Darren Star does some kind of magic and I’m really not sure if it’s good or bad. The television producer’s trademark is unmissable shows that are equally captivating and repellent – shows that would be repellent if people actually couldn’t stop watching. Star’s set of eye roll triggers includes Emily in Paristhe Sex and the City reboot And just like that, Younger, and now, disconnectedwhich Star created next to it modern family Alum Jeffrey Richman for Netflix. disconnected is a froth about a wealthy white gay man in his forties, single for the first time in 17 years, navigating the intimidating but bloated world of New York gay dating. It goes down as easily as finely mixed glass.
During this time, I became somewhat paralyzed disconnected‘s first episode. I wanted to turn away but couldn’t. It had the pull of a car crash but none of the chaos; it actually seemed meticulously tailored. It was happy to make you laugh or moan – either way, it won. It wasn’t a camp per se, but never mind if you thought it was, an advantage of oglers addicted to the wicked goodness of it all. I couldn’t help but wonder whether this show was an elaborate invitation for people to rally around bad TV and bond through lamentations. Could Star actually be doing bad things because in a streaming world nothing matters more than the ability to people watch, and people have proven they are eager to see and discuss Star’s bad things? Would I have fallen into a trap by inhaling the entirety disconnected‘s first season in just a few nights?
Maybe! I admit I was impressed that a stupid show made me think so hard disconnected did – and here we are. On some level disconnected based on dazzling viewers, similar to Sex and the City did, with the fabulousness of a city far less accessible to the middle class in 2022 than it was 25 years ago. Anyway, Michael (Neil Patrick Harris) and his ex Colin (Tuc Watkins) are rich gay men with rich friends. Their big problems are not having everything they want when they can figure out what, exactly, This is. Colin leaves Michael in the first episode, sending Michael on an odyssey of casual sex and pitfalls. He literally walks into two guys who he ends up making out with, and when a third guy compliments him on a ski slope for his developing shoulders (those shoulders are apparently spotted under a jacket), Michael sends him tumbling down a mountain. What a card!
Come to think of it, Harris’ character gets compliments on his looks so much that by the end of the season it feels like a contractual obligation. Here are examples:
Up until now I thought Harris’ brand was some kind of nebulous anti-hunk, but apparently, according to a recent one New York Times profileduring an interview, he called his “good looks a crutch and then corrected himself: ‘an odd albatross.'” Well, what do I know!
The profile also states that Harris was specially cast disconnected for his moderate appeal: “They wanted him for his talent and looks, but also for his popularity, which they hoped would keep the comedy from feeling too niche.” (Are there still concerns about the appeal of a gay romantic comedy in a post fire island and dear simon World? Apparently there is.)” So much would have been obvious without such explicit signalling. Newly single Michael is as naïve about the gay world as any straight person in Central America of any given generation would be and as such can function as a hetero avatar. He’s very similar in that regard Seek‘s constantly wide-eyed Patrick. Foreskin made Patrick dizzy; a big cock does it for Michael. As if he couldn’t be more explicitly a tight ass, he also dumps a guy in front of him for farting.
The special Scene is an example of how the show strives for wisdom but ends up in absurdity — Michael argues, “Once you fart around each other, you can see the end of the relationship around the corner.” To be considered a joke, there should be a grain of truth be in it, but we are actually being treated to someone who seems to be not only new to gay culture but to humanity in general. When Michael whines about PrEP leading to condom abandonment (“You can forget about barebacking. I can’t be turned on just by seeing my name on this blanket.”) he’s sticking to a condom code that was about as useful for public health as a pure abstinence class. At this point I wondered why we were even still listening to what this guy had to say.
The over-articulation of culture is widespread disconnected. Michael’s fellow broker Suzanne (Tisha Campbell) once declared, “It’s cool to be sexually fluid right now.” So I’m listening! In fairness, such cultural bridges from the queer to the straight world are necessary, especially given the contentious political climate. As much as I appreciate that The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story‘s steadfastness in his gayness and refusal to over-explain certain elements of the culture to a straight audience, I realize that something more fundamental can be useful. The problem is that there isn’t much good observation out there disconnected. The bridges actually lead to nowhere. Early on, Michael and his friends start talking about dating as gay men in their forties with TV weatherman Billy (Emerson Brooks), another character who gets compliments on his drop-dead good looks so often it’s propaganda, and say he feels like it it just gets better and better as the number of younger men looking for older partners increases.fill up. Her art dealer friend Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas) notes that Billy only feels that way because he’s on TV. The truth, says Stanley, is much lonelier. But then disconnected undermines his own observation with an endless stream of guys pouncing on Michael. He doesn’t have time to be lonely if he’s never alone. The show can’t even bother to be uncomfortable for more than a few seconds at a time.
Maybe that’s what’s so intoxicating disconnected– it moves so fast that it doesn’t even matter what happens as long as it keeps happening. The character of Claire, played by Marcia Gay Harden, is a great example of something that just keeps happening. Claire is a wealthy, recently divorced woman who enlists the help of real estate agent Michael to sell her apartment. She whines about her fears, but episode after episode she gets what she wants and has a great time. Harden plays her with the subtlety of a crudely drawn cartoon rich lady. She speaks as if she’s mimicking the kind of over-the-top imitation of wealth you’d see in Gray Poupon’s ’80s commercials (“Downtown is for restaurants—not for living!” she lilts). It’s camp stock, layers of the synthetic that are not only so far removed from reality but also every kind of humorous distortion from it amounting to a patchwork quilt of bad creative choices.
So goes the highly consumable, packed with empty calories disconnected. It’s a show that aims to both educate and broadcast, but in its jumble of reality and imagination manages to be neither here nor there.
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