Welcome to “Weekend Stream,” where every Friday, Darian Lusk — comedian and writer living large in Brooklyn — will gently recommend something new and exciting to stream, listen to or play over the weekend. Follow him on Twitter @eatpraylusk to send suggestions for future installments.
It seems like there’s always a piece of pop culture that signals the inevitable arrival of summer. When Daft Punk’s Get Lucky dropped in spring ‘13, or sort-of-feminist blockbuster Mad Max premiered in spring ‘15, we all knew the Chubbies Facebook ads were coming out to play.
Well, this year’s sign of the approaching beach season — and maybe apocalypse (JK) — is Fire Island, a reality show about a group of ultra-attractive gays just looking for a good time at their weekend share in the Pines.
To fill you in, Fire Island is a mostly residential beach destination off Long Island that is essentially a low-key Hamptons. Except for historic gay district Fire Island Pines, which as we quickly discover, is very high key. To those turned off by the show’s divisive trailer (even SNL parodied it), Fire Island is decidedly not an accurate depiction of the LGBT community, but it may be an accurate depiction of the type of men who would book a house in the Pines for an entire summer. Thus the perfect exercise in vapid, suntanned fun for the months ahead.
The unscripted reality show, now streaming on Logo TV, follows six New York power-gays assembled by Khasan, a chiseled professional dancer transitioning into the field of choreography (we wish him well). Khasan’s first recruit is his clingy, equally beautiful Venezuelan best friend Jorge who swears he could never be sexually attracted to Khasan but is also coincidentally very territorial about him. Next, we meet firecracker Brandon, tragically only 21 years old, which he’s finding to be slightly too young for the Pines. He tells us that taking photographs of naked men is his passion, and it seems he’ll have no problem finding models as there’s at least three Instagram influencers in the principal cast. These characters physically fit the part but would have benefitted from watching a few more episodes of Real World.
Finally, we have some self-aware characters in Patrick and Justin. Patrick is a southern wild card who looks like the type of gay who would carry around a small dog, and he does. He’s extroverted and a Pines veteran, calling the town “Gay Disneyland.” The fact that he knows his way around and is also actively trying to make good TV bodes well for us. Justin immediately opens up about his body image issues and takes on the role of house mom. He’s actively addressing and mediating drama with his housemates, which also bodes well for us. Additionally, there are droves of barely clothed men in this show, and this bodes well for us too.
What ensues in the pilot is a saga of day parties, night parties, afternoon parties called “Tea” and family meetings in which the cast members toast to “#communication.” The episode comes to a dramatic climax when Jorge opens up an ethical discourse about whether strangers should be allowed to literally get naked at an afternoon pool BBQ you’re hosting. Is Fire Island a place to be free and have fun or should we respect the land and its heritage? This seems like one of the central themes the show will explore. Also, does this rave outfit say “Xanadu” enough?
Now, I have a previous relationship with Fire Island as I spent my summers growing up there, which were unsurprisingly way less gay than this show. My family has a house on the residential, “I’ve heard Tina Fey stays here” side #Dunewoodrepresent, so while I have only been to the Pines once (it was fun!), I have learned a few things. Like, the odyssey to get there, which involves like three steps including a train out of (gulp) Penn Station, can be emotionally exhausting. I wouldn’t recommend getting on that Long Island Railroad without at least one tall boy, not just because you’ll need it, but also you won’t fit in without it.
Secondly, Fire Island is a lot like Survivor. There’s no cars, you have to be transported off the island if there’s a medical emergency and most homes are outfitted with outdoor showers that really will make you feel like you just won a reward challenge.
And finally, if you DO meet Tina Fey through a mutual friend, don’t get so nervous that you can’t speak, instead staring at her children with a blank smile and then walking away after five minutes of silence. WOULDN’T THAT BE TERRIBLE?
Fire Island has all the ingredients of the next talked-about reality show, as long as later episodes bring the drama. It’s certainly already better than Logo’s problematic, Lance Bass-hosted Finding Prince Charming. But also, do we expect groundbreaking depth from our beach reading list? It’s SUMMER.
Other great things to stream this weekend:
Mystery Science Theater 3000: It’s been 18 years since we last watched a bad movie in space with the MST3K squad, and you’ll be thrilled to find out that this revival pretty much picks up exactly where we left off. With Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt in prominent roles and Dan Harmon and Joel McHale with writing credits, this pristine reboot stands ahead of the pack. (Added April 14)
On Amazon Prime:
Don Juan: This rom-com starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scar-Jo and Julianne Moore has a surprising amount of depth and nuance for a film that has a 6.6 on IMDB. Levitt plays a New Jersey guy who embodies the GTL mentality and is looking for love, though his expectations have been skewed by the amount of pornography he’s watched. Though it may start out sort of vulgar, you’ll be surprised by how well it sticks its landing. (Added April 1)