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Accessible Advocacy Journalism Done Right

TV review Well-crafted 'In the Life' focuses on issues that transcend the show's gay and lesbian target audience.


The bimonthly newsmagazine "In the Life" begins its seventh season Sunday night on KCET, reaffirming that there is nothing else like it on the air.

Just because the "life" here is gay and lesbian doesn't mean this smart, vibrant, extremely informative hour isn't also for heterosexuals. Although its target audience is homosexual, it's for everyone wanting to witness the full panorama of society. I know one straight guy (blush) who watched a tape of Sunday's program twice, and liked it a lot both times. And learned a lot, too.

Host Katherine Linton is good, the production values polished, the reporting first-rate and measured, and the topics of a kind rarely available elsewhere on television. The New York-based series is so well executed, in fact, that it's hard to believe its entire staff numbers only eight.

The opener is a piece on a grass-roots movement to blunt a proposed amendment to the Hawaii constitution barring same-sex marriages. Then comes a segment on the fact-inspired lesbian opera, "Patience & Sarah." Says one of the leads about a pair of females playing two women who make love together and sing: "I don't think that's ever been done before." Not on this planet.

Then comes a story about efforts to establish assisted-living facilities for gay seniors, its message about aging cutting across sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, "Coming out in the church means coming out of the church," notes a former Southern Baptist minister in a piece about dissidents within this huge gay-resistant denomination. The resistance is also powerful in Wichita Falls, Texas, where two controversial children's books, "Heather Has Two Mommies" and "Daddy's Roommates," have become a bitter battleground that spills over into censorship. Those advocating yanking these books from library shelves believe that kids who read them will be enticed to become homosexual. But, argues the lesbian author of the "Two Mommies" book: "When I was growing up, I read thousands of books about heterosexuals, and not one of those books changed my sexuality."

The hour wraps with a segment on same-sex Shakespeare, including males as both Romeo and Juliet--although performing differently than the way guys played female roles in the Bard's time. Also covered is the Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company, which is doing . . . well, the unthinkable. A woman as Othello? Based on this slim excerpt, it seems to work.

As does "In the Life," which is opinionated without being shrill or preachy while celebrating diversity in a way that you'll not find on any other newsmagazine. You can hate the Moor, like Iago, and still be attracted to this hour.

* "In the Life" airs at 11 p.m. Sunday on KCET-TV.

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