Now that Logo, AfterEllen.com’s parent company, is entering its third year of programming, the LGBT cable channel has begun to push comedic boundaries by addressing gay stereotypes in a Borat kind of way. The Big Gay Sketch Show lampooned gay male designers and lesbians’ U-Haul inclinations, and a new half-hour animated comedy, Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World, premiering July 10, takes those jokes one step further — with mostly good results.
The series revolves around the title characters, two 30-something gay men in love, and their friends, including lesbian couple Dana and Kirsten. Though the story lines about the gay male characters deftly tackle hot-button topics with a devil-may-care irreverence, the lesbian story lines tend to be yesterday’s news.
Created by out director Q. Allan Brocka (Eating Out, Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds) and based on his 8-minute short film of the same name, Rick & Steve takes us to the gay little hamlet of West Lahunga Beach, a place that’s a mash-up of West Hollywood and Legoland, with a dash of the Mission District for variety.
Much of the show centers on the intricacies of Rick and Steve’s relationship, particularly their sex life and their attempt to spice things up in the bedroom.
Whether they’re watching porn together or attending a circuit party in search of a "third," their struggle to keep their relationship fresh is genuinely funny and a blasé take on nonmonogamy. Voiced by Will Matthews and Peter Paige (who played Emmett Honeycutt in Queer as Folk), respectively, Rick and Steve have an edgy playfulness that propels the show.
Rick and Steve foregrounds gay male sexuality, and while there’s nothing nearly as graphic as the puppet sexual Olympics we saw in Team America: World Police, there’s still plenty of insinuated sex and more animated sperm than you can shake a wet vac at. The flirty interplay of Rick as a queeny, ardent bottom (he calls Steve "Daddy") and Steve as a butch, lusty top (he calls Rick "Piggy") is one of the more endearing elements of the show.
In the first episode, the cast of characters is introduced in a good old-fashioned gay dinner party. Rick fusses over the quiche; lesbian couple Dana (Taylor M. Dooley) and Kirsten (Emily Brooke Hands) arrive with the requisite baba ghanoush; and a third couple, Evan (Wilson Cruz) and Chuck (Alan Cumming), makes a grand entrance when Chuck’s wheelchair malfunctions and hurls him through the front door and into the veggie dip.
At the dinner party, Kirsten announces that she and Dana would like to use Rick’s sperm to conceive a child, and their story line focuses on pregnancy from that point forward (at least in the first two episodes).
Kirsten is a sprightly femme decked out in pink overalls and boasting an impressive, swirly hairdo, the likes of which has not been seen since Hermey fled the North Pole to be a dentist in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The official website describes Kirsten as "a spunky, creative, naive and pixie-like lipstick lesbian," and there’s a smidge of Leisha Hailey’s Alice (from The L Word) in her, but without the edge.
In fact, the lesbian edge is supplied almost exclusively by Kirsten’s lover, Dana. Acerbic, misanthropic and mulleted to the nines, "Dismal Dana" (Steve’s nickname for her) is the cranky, tank top-wearing butch whose dry asides are some of the funniest on the show.
When it comes to Kirsten’s hunger for motherhood, Dana is mostly just along for the ride, not expressing any real interest herself in parenting. (Kirsten: "I can’t wait to nurse!" Dana: "I can’t wait till your boobs get bigger.")
In the second episode, we learn a little more about Dana and Kirsten through their interaction with the uber-political lesbian couple Ebony and Ivory (no, that is not a typo) and their baby, Echinacea. In one amusingly absurd plot point, Ebony and Ivory’s obsession with gender neutrality is taken to its logical extreme with their parenting choices. I won’t spoil it, but I will tell you that little Echinacea is going to have some serious issues when she/he grows up.
However, Ebony and Ivory are easy targets, and their hemp-promoting, gender role-hating agenda is one we’ve seen parodied many times by straight and lesbian comics alike. While there are several memorable moments of lesbian mockery in the first two episodes, a lot of familiar territory is covered. It’s not that it isn’t all kind of true — and therefore funny — it’s just that it’s not exactly new.