Emotional naggage in 'Girls Who Like Boys'

DULL DUO? Free spirit Rosebud met Sahil subway busking.
DULL DUO? Free spirit Rosebud met Sahil subway busking. (Idris + Tony)
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By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A curiously sad tone ripples through "Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys," a new eight-part reality series that premieres Tuesday night on Sundance Channel. It's a sadness that has very little to do with a study of the friendships between four frequently lonely, often misunderstood single women and their not-quite-as-lonely but just-as-misunderstood gay male friends.

Instead, this is a show about being a disaffected, emotionally scarred New Yorker. My gosh, what happened to people who live in New York? They used to be the very picture of tough - the women, for sure, and the gay men especially. When did they become so sniveling and needy?

"Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys," based on a book of essays, begins with a sure enough premise: What is it about this sort of relationship that has worked so well? In our post-"Will & Grace" and post-"Sex and the City" era, it seems even teenage girls in Montana now feel that their lives are incomplete without a gay male BFF - and the stereotypical fluff that comes with it: the endless gabbing, the shopping, the shoes, the cupcakes.

But what makes this combo the platonic ideal? "There's something about my relationship with a gay man that I cannot get with a girlfriend," Crystal McCrary tell us.

Her gay friend is Nathan Williams. She takes him with her to fashion shows. They like cocktails. They're trying to pitch a movie, based on Crystal's novels, which draw from her days spent married to an NBA player. Nathan dreams of having a child and wonders if Crystal would lend her uterus to that notion. If they sound to you like some of the most boring people on television right now - yes, you're absolutely right.

The other three pairs of friends on "Girls Who . . . " aren't much more interesting. Sarah Rose and Joel Derfner met at Harvard many moons ago and both toil as freelance writers. He's getting married soon to his male partner; she wishes that a Mr. Right (she's made a long list of his required attributes) will soon come along for her. Elisa Casas and David Munk have been friends since they met in a college dorm more than two decades ago; he's a recovering alcoholic who works at the vintage clothing store she owns.

Then there's Rosebud Baker and Sahil Farooqi: She's a free spirit who met her latest boyfriend while he was busking in the subway. Sahil is uptight and closeted and carries a heavy load of loathing around, for himself and the men Rosebud tries to get him to meet.

The show often seems at cross-purposes, as if the producers had a clear idea of what sort of peppy project they wanted to film and then picked the wrong people to follow around. (And perhaps the wrong city, too. This subject would prove so much more interesting in a smaller, more middle-American town.)

Everyone in "Girls Who . . . " seems awfully down in the mouth, despite all their claims of fulfillment, and only rarely do these pairs act in ways that indicate a deep, abiding bond. A highlight is when David dresses up as "Marge" - a needlepointing, advice-dispensing auntie - whenever Elisa needs cheering up.

Observing what motivates these characters (bars, fashion, a Botox session), one also wonders if our youth obsession is taking a toll on the culture's common understanding of adulthood. These are not "girls" and "boys"; they are women and men, most of them well into their 30s and 40s.

I thought the current media slogan directed at young gay people was supposed to be "It gets better." But watching "Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys" and a couple of other reality-genre misfires this year (such as Showtime's dreadful "The Real L Word" or Logo's execrable "The A-List: New York"), you'd start to believe that it just gets tedious.

Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys (30 minutes, two episodes) premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. on Sundance Channel.

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