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Q-Force Review 2021 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew Online
At the peak of his My Best Friend’s Wedding popularity and in reference to one of his amusing quips from that hit rom-com, Rupert Everett became the subject of occasional “Next James Bond” speculation. There were even various points at which Everett discussed or even went so far as to publicly announce his plans to do a project that was inevitably described in the trades as a “gay secret agent” movie or, more glibly, as a “gay James Bond.”
Whispers about overhauling or reimagining James Bond have never stopped, but Everett’s proposed vision never materialized. Representational progress has come a long way since the late 20th century, and Q-Force, Netflix’s new animated gay spy comedy, would have blown away audiences in 1997. Maybe the most revolutionary thing about the show is how matter-of-fact it feels in 2021. For all the cartoon dicks, racy double entendres and specific LGBTQ+ pandering, Q-Force unfolds like a conversation between the funniest people on Gay Twitter circa 2016. Some of them even write for the show!
It’s got the currency of the first season of The Other Two or a later season of Will & Grace. Or, put a different way, if this not especially young, white, straight TV critic can recognize all the jargon and get — and even often anticipate — all the punchlines, then you’re not really moving the chains (sports-ball reference) very far.
Created by Gabe Liedman (of the far edgier and far funnier Big Mouth) and executive produced by, among others, Sean Hayes and Mike Schur, Q-Force focuses on aspiring intelligence operative Steve Maryweather (Hayes). A decade earlier, he was top of his class at the American Intelligence Agency, but when Steve used his valedictory address to announce that he’s gay, AIA’s homophobic director, Dirk Chunley (Gary Cole) sent “Agent Mary” off to the most remote outpost he can imagine: West Hollywood.
Stuck in relative exile, Steve has assembled a team of fellow LGBTQ+ spies, including master of disguise Twink (Matt Rogers), computer expert Stat (Patti Harrison) and gizmo and gadget genius Deb (Wanda Sykes). When the Q-Force team lucks into a huge case, they’re suddenly called into action, but the newest member of the crew is Steve’s straight nemesis, Rick Buck (David Harbour). Ten episodes of fairly arced storytelling ensues as Q-Force follows a conspiracy that reaches into AIA’s past, while Steve tries to balance a new relationship with amiable civilian Benji (Liedman).
The first thing that needs to be said about Q-Force is that it isn’t as bad as Netflix’s initial promotion suggested with its trailer of nonstop queer stereotypes. The trailer definitely captured the starting point for a lot of the humor, especially when it comes to Twink, a character that initially feels like it was spit out by an algorithm that watched the first five seasons of Drag Race and then had a meltdown. More than any other character on the show, Twink will be targeted for perpetuating stereotypes, but that’s only because the character, played with high energy by Rogers, probably has the highest volume of jokes in general. It’s impressive how many exhausted tropes the earliest episodes rely on, including nods to lesbians rushing into commitment and other stale punchlines that might have been vaguely homophobic had they appeared on an NBC sitcom in 1995.
On one hand, you’d say that the problem stems from the long production window on animated shows, which inevitably leads to a lot of dated and vague pop culture references. But that wouldn’t explain why much of the second half of the season is an extended and fitfully funny Princess Diaries homage. This doesn’t mean there aren’t occasionally more recent jokes, like several running gags making fun of Quibi and the state of Peak TV (though I can’t dispute that my laughter there may relate to more direct pandering than carefully written punchlines). The same is true of multiple bits tied to Los Angeles geography, as if the show were affirming that it isn’t just for gay audiences, but for banal Hollywood insiders who like to complain about traffic as well.
There are plenty of groaners, but I still chuckled a couple of times per episode — more and more, in fact, as the show progressed. The characters all start from broad places, and gradually the jokes become more organic. At the same time, though, the espionage side of the story becomes less and less engaging as various twists ensue. Moments that blend the plotting from the first five episodes with the character-driven humor of the last five episodes suggest a good, fully realized show that might eventually emerge. That better show would explore the fractured community dynamics of West Hollywood and the anti-gay history of America’s intelligence and military infrastructures, elements that receive only lip serve in these episodes.
Keeping Q-Force watchable, especially if it’s your job to stick with the show after its rough beginning, is the dynamic animation from Titmouse, which at times does a better job of blending action thrills and comedy than the writing. The characters are expressive and distinctive and the vocal work is generally top-notch, with Harrison, Sykes and Harbour putting the most emotional weight behind their one-liners. The show is also a nonstop vehicle for big-name guest voices, among them Annaleigh Ashford, Allison Janney, Dan Levy and Niecy Nash.
In one of the show’s best ongoing jokes, it makes fun of various corporate interests for capitalizing on Pride events. I guess the best thing I can say about Q-Force is that it doesn’t seem like Netflix, a company behind much more legitimately trailblazing LGBTQ+ programming like Sense8, is doing the same thing here. The first 10 episodes of Q-Force didn’t offend me, nor were they soulless appropriation of queer culture. Instead, the show is a somewhat typically bumpy start for a comedy trying to find its voice, or at least trying to find out how to make that voice funny.