimp, Romeo. According to the creators, the series shows "the impunity, ambiguity and brutal reality of prostitution, and the psychological portraits of those on both sides." Pina and Martínez Lobato have described "Sky Rojo" as "Latin pulp."

'Sky Rojo: Season 3'
'Sky Rojo: Season 3'  

The series stars Wendy (Argentine singer Lali Espósito) who's described as "a lesbian woman from Buenos Aires who flees Villa 31 and becomes a sex worker in the brothel to make money so she can provide a better life for herself and her girlfriend." With Verónica Sánchez as Coral, Yany Prado as Gina, and Asier Etxeandia as Romeo, it's filmed on location in Madrid and Tenerife. Watch it on Netflix.


Finally, the 49ers meet the Eagles January 29 in the game that will determine which team makes it to the Super Bowl (where queen Rihanna is the half time entertainment!). Both teams trounced their competition in the playoffs, so expect a great game.

While there's no news in this week's column because we need a political palate cleanser, things are changing day to day, Speaker McCarthy is just as monstrous as we foretold, and so remember — you must stay tuned.

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