I’m Selina, Awards Circuit’s queer Girl Friday for everything LGBTQIA+ on TV! Each week, I take on TV’s biggest stories through the rainbow lens, which is more apropos than ever after Thursday night’s primetime revelations. Is there something sapphic to Ellis Grey’s friendship with fellow doc Marie Cerone on “Grey’s Anatomy”? Should businesses serve every customer, even if it’s the Trump-loving, irreverent Karen Walker of “Will & Grace”? And who’s been watching Mindy Kaling’s new comedy “Champions,” featuring the precocious J.J. Totah? Let’s dive on into the latest queer rumblings in the world of TV.
The childhood of Meredith Grey has spilled into the main plot of “Grey’s Anatomy” once more, as the brilliants surgeons of Grey-Sloan Memorial compete in a scientists’ version of the Olympics. Meredith has figured out a way to replace a missing liver with several smaller livers (weird but awesome), but the polymer that drives the process is the intellectual property of Marie Cerone, daughter of the polymer’s inventor. Last week we learned that Marie is no stranger to Seattle, having been Ellis Grey’s “Christina” back in the day. We thought Meredith’s Auntie Marie would hand over the goods, but an age-old falling out between Ellis and Marie throws a wrench in Meredith’s plans. Marie accuses Meredith’s late mother of stealing the legendary Ellis Grey surgical method; apparently it was a joint endeavor (so says the long-estranged “bestie”).
While Marie and Meredith struggle over the polymer, I was mulling over Marie’s pain over Ellis’ supposed betrayal. Could there have been more to their story than friendship? Marie describes their friendship like a great love, with Ellis’ supposed betrayal breaking her heart and causing Marie to up sticks and leave the States and her career in the dust. Could their love have been more romantic than platonic? In the world of “Grey’s Anatomy,” the ratio of LGBTQIA+ to cis heterosexuals is closer to reality, so it’s definitely possible, and Marie’s revenge move with Meredith’s research hints at something more painful than plagiarism buried in their past. We’ll just have to wait and see if Meredith discovers anything else about the “friendship” in Ellis’ old journals.
Love was in the air for the entire episode, as the first love glow of two cosplaying teen boys reminded each surgeon of their own first relationships. The teens go through their own trials and tribulations when a new heart is found for Charlie, a cardiac peds patient with a scarred, dying heart. He tries to refuse the new heart at first, waxing poetic about the organ holding all of his love for bf Henry (who promptly breaks up with him to make him take the new heart), crushing the young patient’s idiotic plan to refuse a new lease on life. The obvious ensues: Charlie is sad but takes the new heart, Henry is sad about making Charlie sad, and the pair kiss and make up with some prose from Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The whole open-chest, heart exposed to the world bit was a little obvious, but who doesn’t love some schmaltz with their drama? Charlie and Henry are here, queer, and uh, crying everywhere, but the prince and his shining knight live to tell the tale, so kudos to all ye gay drama geeks, amirite?
Next up was NBC’s “Will & Grace,” which tackled yet another modern gay rights case with the kind of political naiveté only Karen Walker possesses. The socialite ran into trouble when she walked into a NYC bakery with an order for a #MAGA cake, the crowning dessert for her party for Cheeto-in-Chief Donald Trump. The bakery owner (SNL alum Vanessa Bayer) awkwardly refuses to make the cake after learning of Karen’s “beliefs,” upsetting Karen who in turn, upsets Grace.
The redhead has to march down to the corner bakery herself and get the bakery owner to make the cake in a flipped version of well-documented cases of LGBTQIA+ discrimination towards affianced couples. The episode brings up an uncomfortable truth of equality most liberal comedies don’t broach in 2018: tolerance cuts both ways. Discriminating against someone for their beliefs is still discrimination, even if their beliefs are dumpster-fire levels of terrible. Customers of all minorities stand by the bakery owner, demonstrating the overwhelming opinion on baking cakes for terrible people, but eventually Grace’s steadfast defense of Karen’s rights wins the shop owner over. As always, Grace eventually ends up with egg on her face, though this time it came with frosting (and a ruined cake, with #MAGA turned into IMAGAY on the top. Bless.). Still, the episode is definitely food for thought in a politically-divided era, and probably left all of us a little torn. What would you have done in that situation?
And finally, in another corner of the Big Apple, a Broadway journey has begun for yet another drama geek in the new NBC comedy “Champions.” J.J. Totah is Michael Patel, a small town boy bunking with his estranged father and uncle while he attends an elite music academy. Every queer kid either was a Michael or was a friend of a Michael back in high school, so it’s wonderful to see real-life LGBTQIA+ representation take center stage on a mainstream network. The primetime comedy notably focuses on Michael’s journey instead of relegating him to Gay Best Friend status, a refreshing change to the usual trend of exiling queer characters to the background whenever they prove inconvenient to the main storyline. One thing’s for certain: nobody puts Michael in the corner (or the sofa bed).
Though Michael’s sass is rather grating at times during the series’ second episode (it’s not that hard to clean up after yourself, kid), “Champions” is the kind of show that might not have been made twenty years ago. Michael’s out-and-proud approach to the world, along with his dad and uncle’s growing support, is a marker of changing attitudes. I’m looking forward to Michael’s journey to the Broadway stage, and Torah’s spot-on acting chops on the series, which keeps me coming back to the show. What’s been your take on the new comedy so far? Delightful or dreadful?
What do you think of NBC’s “Champions”? Thoughts on what really happened between Meredith’s mother and long-lost “Auntie” Marie? Thoughts on “Will & Grace” stance on discrimination? Let me know in the comments below!