|Sarah and Joel of “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys.’’ (idris tony/sundance channel)|
‘Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys’ looks at a familiar bond
Every reality show seems to have a scripted counterpart. “Survivor’’ is “Oz,’’ “American Idol’’ is “Glee,’’ “Laguna Beach’’ was “The O.C.’’ And the Sundance Channel’s New York-set reality series about gay men and their straight female friends, called “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys,’’ is “Will & Grace.’’ Of course.
First of all, don’t ask me why “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys,’’ which premieres tonight at 10, is not airing on Bravo, the channel that seems to have been built for straight girls and boys who like boys. Second, don’t ask me why it is suddenly popping up so many years after the phenomenon became commonplace in entertainment, not just with the likes of “Will & Grace’’ but with movies such as “The Object of My Affection’’ and “My Best Friend’s Wedding.’’
And third, don’t ask me if the show traffics in stereotypes — you already know the answer. All reality shows turn their cast members into EZ-to-read characters, and “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys’’ is no exception as it serves up a few of the appearance-obsessed-gay-male and “hag’’ clichés. There’s Sarah, for instance, who sits in bed holding her teddy bear, grieving the fact that Joel and his boyfriend are getting married while she’s still single.
Still and all, there’s something really likable and engaging about this show, produced by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,’’ even with its reality-esque tendency to oversimplify. As it focuses in on four gay-man-straight-woman couples, it celebrates the power of long-term friendship in the big city. These friendships aren’t temporary reality-competition alliances, and they aren’t the faux-eternal bonds of reality dating series such as “The Bachelor.’’ They are durable connections that have reached across years and passed plenty of tests.
About meeting Elisa at NYU in 1983, David remembers, “I don’t know what drew me into her room, whether it was the Joni Mitchell album or the smell of cannabis or what. I just sort of drifted across the hall and I never left.’’ That’s almost 30 years of work and love, so that now, as David tries to stay sober and Elisa weathers a divorce, they have built each other a strong safety net.
Each of the couples is quite different from the others. Crystal and Nathan are steeped in the world of high fashion and the night life, with Nathan drinking himself to tears in one late-night scene outside a Manhattan club. Nathan, 34, wants to have a child, but Crystal, a mother of two, is convinced Nathan isn’t ready — a theme that promises to recur throughout the series. Rosebud and Sahil are completely different — they are refreshingly innocent. Indeed, Sahil has barely come out of the closet, and he obsesses over his conviction that all gay men are required to have gym bodies. When Rosebud introduces her new boyfriend to Sahil, he is clearly threatened.
Distinct as they are, the couples all share a remarkable ability to tell each other very hard truths. And that is the beauty of the show’s little dramas, and of the relationships it portrays. These reality characters don’t appear to be staging camera-ready catfights; they are keeping things as honest and real as possible — one of the best things a friend can offer.