Actor and Comedian Billy Crystal was at the Television Critics Association Press Tour this weekend promoting his new FX series The Comedians and the subject of gay TV characters came up.
As reported by The Wrap, Crystal admitted to being uncomfortable with some of TV's current gay storylines: "Sometimes, it’s just pushing it a little too far for my taste, and I’m not going to reveal to you which ones they are."
Cough Cough HTGAWM
Crystal will no doubt get some grief for this. (I took a lot of flack from readers myself when I admitted to being personally squeamish with How to Get Away with Murder's intense sex scenes.) However, it's important to remember that Billy Crystal is also the guy that gave us network television's first regular gay character: Jodie Dallas on SOAP.
Crystal called that period (the mid-1970's) a "very difficult time," explaining that “Jodie was really the first recurring [gay] character on network television. It was a different time, it was 1977. So, yeah, it was awkward. It was tough.”
Crystal also recalled the live audience's nervous reaction when he would be affectionate with his onscreen boyfriend: "There were times when I would say to [actor] Bob [Seagren], ‘I love you,’ and the audience would laugh nervously. I wanted to stop the taping and go, ‘What is your problem?'"
So how to feel about Crystal's observation that some current gay TV storylines seem gratuitous and make him uncomfortable? Is the issue generational, with 66-year-old Crystal just a product of his time? Is Crystal secretly a bigoted prude? Or does he have a point that some TV shows might now be using gay sex scenes for shock value - the equivalent (for straight audiences) of a cat jumping into the frame?
Readers, what do you think?
h/t The Wrap
Update: ET Canada has printed a more complete quote from Billy Crystal's appearance on the TCA panel that gives a fuller picture:
"I did it in front of a live audience," recalls Billy of Soap, "and there were times where I would say to [the actor who played his boyfriend], 'Bob, “I love you,' and the audience would laugh nervously, because, you know, it’s a long time ago, that I’d feel this anger. I wanted to stop the tape and go, 'What is your problem?' Because it made you sort of very self-conscious about what we were trying to do then. And now it’s just, I see it and I just hope people don’t abuse it and shove it in our face — well, that sounds terrible — to the point of it just feels like an everyday kind of thing."
His use of the phrase "shove it in our face" is indeed very unfortunate, though presumably he's talking about TV writers here rather than the gay community. And the obvious response to his concern about it becoming an "everyday kind of thing": to gay people it is an every day kind of thing-- and there's no reason why TV shouldn't reflect that.