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Monday, April 23, 2007

 

ModFab On...The Big Gay Sketch Show

There's good and bad news about The Big Gay Sketch Show, which premieres tomorrow night on LOGO at 9pm. Like so much of the cable net's original programming, this new series suffers from a budget-conscious production design that gives off the unmistakable aroma of amateurism, as well as a paucity of writing talent that would distinguish it from the (better) programs it tries to emulate, like Saturday Night Live, Mad TV, and The Kids in the Hall. And that's really too bad, because underneath the trite sketches and overeager blunders, there's a pool of talent just waiting for its moment to shine.

Having had an early peek at the show's first two episodes, I can even see a week-to-week improvement that underlines the potential on hand. To be clear, neither installment was enough to make me set the TiVo...but given room to breathe, grow and find its voice, The Big Gay Sketch Show could be something. The question is What.

Boasting a series of superb gay talent behind the scenes -- director Amanda Bearse, writer-producer Craig Chester, executive producer Rosie O'Donnell -- the show's debut episode tries far too hard to be topical and gay-specific. (Even the great Ellen Degeneres learned on her sitcom that talking about gay stuff all the time is a one-way ticket to dullsville.) So the first episode of The Big Gay Sketch Show features woefully unfunny skits about bears in the wild (bears, as in hairy men, get it?), a dead-in-the-water Elaine Stritch impression, and a dreary segment with two A-gays trying to make ice. Somewhere in the middle of the second episode, however, genuine comedy finally rears its head; a lesbian speed-dating scene is affectionately hilarious, and a yoga class led by a "Chicago" sistah shows that the show's writing staff, freed of its gay-constrictive moorings, can truly blossom.

Credit the able cast for what few bright spots there are at this early stage. Among my favorites are Erica Ash, a Lion King veteran who has a Maya Rudolph-ian wit; stand-up veteran Julie Goldman, who brings much-needed energy to the affair; and Michael Serrato, a member of the Groundlings improv company whose timing is near-perfect.

If the producers and writers can match their cast's ability -- mining gay experience for what is truly offbeat, original, and fabulous -- the show could be more than the dull-edged catalog of cliches it is. And a note to LOGO: open your wallet a smidge and let them build some real sets, for Pete's sake, instead of having to work off that terrible LCD screen backdrop. The cheapness of it is inescapable.

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