Every year, as summer approaches its end, there is a sort of “entertainment let-down” that happens. The big movies have all come and gone, and television has become a wasteland of reruns – even the big summer shows on streaming platforms have all been dropped and binged.
For LGBTQ audiences, these doldrums can be even more depressing; queer content is typically rare enough as it is, and during this bleak annual stretch it might seem to be completely non-existent.
Fortunately, we now live in an age where demand and availability can come together on the internet – and there are plenty of great options to be found there.
At the top of the list comes an entry from a surprising source – Facebook. The social media platform launched its “Facebook Watch” feature a year ago, and among the many video offerings it presents is an original program which demands the attention of LGBTQ viewers.
“Strangers,” which online outlet The Mary Sue heralded by saying “One of the Best Shows on Television is Actually on Facebook,” is an episodic series created by Mia Lidofsky. It stars Zoë Chao as Isobel, a twenty-something Air BnB-er navigating her pathway to adulthood, and features Meredith Hagner, UCB Comedian X Mayo, Kyle Allen, and Kathleen Munroe.
After a first season which received raves from critics, the show is now in it’s second round of episodes, in which Isobel switches from host to renter when she moves across the country with her best friend, Cam. On the cusp of 30 and now living in NYC, it’s Isobel’s year to explore, starting with a new neighborhood each episode. As a woman living fully in the bi-sphere —bisexual, biracial, and now bi-coastal— Isobel is saying yes to life and asking the most difficult question: where do you belong when you’re in between everything?
There’s still time to get caught up on all the previous episodes before the season two finale drops on Sunday, Aug. 26. Both seasons can be found at facebook.com/StrangersSeries/.
Another intriguing piece of digital content is “Grosse Misconduct.” Created by out actor Colby Ryan and co-written with his writing partner, Anne Schroeder, it’s a show depicting an eccentric Human Resources team as they navigate personal and professional struggles under the leadership of their high-maintenance director.
Launched in June, this workplace comedy veers from the dramatic to the absurd as it features four lead characters — two of which represent the LGBTQ community, who are played by Ryan himself (creator/writer/exec producer and a gay actor) and Pooya Mohseni (Iranian-American transgender actress/activist).
The show offers a refreshing take on LGBTQ representation in front of the camera in that there is no “coming out” story. No one is struggling with gender identity; the writers’ aim was to create and celebrate characters that better represent the full spectrum of our LGBTQ communities, and that are identifiable and relatable to all audiences. This diverse and exciting web series can be found at grossemisconduct.com/ and features six all-too-short episodes.
For LGBTQ film lovers who are going through withdrawal after the bounty of Outfest earlier this summer, there are also some promising feature length works available as Video-on-Demand releases:
“Brotherly Love” is a tender coming-of-age drama directed by Anthony J. Caruso, who also stars alongside Derek Babb, Chance McKee and David Blackwell. It’s available through iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.
Based on the Lambda Literary Award-nominated novel “Seventy Times Seven” by Salvatore Sapienza, the synopsis for this topical romantic drama reads: “Which call do you answer? The one you feel from God or the one you feel about your authentic self? This is the dilemma at hand for Brother Vito (Caruso) as he must decide between becoming a Brother or declaring his love for Gabe (Derek Babb). Shot entirely in Austin, TX and with a local cast and crew, ‘Brotherly Love’ is a fresh take on the traditional gay love story.”
“Porcupine Lake” screened at this year’s Outfest. A tender, female-centric coming-of-age drama, it stars Charlotte Salisbury, Lucinda Armstrong Hall, Delphine Roussel, and Harrison Tanner; it was directed by Ingrid Veninger. Available through iTunes and Amazon.
It’s the story of two 13-year-old girls who meet up early summer in Port Severn, a small town in Ontario, and become “more than best friends.” They share personal secrets, fears, grievances and daredevil challenges. By the end of the summer, Bea and Kate have irrevocably influenced each other, and the course of their lives have changed in ways they can’t yet foresee. Through an intimate and authentic portrait of Bea’s awakening into selfhood, this story invites us to imagine a new model for a young girl’s first love story — one told from the inside out.
“My Life With James Dean” is a French, LGBTQ-themed tribute to cinema. Directed by Dominque Choisy, it features Johnny Rasse, Mickael Pelissier, Nathalie Richard and Juliette Damiens. Available through iTunes.
Invited to present his first feature film in Normandy, young director Géraud Champreux has no idea this film tour is about to change his life. From wild stampedes to woeful screenings, from trawler trips to drunken evenings, Géraud ends up finding inspiration in an unlikely town at the end of the Earth.
“Venus” is a colorful and witty trans-themed comedy that enjoyed a successful and critically acclaimed festival run this year, directed by Montreal-based filmmaker Eisha Marjara, and starring Debargo Sanyal, Jamie Mayers, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Zena Darawalla and Gordon Warnecke (“My Beautiful Laundrette”). Available beginning September 4 at wolfeondemand.com/.
Directed with a breezy style and featuring a cast that conveys warmth and humor, it’s the story of a South Asian-Canadian transgender woman, Sid, who sees her life flipped on its head when she meets the teenage son she didn’t know she had. Her biological immigrant family, boyfriend and chosen family – and ultimately her own sense of self – are challenged in surprising and heartfelt ways, as genders, generations and cultures collide in this comedy about modern family life.