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TV Series Review

Popular TV series such as Two and a Half Men and I’m With Her sneak in gay and lesbian subplots. Conversely, ABC’s acerbic sitcom It’s All Relative occasionally develops a straight one.

Bobby and Liz are engaged. Bobby’s parents are Irish Catholic, working-class bar owners with deep roots and deeply held opinions. Liz’s are two homosexual men. They are well-to-do, white-collarites who are artsy, a bit pompous and Episcopalian. When the two families get together, it’s like tea with Rush Limbaugh and Hillary Clinton.

Bobby’s dad, Mace (Lenny Clarke), was intentionally written as an Archie Bunker type so as to raise the level of confrontation. He loves his family and his job, but that’s about it. He’s an equal-opportunity bigot and racist, spewing hateful, hurtful words at anyone he disagrees with. And he does not see eye-to-eye with Liz’s two dads, Philip (John Benjamin Hickey) and Simon (Christopher Sieber). The gay couple, meanwhile, hastily toss aside their “tolerant” ideals and fight back. While Mace calls them “fruits,” “nuts” and “homos,” they retaliate with terms such as “keg-tapper.” Profanity further mars their sophomoric conversations, as do sex jokes and ethnic slurs.

It’s All Relative wheels and deals in overworked gay and straight stereotypes. Philip and Simon prance, dance, decorate, plan parties and flip their wrists. Bette Midler, Trading Spaces, Liza Minelli, Frasier, golf, choreographers and shirtless Marines are all co-opted as icons of gay culture. Straights seem only interested in bad fashion, beer and baseball. Depending on when channel surfers land on the show, they may think it favors Mace’s views, or that it supports Philip and Simon’s.

However, when the ruthless banter is deconstructed, It’s All Relative teaches only one lesson: homosexual tolerance. It proffers the notion that it doesn’t matter who marries whom, or whether kids have one daddy or two. All that matters is that people get along at any cost. Viewers would have to cover their eyes and ears to avoid internalizing this insidious moral Relative-ism.

Episodes Reviewed: Oct. 22, 29, Nov. 5, 12, 19, 26, 2003

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Steven Isaac

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