Words: Hugh Kaye
Long ago, so, so long ago, I danced in a ballroom. In fact, it was so long ago that the person opposite me was a girl! We were doing a sort of works morale-boosting tour of theme parks (better than paintball or long, dull meetings) and had ended up in Blackpool.
It was the Eighties but that’s about as close as I’ve ever got to world of Pose (BBC2, Thurs 21 Mar, 9pm). This new eight-part drama celebrates Harlem’s ball culture in the 1980s - pretty much the birthplace of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but it’s also much more because this was a time when the HIV/Aids crisis was destroying gay men’s lives.
The show features five transgender actors as well as Evan Peters and James van der Beek - remember him? - and is co-created by Ryan Murphy.
It’s followed by a one-off companion piece, Strike a Pose! (BBC2, Thurs 21 Mar, 10.15pm), featuring music from the show. You can read more about the show in the Attitude Body Issue, available to download and to order globally now.
If all that sounds camp, Behind the Candelabra (BBC2, Sat 16 Mar, 10.45pm) probably goes further at times. This biopic stars Michael Douglas as entertainer Liberace, with Matt Damon as his long-time boyfriend Scott Thorson.
Bizarrely, in 1959 Lee - as he liked to be called - sued the Daily Mirror for defamation when a columnist described him as: “The pinnacle of masculine, feminine and neuter. Everything that he, she and it can ever want... a deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love.”
Denying he was gay, and at a time when homosexuality was still illegal, Liberace won damages of £8,000 (about £150,000 today). Not sure he’d have won, if the court had seen this film!
Another film well worth your time is the classic Cabaret (Talking Pictures, Fri 22 Mar, 10pm). Based on a story by Christopher Isherwood, the musical tells the story of an Englishman living and working in Germany just as the Nazis rise to power.
He meets singer Sally Bowles (an Oscar-winning performance from Liza Minnelli) and becomes a regular at the sleazy Kit Kat Klub. Bob Fosse won the Oscar for best director and Joel Grey picked up the award for best supporting actor for his role as the M.C. while the songs are all legendary, and Michael York looks very pretty! Talking Pictures can be found on Sky channel 328, Virgin 445 and Freeview 81.
More musical fun can be found as John Barrowman hosts All Star Musicals (ITV, Sun 17 Mar, 6pm). In this one-off show, a panel of showbiz experts coach seven celebrities to prepare to perform a musical live on a London stage. Prepare to hear the massacre of tunes from The Greatest Showman and Mamma Mia!, among others.
Barrowman can also be seen as a guest on Celebrity Juice (ITV2, Thurs 21 Mar, 10pm).
On a more serious note, there’s Born Digital: First Cuts (BBC4, Sun 17 Mar, 10pm) which features My Sweet Prince, a short film about growing up gay on the Isle of Wight. It blends a real-life teenager’s video diary - some good memories, some not so sweet - with a fictional story.
And if you couldn’t catch it online, there’s another chance to see The Man Who Used HIV as a Weapon (BBC1, Tues, 19 Mar, 11.05pm).