Call me a snob, but I love British TV. From everyone’s favorite middle-aged hot messes on Absolutely Fabulous to the trashy, semi-scripted “real” drama of The Only Way Is Essex, I’m hooked. If there’s any inkling of a British accent, be it proper or Cockney, I’m there. But all favorable bias aside, British television just seems to be leagues ahead of American TV. Especially when it comes to gay visibility.
Take London Spy for example. The blockbuster BBC America drama took a steamy gay love story and dropped it in the middle of an intricately detailed spy movie. The groundbreaking show follows Danny, a troubled guy who’s trying to right his life and leave behind a sordid past. He falls madly in love with the dreamy Alex who happens to lead a double life as highly sought-after spy. After getting deeply involved with each other, Alex mysteriously disappears, and Danny is left behind to investigate what happened. The show effortlessly ebbs and flows from tender moments to action-packed scenes. It’s like the love child of Spectre and Queer As Folk.
"The blockbuster BBC America drama took a steamy gay love story and dropped it in the middle of an intricately detailed spy movie."
One of the best parts of watching London Spy is that the gay love story is central to the plot. It isn’t hinted at. It’s not a subplot that only gets a couple scenes every two weeks. It’s the heart of the show. And it’s the heart of the show without alienating hetero viewers. The love scenes are handled delicately but they’re still steamy. Each character exhibits a wide range of emotions. Their story arcs aren’t limited to the usual gay fare. Yes, there’s a momentary dip into HIV territory, but it goes far beyond the preachy tone of many gay shows and movies when it comes to this subject.
In the world of London Spy, gay love is handled simply as love. We’re aware that the characters are gay. And the characters outside of the relationship are aware. But their love isn’t treated like an anomaly. Like Looking, we get to view gay men as regular people. And in some cases, we see them as extraordinary people. But where this show differentiates itself is through its elements of extremely detailed character and plot development. Each episode leaves you on the edge of your seat frantically guessing about what’s going to happen. The writing, directing, and quality of the program are on par with top Hollywood movies. And the show’s top-notch talent, including Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, and Charlotte Rampling, indicates this is a small-screen event that’s worthy of our time. It’s a triumph for gay TV. It’s a triumph for TV in general.
"We get to view gay men as regular people. And in some cases, we see them as extraordinary people."
While the possibility of season 2 remains unknown, I’ve got my fingers crossed that this excellent drama returns for at least one more go. The show’s 82% Rotten Tomatoes rating is promising. London Spy has delivered everything I was looking for in a gay-centric show. It shows promise that gay characters can exist and entertain in any genre. When their personalities and storylines are fleshed out adequately, the possibilities are truly endless. Here’s hoping that several other shows begin to follow suit.