Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Beekman Boys: A Pleasant Surprise

Fall is the TV time for new series. But it's also time for a gaggle of new networks.
Check out Cottage Life the latest starter upper which is a new Canadian HD Channel now into free previews for the next few months.
And if you want to sample something totally different check out Cottage Life's new series entry The Fabulous Beekman Boys which debuts Tuesday September 10 at 10 p.m.
And I had a fine time interviewing one of the boys on the phone.
That would be former physician Brent Ridge who with his partner Josh Kilmer-Purcell started their own reality series in 2010 --only now is it coming to Canadian TV.
But I instantly recognized them as the couple who won the 21st edition of The Amazing Race.
"We started the series way back in 2010 because we had to," jokes Ridge.
"We had both been downsized in the economic crisis of 2009 and we needed to get some work, any work."
Formerly an ER doctor, Ridge had been a health consultant for Martha Stewart Omnimedia advising on all aspects of the medical world.
Kiler-Purcell had been an advertising executive by day and a successful drag queen by night.
The series can best be described as a sort of take off on The Egg And I as these two city slickers purchase an antique farm in upper state New York and try to launch a line of up scale products such as goat's milk soap.
One critic summed the experience up best calling it a sort of "gay Green acres".
The series which has already run for three seasons on American TV follows Brent and Josh as they try to cope with situations both are completely unable to handle. In other words confusion prevails.
"I really don't think we were prepared for what happened," Brent stammers. "In fact I now know we were totally unprepared."
In the first half hour episode the boys bicker like any other couple as they try to portion out the responsibilities.
However, Josh must keep his day job in Manhattan to pay the bills while Brent looks after the farm as best he can.
The big news is the publication of Josh's latest book but Brent can't make it to a public reading in New York city simply because he is too busy at the farm.
I tell Brent he was lucky the couple decided on starting up with a herd of goats who need minimal supervision.
"So far there haven't been any big vet bills," Brent is saying on the line. If the guys had bought a dairy herd they might have gone bankrupt with vet charges very early on.
But as Brent says "We were lucky the soap just took off. It's for sale everywhere. Even in Toronto."
About the farm: it was a huge estate founded by a Mr. Beekman in 1802 --he was the magistrate and one malcontent burned down the original barn necessitating the construction of a replacement that fairly dominates the rest of the property.
"We were told it was in this area that the wagon trains would set off for the west," says Brent.
There are other characters like the goat expert "Father John". And there's even a ghost named Mary.
My conclusion: the show is charming if more than a bit voyeuristic. The couple's quarrels do not seem staged for TV but are often fiercely real.
When I ask Brent if he thought he was making a statement about gay couples he says "Of course!"
And that statement is to show a couple behaving just like any two young marrieds. Because in June 2013 they actually married on the farm with Martha stewart dutifully in the audience.
Earlier they also won a cool million dollars on The Amazing Race despite set backs along the way and some injuries.
"We had a strategy and stuck to it no matter what," Brent explains. "We were certainly not the youngest or even the best in-shape couple. We trained a bit. And we figured out how we would handle the challenges. And it worked."
But Brent says The Fabulous Beekman Boys is over as a TV series because "we outgrew our roles. We're no longer innocent. The concept simply would not work any more. Time for another challenge I guess."
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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