If you’re looking for incontrovertible evidence that the world has changed a lot in the past decade, look no further than a couple of TV comedies — “Husbands” and “Uncoupled.”
From 2011-13, “Husbands” was a bit of an online sensation. It was set in a fictional world where gay marriage had just become legal and centered on an unlikely couple — an actor, Cheeks (Brad Bell), and a major-league baseball player, Brady (Sean Hemeon), who had only been dating for six weeks went to Las Vegas, got drunk, got married, and woke up wondering what happened. At the urging of LGBTQ leaders, they remain married so as not to hurt the marriage equality cause.
(By the way, both the character of Brady and the actor who played him were gay ex-Mormons.)
Remember, this was fantasy at the time. The Supreme Court didn’t rule that same-sex marriage is legal until 2015. “Husbands” — in addition to being very funny — was billed as the first Marriage Equality sitcom, showing viewers that a husband-and-husband marriage wasn’t all that different from a husband-and-wife marriage.
“This is just a funny comedy about two newlyweds,” Hemeon told me back in 2012. “I think it’s a lot like ‘Mad About You,’ only it’s two guys. And after a while, you sort of forget that it’s two guys. It’s just two people.” Director/producer Jeff Greenstein added, “The point is that these are stories which could be told about any young marrieds.”
They were, of course, right. None of the terrible things anti-gay marriage activists warned would happen if men could marry men and women could marry women have materialized. Men and women are still getting married. Families haven’t collapsed. Nobody has married their dog. There’s been neither fire nor brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas aren’t boiling. There’s been no uptick in earthquakes and volcanoes, the dead haven’t risen from their graves, no “human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.” (OK, that was “Ghostbusters.”)
Well, a bit of hysteria continues in some quarters. But the most surprising thing about same-sex marriage lately — other than Justice Clarence Thomas’ continued determination to end it — is that all four right-wing, Republican congressmen from Utah recently voted in favor of codifying same-sex marriage.
Flash forward to 2022, when — Clarence Thomas notwithstanding — it’s not that big a deal anymore. It just … is.
And, in the current reality, the new Netflix comedy “Uncoupled” doesn’t break any new ground in its premise. It’s the story of high-powered real estate agent Michael Lawson, who suddenly finds himself single when his partner of 17 years surreptitiously moves out of their apartment, leaving Michael suddenly single in his late 40s.
What makes it different is that Michael (Neil Patrick Harris) is a gay man who is abandoned by his longtime partner, Colin (Tuc Watkins). They’re not legally married, but they’ve shared an apartment, friends and their lives as if they were. “He’s my BFF — boyfriend forever,” Michael tells his coworker, Suzanne (Tisha Campbell). “B-A-R-F,” she replies.
Their breakup is like a divorce. Michael is devastated.
He’s hurt, angry, jealous and suddenly single in his late 40s. When he decides to get back out there, he finds that (a) he’s not a young man any more, and (b) dating has changed considerably in the past couple of decades. Michael isn’t sure what to make of dating apps.
It’s exactly what happens to any ex-husband/ex-wife when their marriage ends. It’s what’s happening to Michael’s uber-rich client, Claire (Marcia Gay Harden), although she’s uber-annoying about it.
As is generally the case in this kind of show, Michael is supported by his quirky friends Billy (Emerson Brooks) and Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas), and the aforementioned co-worker, Suzanne (Tisha Campbell). They each get stories independent of Michael in the eight-episode first season.
(A second season hasn’t been ordered yet, but season 1 ends with cliffhangers, so …)
There’s a lot to like about “Uncoupled,” Harris first and foremost. He’s funny, charming, likable and relatable. There are laughs in every episode, and the characters will grow on you.
I watched the eight episodes in two sittings, and I might have watched them all at once but I started too late in the evening for that. I liked it. Didn’t love it, but liked it … a lot.
There are lots of gay moments in “Uncoupled” — because there are a lot of gay characters — but it’s not a gay show. It’s a … show.
And that’s a good thing.
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