Thursday, October 24, 2019

Bingewatch HAP AND LEONARD

I have written before that HAP AND LEONARD, which aired on Sundance TV back in 2016, is one of the best TV series I'd seen since our new century began in 2000. That's not embellishment. That's a fact. It did not get renewed after its third season. It should have been renewed. In addition to that, it should've received way more attention than it got from entertainment reporters and LGBTQ organizations such as GLAAD. GLAAD annually honors performers who are members of the LGBTQ community as well as straight allies This series was a great ally. Author Joe R. Lansdale, the man who created the characters in a series of novels, definitely deserved an award of gratitude for giving us a fresh, original, Black and gay character. Leonard, vigorously played by Michael K. Williams, hit the prime time TV landscape like a punch from Mike Tyson in his prime. Leonard is a Black, openly gay Vietnam veteran. And he's a Republican. You don't want to mess with him. He will open a large can o' whip-ass on you in  heartbeat. He will do that, too, if you mess with his longtime best friend, a white heterosexual pacifist called Hap. Hap did time in prison for opposing the draft during the Vietnam War.  Hap and Leonard are loyal friends. They love each other. They have each other's back. They know each other's basic heartbreak. James Purefoy is perfectly cast as Hap. It's a subtle, sensitive yet strong performance. Hap is measured. Leonard is explosive. The two lead actors complement each other so well they seem to be one unit. HAP AND LEONARD is an exciting crime thriller that takes us down South. The series is not only exciting, there's humor and -- for a show set in the 1980s -- there's a lot of drama that is achingly relevant today.
HAP AND LEONARD is a smart series that resonates in our current times of Black Lives Matter, Charlottesville, LGBTQ rights, Black Republicans on the Hill coming to terms with today's Caucasian Republican president comparing himself to a "lynching" victim in a tweet regarding the impeachment inquiry, and it resonates with why we take a knee with Colin Kaepernick.

Each season had only six episodes. Perfect for binge-watching. I planned to watch the first two episodes of the first season when it premiered and review those two episodes. I was immediately hooked. Not only that, I texted a couple of buddies and urged them to watch the show. I'm sure you remember Christina Hendricks as the shapely, sophisticated and smart character on MAD MEN. You've got to see her in the first season of HAP AND LEONARD. The crime story was called "swamp noir." I agree. With that in mind, she was absolutely the femme fatale on the hunt for a sunken treasure -- like a backwoods Barbara Stanwyck. She's ambitious and dealing with the big boys. When her character, Trudy, says "I keep thinking it'll get easier, but then I'll remember that's not how the world works," she brings you into her complicated character. You don't agree with everything Trudy does, but you understand why she does it. Henricks rocked that role, a role that allowed her to show her acting versatility.
The academy members who hand out Golden Globes and Emmys also overlooked HAP AND LEONARD. No nominations at all for that well-acted, well-written series. I know they are two different kinds of shows but HAP AND LEONARD should've received the amount of Emmy attention that RuPaul's DRAG RACE and MODERN FAMILY did. Both shows reflect gay images. So did HAP AND LEONARD -- in a refreshingly non-traditional, significant way.
And then there's actor Michael K. Williams as Leonard. GLAAD, the Oscars people and the Emmys people award and honor straight white actors for playing gay characters. We've gone through decades of white and African American actors being reluctant to commit to playing gay characters. Especially Black actors. Remember the film version of the Broadway drama SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION? Will Smith went after the lead role in the 1993 movie to graduate from being a sitcom actor. He worked opposite Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing. However, he would not commit to the same-sex kiss which was key to advancing the action in an important scene. His fakeness in that scene stood out in a big way on the big screen. When I saw it in New York City, moviegoers audibly grumbled in dissatisfaction. Michael K. Williams has played openly gay characters in three network TV productions. He played Omar, who was gay and kissed another man, on HBO's acclaimed series THE WIRE. He played a real-life gay activist in ABC's production of WHEN WE RISE. It chronicled the U.S. gay rights movements starting with the 1969 Stonewall Revolt. He's the openly gay Vietnam vet on HAP AND LEONARD.

GLAAD should bestow actor Michael K. Williams with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
HAP AND LEONARD, all three seasons, is available for binge-watching on Netflix.



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