I GUESS WE ARE NOT GOING TO SEE THE Friends
episode called "The One Where Chandler Comes Out." Since its debut in fall 1994, the hugely popular sitcom has had a running joke about preppy Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry): Women think he is gay and, when he and roommate Joey (Matt LeBlanc) take baby Ben for a walk, assume they are a couple. A female coworker of Chandler's tries to set him up with a guy; even spacey Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) has described him as having "homosexual hair." When Chandler grew forlorn after Joey moved, his gloom fueled media speculation about his coming out (Joey has since moved back). For their part, the show's creators insist that Chandler is not gay, and that's that.
Fair enough. Coming out is not a lifestyle choice, like turning vegetarian, and much of the recent societal buzz is about stereotypes: Exactly what is homosexual hair? Don't straight men miss old roommates too? Besides, Friends
is way beyond the homophobic leering of a '70s sitcom such as Three's Company
—witness the elegant lesbian wedding of Carol, the ex-wife of Ross (David Schwimmer). Yet despite what the producers claim, sexuality on Friends
is more complicated than to be or not to be. As Ross ruefully explained in the pilot, Carol hadn't realized she was gay until they were married.
Viewers today rightly resist clichés about sexual identity, but we're also more willing (if Friends
would dare us) to accept the notion that even comic favorites can make discoveries about themselves. Gay characters have come a long way on prime time, but producers seem unwilling to make them lead characters. It is time to grow up. If Chandler got a life to match his hair, I'd still be there for him.
CBS (Sun., May 5, 9 p.m. ET)
Dominick Dunne's bestselling Kennedy-basher about a fictional Catholic political dynasty—like Brideshead Revisited meets The Godfather
—has been turned into a bloated, two-part movie by the Aaron Spelling factory. Blair Brown and Sherilyn Fenn do well by the thankless parts of see-no-evil mother and sexy, rebellious sister, but only Brian Dennehy, chewing up the scenery as patriarch Gerald Bradley, seems titanic enough for his role, and Dunne's bitterly ironic ending feels merely anticlimactic.
NBC (Mon., May 6, 9 p.m. ET)
A muscular Fred Savage (grown up from The Wonder Years
) acts convincingly against type as an abusive teenage boyfriend in this chilling special. Candace Cameron (Full House
), touchingly inexperienced as girlfriend Stacy, and Heather McComb, intense and anxious as the friend who knows about the violence but doesn't tell, lift the story above the usual victim-of-the-week charade. Too bad that Sally Jessy Raphaël as the judge drags it back with a heavy-handed moral at the end.
Fox (Saturdays, 11 p.m. ET)
Female mud wrestling, crack babies, pickups in funeral parlors. If these sad, tasteless skits are a sample of what executive producer Roseanne has called fresh, exciting comedy, let's have Howard Stern. Roseanne herself seems to be walking through her occasional sketches in this new, one-hour variety show airing against NBC's Saturday Night Live
, but cast member Bob Rubin, with big hair, earrings and beard, is hilariously weird as an over-the-hill Barbara Walters interviewing actress Demi Moore
MAKING A PROFIT
SEVERAL WEEKS AGO, TWO RECENT business school grads came up to Adrian Pasdar at a Manhattan theater and began gushing about his star turn in the extravagantly praised new Fox series Profit
(Mondays, 9 p.m. ET). "They said it was great to have somebody representing them on television," says Pasdar, laughing. His character, Jim Profit, is an ultraslick young exec who rises to the top of the conglomerate Gracen & Gracen by any means necessary, including seducing the wife of one rival and framing another for murder. At night, Profit sleeps in a cardboard box, like something out of Twin Peaks
(to which Profit
has been compared). "I don't think Profit is devoid of morality," Pasdar says. "He's just on a different plane than the rest of us."
Pasdar, 30, considers himself more down-to-earth. He grew up in Philadelphia—"a good kid with a good heart," he has said—the son of a surgeon and a homemaker. After dropping out of college to become an actor, he had a promising start—a small role in the 1986 blockbuster Top Gun
, the lead in the 1987 cult vampire film Near Dark
—but he was dissatisfied with his Hollywood career. By 1992 he was back in Manhattan, flipping burgers in a diner while doing small parts in New York City-centered films like Carlito's Way
. "Now," says the never-married Pasdar with a smile, "I spend more time in suits than anyone in the corporate world."
- Craig Tomashoff.