Renee Lee (left) with her squad, L to R, Lauretta, Jonathan, Helen, and Meredith
I’ll confess to seriously mixed feelings about “the gay channel” Logo’s recent reliance on cheaper-to-produce reality TV shows, at the clear expense of enjoyable, but much more expensive-to-mount scripted shows like Noah’s Arc and (especially) Rick and Steve the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World.
Sure, RuPaul’s Drag Race was deservedly a big hit (and The Robert Verdi Show was a gem, but under-appreciated, mostly because people missed the satire). But I was mostly underwhelmed by the RuPaul spin-off Drag U and the flower-arranging show The Arrangement. As for The A-List: New York … well, don’t get me started.
But Logo (which owns AfterElton.com) has another potential hit on their hands with The Setup Squad, premiering April 25th at 11:30 PM, at least based on the first episode, provided to us by the channel.
The gimmick is that the show follows Wings, Inc. a company owned by a Jane Seymour look-alike named Renee Lee that claims to provide “professional wingmen” — basically, men and women who will give you lessons and coaching on how to be more comfortable in the dating scene.
Why is it gay? One of the wingmen, Jonathan (the only male) is gay, and another, Meredith, is a lesbian. Meanwhile, the company’s clients include both gay and straight people — including, in the premiere episode, Tim, a guy’s guy from “Jersey” who is billed as the world’s straightest gay guy (a term I’m not crazy about).
In other words, the show is sort of a reboot of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, except it’s a little more mixed up, with straights and gays both giving and getting the dating advice.
(Does this New York dating agency, Wings, Inc., really exist apart from this reality show? I confess I’m a tad skeptical given that I could find no online evidence apart from The Setup Squad. The other thing I wonder is just how “spontaneous” the show’s random bar hook-ups really are, since everyone is obviously being filmed, but no one ever acknowledges the cameras. I suppose it’s never wise to think too deeply about a reality show.)
First things first. Unlike most reality shows (but like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy), some of the advice offered here might actually be helpful to a person struggling with dating. It might be clever editing, but all of the subjects in the premiere episode seem to make impressive progress — although, like most things dating-related, it mostly just comes down to a question of confidence (something the counselors all agree on).
Meanwhile, Tim, the gay guy needing dating help, is pretty darn delightful — a little awkward, sure, but frankly, he comes across as a lot more attractive, and much better dating material, than some of the catty, superficial New Yorkers that his wingman, Lauretta, is trying to hook him up with.
And speaking of Lauretta ….
Prepare for fireworks! Alas, part of what makes this show interesting is what they’re hinting is some kind of season-long cat-fight between Lauretta and one of the other counselors, Helen.
In fairness, some of Lauretta’s advice to Tim is spot-on, and she quickly zeroes in on his internalized homophobia. But for someone who is supposed to be such a specialist in human relations, she is shockingly inappropriate in her own encounters with Helen, a new addition to the Wings, Inc. team. Weirdly, Lauretta immediately decides Helen isn’t qualified for the job of teaching people relationship skills because Helen herself admits she is “hopelessly single.”
Fortunately, Helen, a stand-up comic, is well-prepared to defend herself.
Is this all staged or encouraged for the show? Once again, I remind myself it’s never wise to think too deeply about reality shows.
How’s resident-gay-guy Jonathan? Well, he’s pretty easy on the eyes, and is also a professional actor (more evidence that the show isn’t really “real”? Again, stop thinking deeply!).
But he also happens to be the guy, Jonathan D. Lovitz, who was a brief viral media sensation last month for something completely unrelated to the show: when called for jury duty, he claimed he was unable to be impartial, because he is a second class citizen in New York state as a result of being a gay man; he was subsequently dismissed from duty.
Anyway, if this show was a guy, I’d definitely ask him for a second date.
Jonathan D. Lovitz in a preview for the show
And be sure to check out Jonathan’s Ask the Expert segment on 365Gay.com! This week he answers the question, “I’m a revamped tramp. How do I keep a regular guy?”