I’m Selina, Awards Circuit’s queer Girl Friday for all things LGBTQIA+ on TV! Each week, I take on some of TV’s biggest stories through the rainbow lens, which have come in handy this week on the heels of the announcement of a new comedy from the “Golden Girls” writing team, which includes a gay twist that’s too good to pass up. Eagle-eyed “Queer as Folk” fans may have also spotted a familiar face during Thursday night’s episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” where yet another icon of queer TV media appeared on the landmark series.
Just who is that dastardly Dr. Hansen, and why is that smile so familiar? I’m not ashamed to say I screamed “Mikey!” at my TV when the fraudulent cancer doc met “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Arizona and “Otis” Hunt. It turns out Hal Sparks, the gay cutie from HBO’s “Queer as Folk,” has aged like a fine wine: still sweet, but a little darker than most of us remember. Sparks joins fellow “Queer as Folk” stars Gale Harold (Brian) and Peter Paige (Emmett) in Shondaland’s Grey-Sloan, who have also guest starred on the drama series. Harold played a Nazi-sympathizing paramedic in the 2007 2-parter “Crash Into Me,” while Paige portrayed a patient with a brain tumor that caused him to be brutally honest with anyone who crossed his path.
Sparks’ appearance reminded me of the difficulties in finding decent LGBTQIA+ representation before the late 2000s, when shows like “Queer as Folk” were few and far between, often forced to find homes on cable networks when they were deemed too controversial for network TV. The success of “Queer as Folk” paved the way for love stories like “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), whose relationship received as much thoughtful storytelling as other straight couples on the series. Without Michael Novotny’s quest for love on the streets of Pittsburgh, Callie Torres may not have come to Shondaland in the first place: we owe a hell of a lot to Sparks, an actor who isn’t queer himself but publicly stans for LGBTQIA+ rights and regularly works as a celebrity spokesperson for the NOH8 Campaign and the AIDS Walk. Raise a glass to Michael, folx, and always remember your herstory.
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In Variety today. Finally good news about our "Silver Foxes" pilot. This never would have been possible if not for all the help, encouragement and love we received on social media and in the press. Worldwide. You all made this happen! Fingers crossed we get to make this series. . . . . . #silverfoxes #stanzimmerman #writer #newsitcom #instagay #keepdreaming @georgehtakei @ljordan9539 @brucevilanch @toddsherry @daniele_gaither @cheri_oteri @melissapeterman @variety @goldengirlslove @thegoldengirls4evr #goldengirls
And now, the tea you’ve been waiting for: a “Golden Girls” sister show is in the works, but this time around, “Silver Foxes” will have their day in the sun. According to Variety (and confirmed by writer/producer Stan Zimmerman), Zimmerman and James Berg are developing a half-hour, single-cam comedy series with Super Deluxe about two older gay men and one twink (a friend’s much-younger boyfriend) who rescue a friend who’s being forced back into the closet at his homophobic nursing home. The foursome return to their house in Palm Springs, where they form their own fabulous family. The series is strikingly similar to queer fave and three-time Golden Globe winner “Golden Girls,” a group of four fabulous older women sharing a house in Miami.
Zimmerman and Berg have collaborated on several TV hits including “Roseanne,” “Girlmore Girls,” “Rita Rocks” and, of course, “Golden Girls.” The pair were inspired to write the series after watching the “Gen Silent” documentary, which explores the lives of LGBTQIA+ seniors who deal with an alarming amount of discrimination in nursing homes and assisted care facilities. “Silver Foxes” will follow in the footsteps of “Golden Girls,” with an additional focus on ageing as queer men in 2018, something rarely, if ever, talked about on TV. (In fact, the last time I remember the topic coming up was in “Queer as Folk,” where Michael’s gay Uncle Vic struggled to find love for years after nearly dying from AIDS before the triple-cocktail became available.)
According to Pink News, Zimmerman previously posted some behind-the-scenes peeks at “Silver Foxes” last year, which has yet to find a home but may have found its stars. Per Variety, the peek is from a table read of the pilot at Zimmerman’s home, featuring George Takei (!!!), Leslie Jordan (!!!!), Bruce Vilanch, Todd Sherry, Melissa Peterman, Daniele Gaither and Cheri Oteri. Zimmerman has also shut down fears that the show won’t appear to straight audiences, telling the Huffington Post:
It’s really not just gay… that’s what’s so frustrating about Silver Foxes, when I say it can have the same affect that Golden Girls has. So then it goes from the ages to the homophobia. Maybe they’re scared that four gay guys is not going to be able to attract a heterosexual audience. I don’t know when that’s ever been proven because it’s never been done.
As Zimmerman goes on to point out, “Silver Foxes” is set against the tragedy of the 1980s-1990s AIDS crisis, which many gay men did not think they would survive. Zimmerman notes that many in the queer community have “found most of our family and support groups amongst each other,” and a story from an older gay perspective is “the story we would love to tell.”
The series isn’t greenlit as of yet, as Zimmerman and Berg are currently working with Super Deluxe to develop the series and eventually sell it to a streaming platform or cable network. Still, I can’t help but get excited over the prospect of “Silver Foxes;” who wouldn’t want to see Takei and Jordan banter it out in the kitchen of a beautiful Palm Springs mansion?