Ellen Gray: 'Husbands' ready for prime-time spot


* HUSBANDS. Premieres Wednesday at LoveHusbands.com.


I RECENTLY spent a couple of weeks in a West Coast hotel where the TV in my room worked only intermittently and I kept forgetting to ask someone to fix it.

It wasn't a problem: I was too busy working on stories about television to spend much time watching it, and when I did have time - or needed to see something for my admittedly odd job - I had my Mac, and a Slingbox back home that gave me access to anything I needed, including stuff on my DVR.

Plus Hulu and Netflix.

So I get it that not everyone needs a TV to watch television.

But even if I'm no longer totally wedded to the box (or, if you prefer, the elegant slab) in the living room, I still want my entertainment delivered by people who know what they're doing.

And I'm old-fashioned enough to think that the best stuff belongs where the most people might get to see it.

Which is why I'm probably a bit more frustrated than its creators seem to be that "Husbands," the series about gay newlyweds created by Jane Espenson ("Once Upon a Time") and writer-actor Brad Bell and directed by Jeff Greenstein ("Desperate Housewives"), launches its second season Wednesday still online rather than on a major network.

Because I've seen the pilots for this fall's two gay-themed network sitcoms, NBC's "The New Normal" and CBS' "Partners," and neither strikes me as being nearly as funny, as clever or as touching as "Husbands."

They are longer, though.

The first episode of the second season of "Husbands," for which Espenson and Bell raised money at Kickstarter.com, clocks in at a little more than nine minutes and is scheduled to go live Wednesday at LoveHusbands.com. (The entire first season, which has been available online at husbandsthe

series.com, ran for about 22 minutes, or about the length of an average network-sitcom episode.)

Season 2 begins exactly three weeks after the beginning of the first, in which a major-league baseball player named Brady Kelly (Sean Hemeon) and an Internet celebrity known as "Cheeks" (Bell) woke up after a drunken spree in Las Vegas to find themselves married. Not wanting to replace Kim Kardashian as a punchline (and maybe dampen public support for same-sex marriage), they decided to make a go of it.

What followed was an opposites-attract story that's owed as much to "I Love Lucy" as it has to TMZ.com.

In fact, I couldn't help but wonder how much more trouble Lucy Ricardo might have gotten into if she'd had to contend with the instantaneous nature of social media - "news at the speed of tweet," as Cheeks puts it - or with fans of Ricky's who disapproved of her very existence in his life.

This season, the show, which also stars Alessandra Torresani ("Caprica") as Cheeks' best friend, has brought on a number of guest stars, including Espenson's old boss, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon, who's playing Brady's Cheeks-averse agent (and whose own successful 2008 online musical with Neil Patrick Harris, "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," is finally coming to a TV near you Oct. 9 on the CW).

"Baseball, they want wholesome heroes," he tells his client, noting that "acceptable gays" are "overweight, over 40, overprofessional with their lovers in public."

I'd say the line of what's "acceptable" is moving all the time (there's also an Anderson Cooper joke that seems slightly dated).

The only question now is which comes first: a major network accepting that "Husbands" or some other up-and-coming Web show is ready for prime time, just as it is, or my overcoming my pro-TV bias and realizing it doesn't matter anymore because they're here. Or at least somewhere.

And I might as well get used to it.


Contact Ellen Gray at 215-854-5950 or graye@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @elgray and read her blog atEllenGray.tv.