Jul 28, 2013

[TV] Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World

A lot of us first really heard of Q. Allan Brocka because of his Eating Out series of LGBT movies. The first one was particularly funny, certainly made waves and was rather memorable. The many, many sequels in that franchise have become increasingly disappointing, but that's beyond the scope of what I'm trying to say.

So when I was doing my research on his work while I wrote my reviews of this other movies, I chanced upon an odd item on this resume - this being the stop motion series Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World. I mean seriously, what kind of a project is this? Who does a show like this?

But yeah, I was rather curious about what the show would be like and so I worked on getting a copy of the show's two seasons and then finding time to actually watch them. To say that I was surprised is a bit of an understatement, but I don't mean this in a bad way. It wasn't that bad for a somewhat independent project (albeit with LOGO support), but it's definitely a show that is very adult and not as whimsical as the little LEGO-like characters would ahve you think.

Synopsis: Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World is a stop motion animated sitcom TV show created and directed by Q. Allan Brocka. It was derived from a 1999 short film of the same name also created by Brocka. It ran for two seasons with a total of 4 episodes.

In the fictional gay district of West Lahunga Beach, we meet the titular characters Rick & Steve. Rick (Will Matthews) is a Filipino-American who is mostly a house husband of sorts. Steve (Peter Paige) is his real estate broker partner. The show follows their various relationship adventures, which actually show how they're just like any other couple and not necessarily perfect. This includes Rick's best friend, Kirsten (Emily Brooke Hands) and her partner Dana (Taylor Dooley). Then there's another couple consisting of Steve's best friend Chuck (Alan Cumming), a 50 year old who is living with HIV and happens be stuck in a wheelchair. Chuck's partner is Evan (Wilson Cruz), a 19 year old drug-addicted club kid.

The show is very adult in tone and humor - something along the lines of shows like South Park or Family Guy. But of course the context is very, very gay, hence you deal with a variety of typical gay situations, albeit pushed to a highly politically incorrect tone. And that's all part of the tongue-in-cheek humor that really pushes things along.

At first there were moments that I was still appalled by some of the negative stereotypes perpetuated by the show - this ranges from Evan's drug obsession or those darned wooden utensil decorations supposedly typical in Filipino homes (no one in my immediate family has ever had one - a far as I know). But then when you loosen up and get over yourself, then you can come to appreciate what the show is trying to do. Hence the comparison to those other shows - by being offensive, they get to tackle a lot of LGBT community issues with the distraction of very, very strong humor indeed.

For example, the first season alone includes weird stories like Rick and Steve considering a threesome, Dana  and Kirsten hoping to get Rick to donate sperm for them to have a baby Evan hoping to get HIV in order to get access to more drugs, to name a few. And this is only over the span of 6 episodes!

The show follows a lot of the cultural tropes of US gay culture, or perhaps more West Hollywood culture to some extent (but I concede that I may be wrong in terms of this assessment with regard to specific cultural context). But it's still pretty funny, even if some of the stories seem a bit too similar to the first two seasons of Queer as Folk or something. The stories become a bit more creative come the second season, but also a little crazier to boot.

The stop-motion nature of the show is rather endearing - the characters and scenes feel like an odd mix of LEGO and Playmobile franchises. And it's quite well-done in this aspect (technically I mean) - nice quality video, smooth animation sequences and a heck of a lot of craziness in between.

Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World isn't quite my favorite brand of humor (I'm not a big fan of South Park-like shows), but I can appreciate the humor on a somewhat more intellectual level. It's still a pretty good show if you have a stomach for it and you leave your moral outrage at the door - life's too short for being overly serious after all. So the series rates 3.5 audacious things that the character end up doing under the influence of one drug or another out of a possible 5.

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