As the web becomes more integrated with our daily lives, it’s also becoming an increasingly reliable place to find well-scripted and well-produced entertainment, and comedy series Husbands is a prime example. Set in a world in which full marriage equality for same-sex couples has been achieved, the series follows an actor and his baseball-star husband as they learn to navigate newly-married life following a drunken Vegas wedding. The series has earned itself a highly loyal fanbase that helped raise over $60K for the show’s second season, which premiered online today.
Fans can expect to see big changes in the second season, including a number of cult-favorite guest stars like Avengers and Buffy director Joss Whedon, who appears in the second season premiere. Whedon’s appearance is no coincidence, as the show was co-created by former Buffy and Firefly writer Jane Espenson, who is also much-beloved for her work on shows like Battlestar Galatica and Torchwood. The other half of Husbands’ creative team is Brad Bell, who also costars in the series as the out and proud, newlywed actor Cheeks. You can see the second season premiere below, followed by our exclusive interview with both Bell and Espenson, who tell GLAAD about the shows that inspired them and why they felt compelled to tell the story of a newly married gay couple.
What originally led you both to decide to work together on a story about a newly-married, gay couple?
JANE: It was a classic case of here's the cart, oh the horse is way back there behind it. We were discussing I Love Lucy over dinner. We were fascinated that such an innocent, harmless show was ever considered "risky" or "groundbreaking" because of Desi Arnaz's --gasp-- Cubaness!
BRAD: I posed the question, "Can that even be recreated today? Can you push the envelope without actually crossing into the salacious zone?" About that same moment, we looked at one another with the same idea. A classic, newlywed sitcom ...with guys! Right now, some people might be scandalized by it, but that perception will fade as time goes on. I love that. You think there's shock value or content that "goes there," when in reality, it's timeless vaudeville type stuff.
Going into its second season, Husbands looks to be a bigger production compared to season one. What new things can fans expect?
BRAD: We've upgraded every aspect of production -- the look is polished, the sound is clean and pro -- it's really gorgeous all around. But gloss alone isn't enough. Our storytelling has been upgraded, too. We've been able to take several complex ideas and weave them into a very entertaining story. The show remains focused on Cheeks and Brady -- their relationship, their love -- but the conflicts between them and the conflicts they have with the world, that all helps to communicate and support the social commentary we have about the state of things in modern America. It's pop satire with classic comedy.
JANE: We're more confident in writing this couple, and we increased the scope of the story. It's gone through that jump that you often see after the pilot episode of a television show, when the show takes on a life of its own. I think the fans are going to be really pleased with Season 2. And we've got some wonderful guest stars: Joss Whedon, Jon Cryer, Mekhi Phifer, Felicia Day, Amber Benson, Tricia Helfer and so many others. And Jeff Greenstein directed the heck out of it.
What does distributing Husbands via the internet mean to the series in terms of how it’s produced and the content you create for it?
JANE: It means something in terms of how it's produced -- there's more hands-on involvement from everyone with a show like this. There's also a difference in content. In that we're better. I'd put this show up against any other show in terms of the level of acting, the humor, the direction – I'm very, very proud of it.
BRAD: Yes, and as for the content, we can talk directly to our audience. I love that -- writing references to fan fiction, using items that fans send us as set dressing, conversations that are common within the blogsosphere. I also think our writing is allowed to be really smart. We trust, respect, and believe in our audience and that greatly improves our relationship with them. I feel very close to our viewers as a result and I give the same amount of passion to making Husbands as they give to support it.
Jane, you’ve certainly had some experience weaving political and social commentary into popular entertainment formats on shows like Battlestar Galactica and Torchwood. Do either of you see Husbands as a way to comment on (or riff on) any specific issues around marriage equality?
JANE: Oh, certainly. You're right, that feels very familiar to me – even the very first shows that I contributed to: Star Trek: TNG and Dinosaurs, had lots of political content, and [Husbands] continued that. First off, we are saying a lot about how this couple is similar to any other newlywed pair: their mistakes are all about communication, compromise, empathy – this very specific marriage becomes very identifiable, very fast. That in itself is a political statement in the current environment. They also have to deal in a very literal way with issues of how same-sex couples are perceived in the media. If you actually start unpacking season two, you find a lot of commentary in it. I think Brad probably has a lot to say on this topic.
BRAD: Well, our story takes place in an America that federally protects marriage equality, so our statement about that is clear, without needing to point it out. Now we can move onto the next phase of American culture and the conversation beyond civil rights. What's the world look like after the fight has been won? We're fans of satire and I think some of the best satire can be found in sitcoms -- All in the Family, Murphy Brown, South Park -- combining commentary with comedy is the most rewarding part of the process.
Were there any images of LGBT people in the media that have had a significant effect on you or the material you’re writing now?
JANE: As a writer for the most recent season of Torchwood, that, of course, had a big effect on me. It gave me a chance to write LGBT characters as characters first, not as symbols or statements. I'm also a fan of Modern Family, which I think does a good job. And, looking back on Buffy, I realize that the Willow/Tara pairing was ahead of its time and very well done.
BRAD: You know, I don't see a great number of LGBT people in the media that are firing back the way that the religious right fires shots at us on a daily basis. There seem to be a number of LGBT celebrities who want their sexualities to remain incidental; they want the focus to be on their brand, not activism. I don't judge that. It's understandable and certainly their prerogative. That having been said, given the state of the nation -- suicides, calls for kidnapping children of same-sex couples, firing teachers that don't condemn gays -- I just wouldn't be able to sleep at night without taking some kind of action. For me, aligning my entertainment career with social progression is the right thing to do. It's the only thing to do.
What do you hope to see happen with Husbands in the future?
BRAD: There are so many stories that could continue on for years. I'd love to see this marriage grow. In the future, I know we will see more, bigger, better. How that will come to pass isn't immediately clear, but I know in my heart that it will.
JANE: I would love to see the characters of Brady and Cheeks and their tiny drunken friend Haley become household names. I think the world we've created is something special. I can't wait to see what this marriage looks like on their tenth anniversary.
You can get caught up Husbands’ hilarious first season here.