I debated whether to go back and review Season 2 of The A-List: New York, but reality intervened: for all my interest in jumping back into watching it... I got busy, and the work of catching up didn't quite happen.
And it just seemed long - Season 2 wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, the "reunion" was this past Monday (with more to come next Monday), Going to parties and saying bitchy things, sure... but 13 weeks of it? God help us.
And if God was a DJ... the music would be a lot louder by now.
I just finished catching up on the New York reunion, and caught the first episode of A-List: Dallas, and between them I think lies the relative pleasures and pain of watching reality shows built around a group of close knit gay men. What seemed merely slightly disappointing about New York in Season One has become impossible to ignore; while Dallas offers, it seems, mostly fresh meat, in every sense. Whether the bloom falls off the Texas rose as much as the Manhattan one, we shall see.
In one sense, I'm not sure the shows are exactly the same: while New York's conception of "A-List" was about an "almost famous" kind of success-by-association game (which, for Season 2, just seemed smaller and sadder), Dallas is more brass tacks. In a smaller, southern, gay community, a lot of what defines "A-List" is not semi-celebrity, but money. And the Dallas cast fairly drips it.
And that, really, may be more in tune for Logo's audience, in some ways, than New York. The initial promise of "A List" after all, was that we would see some suggestion of really well known gays, in fashion or design or hairdressing... or something. Instead, the small cast of "who are theys" mostly interacted with each other, until the show devolved, by the end of Season one, into a vacation from hell at Reichen's family's Maine summer home (which, if nothing else, is terribly unfair to Maine).
In Dallas, on the other hand, one doesn't expect any real boldface names, and fame isn't the issue. And, so far, the situation is way more incestuous, and perhaps more in tune with the real gay life of more gay men in the smaller cities. So when the religious semi-closeted Republican fundraiser has a crush on the sexy underwear company executive, along with the trust fund party boy and the successful real estate developer... I suspect I wasn't alone in nodding knowingly at every sudsy turn. Ah, to be twenty two and stupid and tipsy again!
Okay, so not... but that's what The A-List is all about, and either it has an appeal or it doesn't. New York, I think, for all the interest it's generating online (or so they say), seemed dismal and repetitive this season, all bitching and backbiting with little relief, and the addition of a wild card straight woman seemed disruptive. One of the things that struck me about season one was how it captured a lot of the reality of a gay man's life in New York, a life very separate from women, straight or gay. As season two devolved into "who does or doesn't like Nyasha", a sense of the show's central organizing principle got a bit lost. And also... generated a good bit of "who cares." It's telling, I think, that the biggest outlier of New York's cast - photographer Mike Ruiz - both came off as more sensible and sane than his costars, and also quickly decided that doing this is not for him. And Ruiz offered a put-down that really stood in, I think, for a wide swath of Logo's older viewers, pointing out that as you get older, there's really no need for a lot of pointless drama in one's life.
Whether Dallas can avoid the pitfalls - whether familiarity, in other words, simply does breed contempt - remains to be seen; at first blush, the cast is charming enough, the relationships engaging and the world on display at once familiar and fresh. For more than a few northerners, I suspect, this world will really seem quite alien. Just from my time spent in Baltimore, and traveling, I'm impressed with the way they captured the flavor of modern urban southern life, in all its garishness and inherent contradictions, the mix of familiar gentility and a more up to date racy edge (and, let's all note, the show is very, very white, which is at least an honest nod to how separate southern gay communities reflect the basic segregations of southern life). Unlike New York, the show has more sexual tension and a greater nod to the romantic lives of its main characters.
Bottom line, of course, is that Logo won't amount to much with a world of "original programming" that makes it the gay Bravo (I know! Like Bravo isn't that, anyway!) - all "Drag Race" superstars mixed with "Real Gays of [Name Your Town]". (And, just an aside, let's ask... what, were Miami and Los Angeles busy? How about San Francisco? Jeez...) The A-List is an all fluffy, cotton candy exercise in TV that improves no one, and tells us very little... except that, still, these gay lives, in all their shallow details, are still lives that don't otherwise get entirely seen. It's a shame that New York seems to have to have lost sight of what ittle value it can bring to the conversation, of puttting some "realness" into the mix of TV's discussion about gay men's lives. For now, that "realness" in all its perplexing sexiness and shallowness, seems to be better served in Dallas. Which, suddenly... I find fascinating.