Betty White, Thanks for the Laughs

I was so sad to hear of the death of my favourite Golden Girl, Betty White, just a few days before her centenary. She was the last of those amazing ladies from that amazing show. I was rather obsessed with The Golden Girls back in their heyday. I still am a bit. I have several of the earlier seasons on DVD, which I still watch from time to time. It’s a treat that still makes me laugh out loud. Way ahead of its time, the sharp and witty script, delivered with relish and style by the Girls, has endured while others just seem like old hat. And only a proper fan would buy a Golden Girls cookbook. Yep, that would be me then.

Betty White was already comedy gold when she landed the role of Rose Nylund, the kindly but hopelessly naïve dumb blonde from St Olav, Minnesota. Except, of course, those clever writers made sure Rose was not always quite as dumb as she seemed. Betty played the role superbly.

RIP Betty White. Thank you for the laughs.

In Step with Modern Britain

With all the endless doom and gloom swilling around us, it’s easy to forget just how far we’ve come. It says something incredibly powerful about our society when the three finalists of Strictly Come Dancing – the most popular show on British TV – were a black woman, a deaf actor and a same-sex couple, as voted for by the viewers. As critic Barbara Ellen put it in her Guardian review:

“A ground-breaking Strictly final in step with modern Britain.”

“… Strictly, and the BBC, at its best: everyone welcome, and everything all the better for it.”

Hot on the heels of Strictly came the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year, also a public vote. It was won by the child of Chinese-Romanian immigrants with a gay diver bringing up the rear in second place.

And then came the out-of-the-blue and very public marriage proposal on the stage of Norwich’s splendid Theatre Royal at the end of their Christmas panto production of Dick Whittington. When Joe popped the question, the kids went wild. Just as well Luke said yes!

Watch it on Facebook. Congratulations boys.

Prime Time Gays

We’ve put Amazon Prime on trial. The retail juggernaut offers Prime free for a month. The jury’s out whether we’ll carry on once the trial is over. Not because it’s rubbish. It isn’t. But because Amazon has got too big for its boots. Just saying.

The trial did give us the chance to check out Prime Video and a couple of movies that took our fancy – ‘Dating Amber’ and ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’. We’d not heard of the former but we’d seen the stage version of the latter beamed from the West End before the pandemic turned off the glitter ball.

Set in Ireland during the mid-90s, ‘Dating Amber’ tells the story of Eddie and Amber, two gay teens who decide to fake a romance to stop the kids at school from banging on about their sexuality. It’s a funny, sweet and touching coming out tale, and perfect for warming a cool autumnal evening.

The musical ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ was a surprise West End hit, inspired by the 2011 BBC documentary ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’. The show follows the eponymous teenager as he beats the bullies and the bigots to slip on the high heels, sequined frock and big hair as a wannabe drag queen.

The show’s back on in the West End now and Prime recently premiered the film version. We liked the stage show but we loved the movie – gutsy, exuberant and courageous with a sparkling cast, including Max Harwood as Jamie.

And what do these two films have in common (apart from the bleedin’ obvious)? None other than fabulous Irish actress, writer and comedian Sharon Horgan who plays Eddie’s doting mother and Jamie’s tight-arsed teacher. Sharon Horgan’s all over our screens right now, making career hay while the TV sun shines. And who came blame her?

Strike A POSE

We love ‘POSE’ – a must-watch on the telly box. The first two series were compulsive viewing and pioneering in the heart-warming but warts-and-all portrayal of the LGBT drag ball scene of 80s and 90s New York. Gritty, witty and fabulous, the edgy drama pulled no punches. Life on the margins was rough and tumble and then AIDS joined the party to make it deadly. The cast of largely unknowns delivered a sparkling script with conviction and passion. It’s no surprise that POSE has been lavished with critical acclaim and showered with gongs and globes.

We could hardly wait for the third and final season on the BBC. It had already aired in the US – again to universal praise – so we were on the edge of our seats with anticipation. Tragically, it didn’t start well. The clunky plot of the opening episodes seemed like it had been chucked together by committee using keywords. Usually we don’t have a problem with Yankee accents but during one particular mumbling scene we had to switch on the subtitles. Touches of former brilliance did emerge mid-series but the saccharine pep talks about lurv just went on and on. The hard edge was lost. We still lurv POSE but the romance has sadly cooled.

It’s a Sin

So far, February has delivered freezing Russian snow and an icy blast from the past on Channel Four. Storm Darcy brought two-foot snowdrifts, abandoned cars and our resident pheasant pecking about for frozen morsels. But it was Russell T Davies’ AIDS-era drama, ‘It’s a Sin’, that really chilled us to the bone. Brilliant as it is, the series made for tough (though compulsive) viewing especially for those, like me, who survived the worst of times, ducking the Grim Reaper’s scythe by the skin of the teeth. By episode three I was ripping open the wine box to squeeze the last drop from the plastic bag.

Many have binge-watched the series on-demand. That wasn’t for us. There’s not enough wine in the box for that. So we took it as it came, broadcast-wise. Last night’s brutal and uncompromising finale was the bitter pill that had us fighting over the Kleenex. The irony of screening the series during another health crisis was not lost on us. I hear it’s gone down a storm with the current cohort of young gay boys putting it about town, leading to a record uptake in HIV testing. Good job, Russell.