Sarah Waters often traffics in thrilling historical lesbian romances, which is obvious by the names of her earlier novels, such as TIPPING THE VELVET (1998) and FINGERSMITH (2002).

THE NIGHT WATCH (2006) is a bit of a detour, as it’s far more Dickensian — in spirit, not time as it takes place in various times before, during, and after World War Two in London — and far more of an ensemble, which features not only a lesbian couple, but also a straight couple, and one jailed man whose sexuality is slightly more complex. (There are additional supporting characters, but those are the major players.)

If that description sounds maddeningly vague, it’s by intent. THE NIGHT WATCH is incredibly restrained with doling out character particulars, and jumps around in years to intentionally provoke intrigue and drama, but also serves to contrast how these characters have coped with wartime and recovery.

In that sense, it feels remarkably relevant in this age of COVID-19, as you read how the characters shelter-in-place, experience how they put themselves at risk by venturing out into the world, tales of first responders, and the like. More than anything, it’s about living with an invisible threat while also living a hidden life, and yes, it’s just as loaded as it sounds.

While all of the characters are richly drawn, I can’t help but wish that Waters had dialed back the scope a bit, as I found myself drawn to the queer relationships lived by Helen, Kay, and Julia, as opposed to the straight and male romances lived through Viv, Reggie, and Duncan, all of which felt like their relationships were hitting the same notes, but with less-satisfying results.

Regardless, Waters is an expert at balancing literary storytelling while also penning extraordinary steamy content, and it’s worth reading THE NIGHT WATCH solely for the more tantalizing passages and the relationship dynamics that she details.

WORK IN PROGRESS “161, 153, 137, 122, 106, 104, 102 (We’re Still Counting Almonds.)” (S01E04, 2019)

(Showtime/VOD) WORK IN PROGRESS is a television dramedy about Abby (show co-creator and comedian Abby McEnany) who self-identifies as a “queer, fat dyke” and lives in Chicago. Abby is also 45-years-old and miserable, and she’s decided that if she can’t find some semblance of happiness within 180 days (marked by 180 almonds, one of which she throws away each day), she’ll end her life.

That sounds morose, but the show is often hilarious thanks to Abby’s cynical persona and the inclusion of Julia Sweeney, who Abby hates because for years people kept comparing her to Sweeney’s ‘IT’S PAT’ SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE character.

One endlessly fantastic facet of the show is that it is shot in Chicago, and quite a bit of it is shot in Andersonville, my neighborhood. Andersonville used to be known as ‘Girlstown’ due the number of queer women and lesbian bars — including the historic Stargaze — but that moniker no longer describes the area due to an influx of queer men and straight couples who will live here for a few years with their dog and toddler before they head to the suburbs.

But I digress. Andersonville is not why I mention this episode (although it does open with Abby at a bar just down the street from me). I’m bringing it up because the last third of the episode takes place at Ravinia — technically in Highland Park, a Chicago suburb — the oldest outdoor music festival in the U.S., and this episode features my favorite scene of the entire season, briefly featured in the trailer below. Additionally, it’s a great solo episode that encapsulates the show!

(Lastly, if you watch season two, you’ll catch a glimpse of our neighbor’s house, as they shot some interior scenes there several months ago. It was a tad surreal, especially during the pandemic.)

HANNIBAL (2013-2015)

(Hulu/VOD) LAST MINUTE STREAMING alert! Apparently HANNIBAL leaves Netflix on June 5th and, while it’s also currently available via Hulu, it’s questionable whether they’ll stay there. Who knows, maybe it’ll become a peacock exclusive.

Either way, you have less than a month to watch all three seasons of this gloriously elegant, monstrous adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter novels.

It seems like Netflix has made the show far more popular than it was when I was one of five people watching the show weekly, so this recommendation may not be necessary but I’ll go ahead and give a description anyways: Bryan Fuller, best known for darkly comic works like PUSHING DAISIES (2007-2009, ABC) had long been infatuated with Harris’ novels about serial killers and the detectives that pursue them, and he convinced NBC to allow him to turn it into a very queer giallo TV series.

The end result was an adroitly pictured, psychosexual cat-and-mouse game between criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal Lecter (perfectly portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen), and it featured some of the most vivid, most memorable and horribly beautiful imagery ever to be approved by NBC standards-and-practices. With each season Fuller, along with director David Slade (30 DAYS OF NIGHT, HARD CANDY), ramped up the visuals and minimized the dialogue until the last season consisted mostly of a visually sumptuous mélange of abstracted blood and gore.

While the show improves with each season, my favorite moments are from the first season. To prevent giving anything away, I’ll simply allude to them: 1) the cello and 2) a hand-drawn clock. Upon seeing those moments, I knew this show was something special.

Sadly, rights and ratings kept Fuller from fully realizing his dream — no Clarice, no proper serialized SILENCE OF THE LAMBS — but the three seasons we have are some of the most audacious network TV yet.


(fubo/kanopy) Mid-90s indie queer film that Cheryl Dunye (who has directed eps of DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, QUEEN SUGAR, and LOVECRAFT COUNTRY) explores Black lesbian culture through the lens of film history. Features far more laughs than this description suggests, it’s very much of its time, but damn well worth yours.

(The following is a scene — not a trailer — as there appears to be no trailer of it online.)