Borders Line: Espenson’s HUSBANDS Is Breaking Ground And Not Just Because It’s About Gay Marriage
Jane Espenson's new series Husbands is about two openly gay celebrities--a baseball player (Brady, played by Sean Hemeon) and an actor (Cheeks, played by...Cheeks)--who go to Vegas to drunkenly celebrate the passing of gay marriage and wake up to discover they're married. As Cheeks himself remarks in the cutely self-referential show, the only thing that saves the premise from being embarrassingly hackneyed is the fact that they're gay. The two, who have only been dating for six weeks, are afraid to admit their nuptials were inadvertent for fear of harming the cause of marriage equality, so they decide to stick it out. Husbands follows the husbands through their first few hours of spontaneous matrimony and not much further, because as of now there are only nine episodes, each lasting around two minutes.
Yep! The most innovative thing about Husbands isn't its controversial subject matter (and I hate calling it that--the fact that marriage equality is controversial makes me want to punch America in the face, but I guess that's the very definition of controversy) but its unusual execution. Espenson is a long-time television favorite with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galacticaand the upcoming TV Talk treatment Once Upon A Time under her belt, among many others. Along with Cheeks, she's producing the show as eleven two-minute webisodes that she will eventually edit together to present as a television spec pilot. It's a really clever way of promoting a show that may be tough to sell on paper. By the time Espenson is ready to sell a nicely produced and well-developed spec pilot, Husbands will already have a serious following.
The show, also starring Alessandra Torresani as Cheeks' hilarious hot mess of a best friend Haley, may be too rambunctious for some. Every episode is HILARIOUS JOKE! followed by SCHMALTZY SENTIMENT followed by HILARIOUS JOKE!, then credits. The acting is as heightened as the alternate universe in which the show takes place. But these episodes are around 100 seconds long, and that leaves little time for subtlety. And I've always been a sucker for schmaltz masked in sardonic humor. It's what endeared me to the first ten or so episodes of Glee before I fled from that series with horror, and it's what I still love about Modern Family. I am saccharine and sarcastic in fairly equal turns, and like everyone, I enjoy seeing my quirks represented in mainstream culture.
I've spoken before about my affinity for web series. I think they represent a glorious wilderness where creativity runs free, unfettered by network notes, Nielsen ratings and corporate advertising. Children's Hospital also began as a web series that made its way to television after a strong following, and television is now better for it. While that's what Espenson wants--and I certainly understand the desire for the resources and audience that come with a television series--I'd be perfectly happy watching uninhibited two-minute episodes of Husbands on the Internet forever.
You can read more about Husbands here and watch the entirety of the series and follow Espenson's blog about it here. Check out the teaser for the show below, which gives a pretty solid sense of the tone and content: