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  WINDY CITY TIMES

TELEVISION REVIEW Pose
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2018-06-06

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Director: Ryan Murphy ( first two episodes ). Starring: Evan Peters, MJ Rodriguez and Dominique Jackson, among others. Time: Varies. Premiere date: June 3

The new FX series Pose is set in the '80s, and tells the story of slices of life in the Big Apple. In each episode the characters ( a slew of LGBTQ individuals, in a television set-up that is way overdue ) face challenges that grow deeper with each episode.

The drag-ball scene is depicted, with the House of Abundance ruling the roost until part of the group leaves to form the House of Evangelista. Meanwhile, a young man named Stan Bowes meets a transgender prostitute named Angel who threatens to throw his wife and job with the Trump empire into a tailspin. The struggle is real as the largest LGBTQ recurring cast on television takes audiences on a difficult journey in eight episodes, with each lasting approximately an hour.

Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals are the show's co-creators. It takes an LGBTQ army to create this piece of work, with many consultants, writers and producers wisely included. Never forget it's Murphy's puppet show, though, as he's a producer and directs the first two episodes. ( Transgender advocate/author/actress Janet Mock is among those directing other episodes. ) In his last original FX series, he brings along his muse, Evan Peters, for the ride and shows this is no Glee, but instead more of an American Horror Story tale, with AIDS as the real killer.

This landmark drama is making history and is also described as a musical, although in the first four episodes no one sings. Music is used smartly over the course of the series, from the beginning with Mary Jane Girls' "In My House" at the ball to Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" used for emotional impact. It is a smorgasbord of songs that were sometimes on the fringe of the music world—just like this community, with society in general.

There is a lot of dancing thanks to newcomer Ryan Jamaal Swain who plays his character Damon full of innocence and wonder as he discovers the gay world and ballet scene.

Pose is a TV show inspired by the movie Paris Is Burning, with Flashdance and Fame mixed in for good measure. It reminds us once again that Madonna did not invent voguing and how the Cinderella story at the ball still works to this day.

The series evolves with each episode and covers a variety of heavy topicss, including sex, relationships, death, homelessness and racism. It does veer towards preaching at times and has a few corny lines such as "You will never find a place to belong if you keep running away." But you have to marvel at the number of television firsts that are accomplished—this talented troupe goes where no one has gone before time and time again. The possibilities are endless if FX picks up more seasons.

From the very beginning, when the House of Abundance breaks into a museum for costumes, we are immediately presented with a piece of work that thinks outside the box. We may not agree with everything the characters do but Pose is going to show us everything, warts and all.

The cast lives each part possibly from experience, and the scenes feel authentic. Murphy insisted on using trans actors to convey his poignant story where the real category is finding a job to survive. One heartbreaking scene has Angel, portrayed by Indya Moore, trying desperately to work at an upscale clothing store—only to be rejected to return to a life of hustling. Times may have not changed drastically but bringing awareness to this discrimination is a step in the right direction. Murphy has done his part by employing and spotlighting a diverse cast that deserves to be there for this important journey.

Broadway's Billy Porter plays character Pray Tell, who emcees the drag competitions and glues the group together as a fairy godfather. Give this Tony Award winner another trophy and make it an Emmy this time!

Are mainstream television audiences ready for a show such as this? Only time will tell, but expect some controversy with the world we live in today.

The Pose posse earns perfect scores across the board for trying with this trailblazing endeavor, darling.


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