the best tv show about millennial dating in the age of apps will not be televised
Why you should go online to watch Adam Goldman’s critically acclaimed web series The Outs, now on a second season.
When Adam Goldman created The Outs, his show about millennial life in Brooklyn, he didn't have a commissioning editor at Netflix or HBO or NBC on speed dial. 'As if we could walk to our local television executive's office and say, "look we've got a show about the aftermath of a gay relationship. Don't you want to put that on Showtime?" That wasn't the case,' he says down the line from New York. Instead, Goldman looked to crowdfund the idea which he worked on with Bard college friends Sasha Winters (co-writer and co-star) and Jay Gillespie (director of photography). After two Kickstarter campaigns and a fairly brisk filming schedule in and around Prospect Heights, Goldman put The Outs online, where it found an audience receptive to the seven-part show's frank and revealing take on relationships - both straight and gay, platonic and romantic - in an age of social media.
As well as writing and directing, Goldman cast himself as Mitchell, the cardigan wearing twentysomething worrier, who trades insults and bon mots with best, straight friend Oona [Winters - also Goldman's real life flatmate]. Then there's the problem with Mitchell's ex boyfriend, Jack [Hunter Canning] who at the beginning of the show plays a spiteful Grindr prank on his former beau. Social media drives a lot of the action in The Outs, but it's the way in which it binds characters in new, unchartered ways that the show refreshingly explores.
When it debuted in 2012, the show gained critical love and famous fans like Alan Cumming, who was so enamoured he ended up playing a cameo part. Now Vimeo has financed a second series, given Goldman a bigger budget and his character a new line of cardigans to wear as well as gifting the writer with an opportunity to catch up on Jack and Mitchell's relationship three years on. Here, Goldman talks through some of the themes of the show and how it's not just being online that's different about it.
How did the show begin
The show was based on a scene that I wrote years ago became the last scene of episode one of season one of The Outs. I'd written that scene and put it in a drawer and totally forgot about it. My boyfriend at the time reminded me I'd written this scene, I started unpacking who these characters were and why they had these complicated feelings about each other and the whole show sprang out of there.
Did you feel the aftermath of a gay relationship hadn't been explored in TV?
In queer culture, in gay relationships, in my life there are men who love each other, who hate each other, then they have sex, maybe they have a relationship. They go through different phases. I felt there was more to explore there. So in season one, you get flashbacks into Mitchell and Jack's relationship when they were really happy together. Then you also see them after the fact. In this Annie Hall way, you are the seeing the whole relationship at once but out of order and I feel that has a certain rhyme with the way we deal with our relationships in 2016 even after they end because of social media. The way that people date, the way they relate whether they're gay or straight is changing and the show is partly an exploration of that.
In season one, Jack is initially seen as the reason for the breakup but it becomes apparent that it's more complex than that. Was this a particular element you wanted to focus on?
It's hard for someone to really be a bad guy because the bad guys have motivations too. Certainly at the start you see Jack being fairly callow and not being particularly friendly but then it comes out that he wasn't really the problem, that they were both the problem or the relationship was the problem.
A key tenet of the show is how the ex boyfriends aren't necessarily destined to be with each other in the way a more traditional TV show's narrative arc might run. Can you talk about that?
We've entered a phase in culture where someone being your soulmate doesn't mean the same thing as it used to. Jack and Mitchell really care about each other and know each other intimately in the way you do when you've been someone's boyfriend for four or five years. There's a lot there. But it's not so much a will they/won't they. If Jack and Mitchell are meant to be together it doesn't mean they are going to get married. It means they have an important relationship with each other. That's true for a lot of people, that the people you are closest to aren't necessarily the people you are sleeping with.
I liked how New York is presented in a mundane way. The jobs are non descript or not described at all, the apartments aren't in any way stylised, the wardrobe is every everyday.
The jobs idea is actually from a Sharon Horgan show called Pulling. For me that's the biggest influence on The Outs. Sharon Horgan said about her character that the job wasn't important to her so it shouldn't be to the audience. I know so many people in that position. They go to the office, they come home don't really know what they do or why they are there. The goal wasn't to make the show mundane, it was the practicalities of not having a big budget, not having a lot of time to tell this story. It's always going to be people in apartments, in offices.
Do you think the ordinariness is attractive to an audience?
The show is never going to be aspirational in a way even a show like GIRLS is, which, even though you probably wouldn't want to be any of them, the show does have that glossy sheen to it. I talk to people who tell me that The Outs was part of the reason they moved to New York, which is very funny to me because the characters aren't happy or living life to the fullest. They are just living their lives. But even in 2016 we are so short of representation of queer people just living their lives, that's why it lands with people. That being said, people can relate to the show even if they are not gay because of the way gay dating and straight dating are much the same these days.
Do you mean by how social media has changed the landscape?
Yes, gay people have been using the internet to meet for a long time and it's suddenly become mainstream in the U.S. at least because of Tinder. [U.S. queer commentator] Dan Savage talks about what used to be the gay lifestyle is now just the person in your 20s lifestyle.
I need to ask you about Mitchell's cardigans. Are you a cardigan wearer?
I am now. There's that line in the first episode where Mitchell says he was going on a date so he took out all his cardigans. The one magical realism element of The Outs is that Mitchell never repeats a cardigan. It's a frustrating trope that on TV you watch these people and in every new episode they have a new outfit and you wonder how they could afford that? But I feel like Mitchell deserves that. My closet is packed to bursting with cardigans.
The Outs season 2 is on vimeo.com/the-outs now. If you missed the first seriess, catch up for free at theeouts.com
Text Colin Crummy