Toronto
3 min

There is something else on TV

We all need a little time away from the crisis

Credit: Xtra files

About the same time I was writing this column, Oprah spoke through my TV and offered up her latest book club choice as a break from reality during this time of troubles. Being a saintly kind of guy, I figured I could do no less.



We could certainly use a distraction. In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center, comedy seems to have taken a back seat to fear, aggression and anxiety. Time magazine declared irony dead and even the normally caustic David Letterman turned cautiously earnest upon his return to the air in the days following the attacks.



Such caution is understandable. It takes a certain distance to enjoy any kind of story, either drama or comedy, and at the moment, we are right in the middle of the story, too close to risk the subversive force of comedy.



But how else to cope with news reports that read like the first blast of the apocalypse? Too much of this sort of stuff and you’ll develop an entirely legitimate sense of paranoia. Like everyone else I’ve been flipping back and forth between current news and archival docs, trying to make sense of a crazy world. But all the facts in the world won’t necessarily give you balance or perspective. For that you need a jolt or a joke or a new point of view.



Herewith are a few ways to take a break from our damaged reality, all of them guaranteed free of words like terrorist, nuclear and anthrax.



* The Frank Truth (9pm. Fri, Oct 5, Star). A probing look at Canada’s most famous satirical magazine, this feature-length doc questions Frank’s dedication to truth while promoting its bracing irreverence. Not for Frank the usual Canadian condition of fawning subservience. If you’re rich, famous or merely a media hack, the Ottawa-based mag will go after you.



The interesting thing is the number of people who seem to be in on the joke. For every person who’s been hurt or humiliated by the mag, there’s another who’s cautiously ambivalent. Straight comics Sandra Shamas and Dave Foley giggle uneasily at having been outed.



Svend Robinson laughs at a Frank report that he and Mark Tewksbury had a hot date. “I wish,” says Svend.



Such errors don’t exactly enhance the gay profile but they do pretty much demolish the idea of the closet.



If people can’t tell whether you’re in or out, well, there you go: Poof, another outdated concept bites the dust, mutilated by mockery.



* Undressed (8pm. Fridays, PrideVision). About as deep as a cell phone call and almost as brief, this MTV series is under acted, un-erotic and weirdly addictive.



An anthology of twinkie angst, Undressed features different couples confronting their sex problems at warp speed. A woman plots revenge with the boyfriend of the girlfriend of her philandering mate. A cute gay college student berates his straight roommate until aggression turns to attraction. There’s no character development and the stories come and go in the flash of an eye, but the series is so seriously juiced on its own naughtiness that it’s the perfect cheesy snack. Need a break from reality? This is it.



* Gay Riviera (11:45pm. Saturdays, starting Oct 13 on Bravo). At best, this is reality TV for gay people. At worst, a glossy commercial for the downtown gay “lifestyle” featuring photogenic young people saying banal things in photogenic locations, chiefly the bars of Manhattan and South Beach. The subjects have names like Ryan and Dion and Sabrina, and they display a touching need for validation, not to mention a winning willingness to drop trou on camera. But otherwise, the point of their on-camera existence is rather lost on me. Rating: Only if you’re desperate.



* Scout’s Honor (10pm, Sun, Oct 7, Newsworld). If, like me, you find the PFLAG float the most moving part of Pride Day, you’ll love this feature length doc.



The story of the fight for gay rights in the Boy Scouts Of America, it features gay and straight crusaders, but the star of the piece is a 12-year-old straight kid from Petaluma, California, named Steven Cozza. Appalled that a trusted gay mentor had been kicked out of scouting, he decided to fight the organization’s antigay policies.



The United States Supreme Court squashed any hope of equality last year, ruling that the Boy Scouts could discriminate against gay men, but Cozza hasn’t given up the fight. Now an Eagle Scout, he continues to speak at gay rallies.



Eloquent, forthright and committed to justice, the kid is charm incarnate. His opponents are a potent reminder that fundamentalists aren’t limited to Afghanistan. But Cozza’s quiet decency seems destined to triumph.