Husbands is that rare beast of a sitcom.
It is a side-splittingly funny satire, replete with more pop culture references that an attendee at Comic-Con, which also manages to be a political call to action for equality, all without being preachy or overly earnest.
How does it manage this almost impossible feat?
You can thank series co-creators and co-writers Brad Bell (aka “Cheeks”) and Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Caprica, Once Upon a Time) who bring considerable writing and producing talents to the table. It has been obvious since the show’s debut on September 13, 2011 that these skills, honed, in Espenson’s case at least over a 20 year writing career, have all been brought to bear on this show which channels perfectly the spirit of a newlywed sitcom.
With one crucial difference. Both the partners in this unexpected marriage – a baseball player just of the closet, Brady (Sean Hemeon) and a TV star Cheeks with a penchant for courting controversy (Brad Bell) who wake up one morning in Las Vegas to discover they have married in a drunken blur the night before; and stay married to prove a point to themselves and the world around them – are men.
It is set in a world where gay marriage has been legalised at a federal level and the beauty of the premise is that it portrays this couple as much like any other couple, which of course, head-exploding predicting-the-end-of-civilisation-as-we-know-it rhetoric from far right moralisers aside, is exactly what they are.
And so we find Brady and Cheeks at the start of season 2, which premiered August 15 to great expectation (not least from the many people, including yours truly, who contributed $60,001 USD to get the second series, which consists of 3 roughly 9 minute episodes made) struggling, like all new couples do, to work out exactly what will and won’t work within the bounds of their relationship.
It builds beautifully on season 1, which saw the pair trying to get their heads around the fact they were married, that they might possibly be in love (despite only having dated for something like six week before their accidental nuptials) and that there might be a future in their newly minted official union.
Season 2 takes the reality of their relationship and runs with it, and shows Brady and Cheeks grappling with the sort of fusing together of two disparate lives that every new couple grows through.
Only in their case, it’s all done bait more publicly than either had bargained for. In the opening episode, “Appropriate is Not the Word”, Cheeks playfully snaps a photo of himself and Brady in bed kissing and then impetuously tweets it as a way of celebrating their three week anniversary with the world. So sweet, so modern right? What could go wrong?
Quite a bit as it turns out.
Cheek’s romantic gesture prompts a hilarious but nonsensical backlash from the likes of the Billion Moms (a spot-on parody of the now largely discredited Million Moms March), a phone call from Brady’s manager Wes (played beautifully by geek hero, Joss Whedon, whose hip-to-the-gay-cause attempts to sound empathetic end up sounding more than a little hollow, even as you laugh yourself silly at his self-justifying pretzel-like word plays) worried that Brady may risk triggering the morality clause in his Dodgers contract … and of course an inevitable fight with Brady.
But as an indication of just how Husbands balances with aplomb its dual role to get society thinking about its inbuilt prejudices and send us into comedic comas of mirth at the same time, the argument takes place in front of a TV that firstly showcases a news report blasting the immorality of two men kissing (in the most affectionate chaste way possible) then follows that up with an ad where a woman (Felicia Day, in yet another fabulous geek cameo) essentially gives fellatio to a piece of pizza.
Cheeks initially dismisses the furore over the tweeted photo of them kissing saying “We’re a married couple kissing. Total non-troversy”, but Brady reminds via an hilarious (there’s that word again but trust me – it’s warranted each and every time; yes the show is that funny) montage that Cheeks has a predilection for putting his Dolce and Gabbana-adorned feet into his mouth quite a bit more than they are standing on solid ground.
This has the effect of chastening Cheeks who though he reacts unhappily to Brady’s suggestion that he be “less gay”, begrudgingly acknowledges that while he shouldn’t have to be more “appropriate” for anyone, that he has a responsibility for his partner’s welfare that supersedes any need he may have to throw society’s hypocrisy back in its face.
At least right at this point.
Of course Cheeks being Cheeks it can’t possibly be as straightforward as simple agreement on his part to behave so you can expect that the unfolding of his attempts to keep the peace will no doubt be as entertaining as this episode which managed to cram references to a now-out Anderson Cooper, and Star Wars, and a parody of every straight guy’s lesbian fantasies where Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse) and Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) comically experiment with pillow-fighting initiated sapphic longings.
That’s quite a lot in one episode but Husbands manages to stay focused on its mission – which incidentally is made all the more cutting edge by virtue of the fact that it is at the moment a purely net-based undertaking, a further sign that traditional media is no longer where all the action is any more – while keeping the hilarity at side-hugging fever pitch throughout.
My only complaint is that I will only get three episodes of Husbands archly comedic ways in this season but given the richness of its creation, it is worth a season’s worth of laughter by many less creatively rich sitcoms and I am eagerly awaiting the next two episodes in a show that is not only very much a product of its times but if it has its way, a pointer to the future too.