“Beautiful People” Makes For Beautiful Television


All photos credit: Logo/BBC

For
me, summer is not a season for television. It’s a season for kicking
back in the yard or the park with fizzy cocktails, eating meals
composed entirely of various types of ice cream, and laughing so hard
with your friends that your mother/landlord/neighbors yell at you or
you lose control of a bodily function.

Enter Logo’s (AfterElton.com’s parent company) Beautiful People, the first series of the summer to allow you to do all of these things in the comfort of your air-conditioned living room.

Equal parts wistful remembrance and raucous, candy-colored fantasy, Beautiful People is sort of what The Wonder Years would
look like were it directed by a relatively well-behaved John Waters.
Loosely based on the memoirs of Simon Doonan (first released in the U.K.
under the title Nasty), the series tells the story of an
impossibly fabulous and wonderfully precocious gay kid growing up in
working-class, small-town England.

Luke Ward-Wilkinson (Young Simon Doonan)

Most
of the action takes place in and around the Doonan household, which is
filled with impossibly entertaining and quirky characters. Mum likes
her gin, supportive Dad busies himself with making potato wine and
fixing things, sister Reba is the town slut (with a heart of gold!),
and Auntie Hayley is a blind and aging hippie with a tendency for acid
flashbacks and accidents at funerals.

Simon
(played nicely and without a whiff of apology by Luke Ward-Wilkinson)
spends most of his time with his best friend, budding
partner-in-fabulousness Kylie (Layton Williams), who makes Ugly Betty‘s
Justin Suarez look like Stanley Kowalski by comparison.

Over the
series’ six episodes (season two is on its way), Simon and Kylie busy
themselves with typical teen endeavors like auditioning for musicals,
dealing with visiting relatives, and of course perfecting dance
routines in and out of their bedrooms (and their mothers’ clothes).

(Pictured L-R): Olivia Colman (Debbie Doonan),
Layton Williams ("Kylie"/Kyle) and Ward-Wilkinson

In the hands of master executive producer Jon Plowman (Absolutely Fabulous, Extras, The Office),
the ups and downs of the comings-of-age of Simon and Kylie are
refreshingly free of angst, bullying, and sexuality-related trauma.
It’s an idealized vision of a gay kid’s learning about life, but it’s
one so long overdue in its clear intent to celebrate the absurdity of
it all that for me it hit home, and then some.

Is it patently
unrealistic to think that Simon could have so much fun coming up a gay
kid in working class England in the ’90s? Probably. But let’s face it,
beyond haircuts and guest-stars, sitcoms have never exactly been
accurate documents of the zeitgeist, have they?

Much like AbFab, Beautiful People celebrates
the absurd and takes life’s darker turns full-speed and without safety
belts (the episode where Brenda Fricker appears as Simon’s seriously
unbalanced grandmother is the blackest comedy you’ll likely see this
summer).

People smack one another about, die horrible deaths, drink
until they pass out and behave pretty terribly to one another. But the
underlying optimism of the show somehow encourages us to laugh it all
off as just part of the colossal mess we call life.

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