I’m Selina, Awards Circuit’s queer Girl Friday for everything LGBTQIA+ on TV! Each week I take on some of TV’s biggest stories through the rainbow lens, which came in handy this week over on ABC. Tuesday saw the sugar-sweet season finale of “Fresh Off the Boat,” featuring friendship, solidarity and some eye-watering suits, while Shondaland newbie “Station 19” had its official premiere on Thursday night. Each, in their own way, earned major props this week for inclusion and letting queer folx shine.
“Fresh Off the Boat” has had quite a beautiful story arc for young queer girl Nicole (Luna Blaise), who’s been coming out to her friends and family while struggling to flirt with her crush this season (ah, young love). Tuesday’s season finale was the crowning jewel in a stellar season that promoted acceptance and love for LGBTQIA+ youth. Eddie (Hudson Yang) and Nicole’s school throws a dance, which the pair and their group of friends decide to attend together since they’re all single, a common move for awkward teens. The group makes the most of it, deciding to wear watching orange and powder blue tuxes just like the guys from 90s hit “Dumb & Dumber.”
Not everyone, however, is so accepting of the group’s plan. The school’s PTA releases a dress code for the dance upon hearing of Nicole’s decision to wear a tux, requiring all the girls to wear skirts or dresses while the boys wear suits and ties. Nicole is disheartened by the policy, noting that the dress code is an attempt to force heteronormative gender roles onto students (see a clip above). The edict is a public judgement on Nicole’s self-expression and self-worth, something series creator Nahnatchka Khan acknowledged in an IndieWire interview. “It’s sort of an awakening for Nicole,” Khan said, “that, unfortunately, there are people in the wider world that will actively seek to discriminate against her because of who she is.”
Luckily, Eddie saves the day. He shows up on Nicole’s doorstep wearing an orange tux with a bright blue skirt and shaved legs, holding a powder blue tuxedo (with pants) for Nicole. Eddie, no stranger to discrimination himself, stands in solidarity with Nicole and “walks the walk” that many LGBTQIA+ allies fail to do in public. The group of friend do go to the dance, even when they’re turned away at the door for wearing the “wrong” clothes; refusing to change, the group makes their own fun and kicks it in the parking lot, earning the respect of many of their fellow students. By literally dancing in solidarity, “Fresh Off the Boat” makes a strong statement about standing up to discrimination, no matter what form it takes.
Later on in the week was the official premiere for the newest show from Shondaland, “Station 19.” The series follows Andy Herrera (Jaina Lee Ortiz, “Rosewood”), a hardworking firefighter at a Seattle firehouse where her father, Pruitt (Miguel Sandoval, “Medium”) reigns as chief. Andy is the apple of her father’s eye though she wants to be treated like everyone else, a regular chip off the Meredith Grey block, complete with Christina-like bestie Maya (Danielle Savre, “T@gged”)). The cast features a cast of new and familiar faces, with Ben from “Grey’s Anatomy” (Jason George) as the rookie firefighter who can’t shut up about his cool former job, Dean (Okieriete Onaodowan, “The Super”) as the firehouse sweetheart who gets too involved with the women he rescues, and, as always in Shondaland, a love triangle heats up between Andy, Jack (Grey Damon, “Aquarius”) and first love Ryan (Alberto Frezza, “Shotgun Diaries”). “Grey’s Anatomy” regulars Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) also made appearances when things take a turn for Andy’s dad, hinting at an ABC power block similar to NBC’s “Chicago” dynasty. The shows already had a crossover event a few weeks back, priming viewers to tune in to “Station 19” when it officially premiered.
The two hour premiere didn’t meet my admittedly high expectations for a Shonda Rhimes series, with a plot too easily predicted. With every new “revelation” came the obvious fallout, ushering Andy along to her Big Decision to campaign for her dad’s post when he steps down. It’s plausible that the series will come into its own given some breathing room, but it certainly isn’t on the level of “How To Get Away With Murder” or the early seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy”. However, the premiere wasn’t without shining moments, including a scene where Andy uses the firetruck to inch Ryan’s poorly parked squad car out of the red zone to the tune of crunching metal. Better still was the quick-witted act of Ben and Bailey’s kid, Tucker (BJ Tanner), who pulled the fire alarm when one of his middle school friends went into labor (eek!).
But my personal fave and rainbow standout from the premiere was medic Travis (Jay Hayden, “The Catch”), the only out gay character in the series so far. Travis is perhaps the most dynamic character in the firehouse, a competent first responder who rightfully reprimands Ben when he makes a rookie mistake and gracefully accepts his apology later on in the episode. He’s kind to the people he treats, revealing he lost his firefighter beau in the line of duty the year before to a struggling elderly patient. Yes yes, I know, the “Bury Your Gays” trope rears its ugly head, but Travis’ grief seems to be more than a factoid for the character himself, which hopefully means Travis won’t be the Grieving Gay Lover this season. He’s introduced as a whole person with outside interests and a personal life (i.e. cooking, being hot, cooking and being hot…), something the dashing Jack doesn’t even get (what does that guy even do when he’s not mooning over Andy?). Oh, and I have I mentioned Hayden’s a Korean-Irish American? I almost never see other hapas on TV! “Station 19” may not have won me over, but Travis (and Hayden) certainly have. Here’s hoping for more of Travis and a less predictable episode next week.