Toronto
5 min

Boob tube baubles

Notches on the PrideVision dial

BETTER THAN PORN? So Graham Norton is the best reason to subscribe. Credit: Xtra files

Time’s up: The free preview of the new digital channels is over and you have to decide whether to subscribe.



With regard to the queer entry, PrideVision, perhaps the only thing you really need to know is that it’s now showing gay hardcore on Thursday and Saturday nights (at midnight, of course), and triple XXX lesbian erotica, mixed in with the soft stuff, Tuesdays and Fridays, also at midnight. No more soft-fade to romance.



Depending on the extent of your porn addiction or your desire to shock casual visitors (“Whoops, mom, I didn’t know that was on”), the free porn might almost justify a subscription, currently retailing for up to $7.95 a month, plus the cost of basic satellite/cable, and, in the case of cable, digital conversion.



For more, uh, discerning fans, however, there are other reasons to watch the only all-queer entry in the 50-channel digital TV sweepstakes. With a programming budget of only $5-million a year (or less than the production cost of a single episode of Frasier), PrideVision relies heavily on movies and docs you’ve probably seen elsewhere (And The Band Played On, Licence to Kill, The Brandon Teena Story).



But it also has stuff that’s new to these shores. In addition to clever theme festivals (Men Of The Cloth, Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson) and brash documentaries (Got 2B There), it’s also offering quirky British comedies and brand-new Canadian lifestyle shows.



Here’s a rundown of the highlights.





So Graham Norton



Probably the single best reason to subscribe to PrideVision, this hyper British talk show is Dame Edna on speed. A fixture on UK TV, the naughty Mr Norton works his gayness to the max. Sly and campy, he interviews glam icons like Ivana Trump and Honour Blackman, and indulges in a very gay style of nudge- nudge humour that’s both affectionate and nasty.



Typical was a phone-in segment, where Norton had phone sex with a German sex star. While she described her “grosse titten,” he rolled his eyes. The British references left me baffled, but Norton is appealing and the show dizzyingly inventive. He borrows a few tricks from Letterman but does him one better in the rudeness sweepstakes. Not for him the raised eyebrow. Norton’s humour is very out there.





Gimme, Gimme



A straight woman and a gay man share a flat and a certain heated sexual desperation. But there, all similarity to Will And Grace ends. Tom and Linda are English, grotty, crude and failing badly. Neither is pretty and both are desperate. Tom is a thin chested Nancy boy cum aspiring actor, Linda a blowsy bespectacled version of Bruce Vilanch.



In episode one, they find a buff stranger in their apartment and connive to prove he’s theirs and theirs alone, finally resorting to sniffing the sheets. Kathy Burke’s Linda is a virtuoso turn on self-delusion. Affronted by her roomie’s lack of sexual interest, the chubby seductress says: “There’s no such thing as gay, it’s just laziness. It takes a long time to understand a woman’s hidden treasures.”





Locker Room



I’m not sure whether to call this a comedy or a lust fest, but it has something to do with sports. Host Paul DeBoy keeps the tone light and sexy with an effusion of double entendres and campy looks at sports “heroes” like Tanya Harding.



There are mock interviews (with a gay horse), mock sports tips, and much attention to athlete’s butts and chests, including a top 10 “hotties of the week.” The opening shots of bare-chested jocks tossing a ball is pure ’80s porn, but DeBoy injects enough humanity to maintain some balance.



At a Montreal swim meet, he interviews both the local swim studs and a 71-year-old woman who has just set a provincial record. The jocular tone may wear thin after a while but at the moment it’s funnier than most of the stuff on The Comedy Network.





Shout



Pride’s flagship magazine show, Shout, showcases queer movers and shakers, usually in two interview segments and a first-person inspirational moment. Typical subjects: an all-female production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a queer comic, a transsexual activist.



Like every queer magazine show to date, from Citytv’s Queer Television to PBS’s In The Life, Shout is a little high on the rah-rah quotient. Just for a change, I’d like to see some dirt on “us” rather than “them.” This late in the coming out process, the community could stand a little criticism.





Metrosexuality



Surely the most inventive show on TV – maybe a little too inventive. The buff, evenly pigmented people who inhabit this colourful British soap create a queer groove, where all the truly with-it types are gay and everyone else is trying to be.



Stylistically, it’s a mix of Mad Max, My Beautiful Laundrette, ’70s glam rock and full-fashion drag. Content-wise, it’s utopian and complicated. “I’m your ex-boyfriend’s current boyfriend,” says youthful Bambi who’s dating middle-aged, punkish Robin who is divorced from blond, dreadlocked Max, who fusses over their hunky son Kwame (the show’s major straight) who pines for a nervous model and hangs out with gay friends dressed in classic Carnaby St. Got it?



You won’t for long. Not unless your eyes are permanently stuck in REM mode. Hectic editing accentuated by swooshy sound effects ensure you’re always playing catch-up. Flash, fun and frantic, Metrosexuality is a fevered antidote to the tidy liberalism of most US TV, but in its own way it’s just as sentimental. Parents care deeply, ex-lovers remain friends and true love triumphs. Fun, but a little bit goes a long way.





Urban Fitness TV



A mix of fashion, fantasy and how-to advice, Urban Fitness works best when it sticks to the advice. Host Derek Noble offers detailed tips on sprouting recognizable abs and delts that might actually save you a trip to the personal trainer. They’re actually helpful. But the fantasy stuff – kite-surfing in South Beach – looks overly familiar and the show is a tad bland. Except for the close-ups of a baby-smooth guys you wouldn’t know it was a gay show.



A gay neutral interview with a female basketball player leaves you guessing.





Dyke TV



Most of these New York-produced news magazines debuted in the US so the news segments are dated, not to mention slow. Host Ann Northrop reads with pon-der-ous authority. Most of the other segments are staples of community programming – interchangeable profiles of sports leagues, pride rallies and other righteous organizations that can do no wrong. Fine stuff if you haven’t already got your monthly fix of rainbow flags. Of the segments I’ve seen, the best was a streeter on dyke fashion, conducted by two women wandering through the Brooklyn Pride parade. It was fun, affectionate and mercifully flip.





Bump



Co-produced by Pink Triangle Press (which publishes Xtra), this gay travel show is the slickest of the Canadian lifestyle shows. Host Shannon McDonough is a real find, one of those rare people who actually looks happy on camera, and the pacing is exemplary. Each week, it’s a different gay-friendly destination, with opening honours going to San Diego, home to great surf and spiffy sand.



If some of the footage looks appallingly familiar – shirtless boys and rainbow flags – there is lots of useful information on everything from hang gliding to bars and beaches. Better yet, it almost made me want to visit.