GAY FILM REVIEWS BY MICHAEL D. KLEMM

Old Dogs & New Tricks
Seasons 1 & 2

Wolfe Video,
2011/2012

Director:
Arvin Bautista

Written and
Created by:

Leon Acord

Starring;
Leon Acord,
Jeffrey Patrick Olson,
Curt Bonnem,
David Pevsner,
Ryland Shelton,
Thom Bierdz,
Doug Spearman

Unrated, 109 minutes

Marking Their Territory
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online December, 2013



Before I say anything else, I have to say this first: I love the title. Old Dogs & New Tricks is a web series on YouTube and its first two seasons have been collected on DVD. This ensemble comedy is a refreshing change of pace from the usual gang of young, buff, 20-something gay friends. For a change, the guys are in their forties and fifties. It’s a new spin on a familiar formula and the result is a pure delight.

The setting is West Hollywood and Nathan Adler (series creator Leon Acord) has lived in “this glittering ghetto” for 25 years. “In a place called Boystown,” he asks, “do gay men ever grow up or do we just grow old?” Nathan is a talent agent. As the pilot episode begins, he is “celebrating” his 50th birthday with a little help from his friends. His oldest buddy is Brad King (Curt Bonnem).  Brad was a new wave punk rocking one hit wonder whose song, “Bite Me,” was the Number 4 hit of 1988. Considered scandalous at the time, now it gets used in candy bar commercials. Brad spends his time trolling an internet hookup site where he is renowned for the size of his penis. His tricks, he explains, “are more interested in inches than years.”

Al Carter (Jeffrey Patrick Olson) is Nathan’s trainer at a WeHo gym and everyone calls him “Muscles.” Known all over town as a cocktease, he has sworn off meaningless encounters until he finds true love. Muscles seems a prude at times (he avoids alcohol because his body is his temple and “yours is an old amusement park”) but he also offers sensible advice when needed. Finally there’s Ross Stein, played by David Pevsner (role / play, A Portrait of James Dean: Joshua Tree, 1951). Ross, an out of work actor, is best known for co-starring with a bulldog in the Aaron Spelling cop show, “Max and Me” during the mid 1990s. Now he makes erectile dysfunction commercials, hawking a drug called Flaccinex. He has been living with Neal (Doug Spearman from Noah’s Arc) for ten years but cracks are showing in their relationship.

The episodes are short and sweet (8-10 minutes) without overstaying their welcome but - since they’re all together on a DVD and you don’t have to wait for the next installment - each episode is like a Lay’s potato chip and you can’t eat just one. The short running length in no way compromises the storytelling; it takes its time when it needs to but without padding out the length with long, meaningful glances in mirrors and other common time wasting scenes. Old Dogs & New Tricks is wildly entertaining. Its humor is a good mix of the sophisticated and the sitcom. Most welcome, however, are the well developed character arcs. Each of their stories, described briefly below, unfold with just the right measure of comedy and drama.

Nathan has made it a point to never get involved with his clients. His latest, Damian Johns (Ryland Shelton) is 25 and beautiful and strips down to his underwear during the job interview. Nathan forgets about having just turned 50 and feels like he's 25 again. They have lots of sex but Nathan is afraid to introduce him to his friends, fearing their judgment. When he finally does fess up, they all think the young man is using him and that he should date somebody who is more "age appropriate."  Nathan thinks so too but, while unconsciously pushing the lad away, he also thinks he might be falling in love with him. “I’d be a fool to say yes,” he tells Damian, “and a bigger fool to say no.” What happens is complicated.

Brad enjoys being a slut online. But he begins to think he’s just a “just a dildo with a pulse” when his latest in a series of lovers (all of whom were interested only in his huge cock) puts on a blindfold and refuses to take it off. Muscles, meanwhile, has finally met Mr. Right and doesn’t know what to do because they’re both bottoms. They discuss alternatives. Dildos give Bobby (Thom Bierdz) a rash and Muscles suggests cucumbers. “You can’t be allergic to produce.” Brad comes to the rescue with a bottle of Viagra and some videos. The scene where Muscles embraces his new role as a top, and starts getting into it, is as hilarious as it is hot.

Ross is having the hardest time. His partner, Neal, is a workaholic who is never home and Ross is tired of being alone. They haven’t had sex in months. Following Nathan’s advice, Ross gives Neal an ultimatum and says that he wants an open marriage. Hoping to scare him into staying home more, his threat has the opposite effect when Neal agrees “without batting an eye” and sets down ground rules. So Ross tells his friends that he’s “going online and finding a fuck buddy” and Brad feigns tears and says, “My little boy is all grown up.” In one of the series’ funniest scenes, Ross and Brad hook up online without realizing it.

Old Dogs & New Tricks' first season made its debut on YouTube in 2011. Season One is five episodes, and Season Two is ten. I have to admit that I’m new to this web series concept. I’m old fashioned, I still usually watch movies on DVD on my 60” TV rather than stream it on my computer. (Until letterboxed DVDs, I was a stickler for seeing a film in a movie theater on the biggest screen possible.) I’ve never watched a web series. In my ignorance, I was expecting to see a very low budget affair since these were shown on YouTube. But these episodes are surprisingly polished; well shot, edited, acted. It's flashy, sexy and fun. This could be a Showtime series, it is that good. As an added plus, diver and gay legend Greg Louganis, soap alumnus Ian Buchanan, and others appear as guest stars.

It’s about time that we middle aged queers get a little more visibility on the screen and Old Dogs & New Tricks is just what the doctor ordered. 20-somethings can watch it and see that they will still have some of the same hangups when they’re 30 years older. Issues about aging are addressed in playful and serious ways but this is not Queer as Folk: The Autumn Years. Leon Acord has breathed new life into a genre that was losing its edge. It engaged my emotions and it made me laugh. Amidst all the mirth, a lot of subtle tensions have been brewing and the final episode is actually quite dramatic. I know that I’m anxiously awaiting Season 3 to premiere on YouTube.


David Pevsner also appears in:
role / play
A Portrait of James Dean: Joshua Tree, 1951
Pornography: A Thriller
Adam & Steve
The Fluffer

Ian Buchanan also appears in:
Make The Yuletide Gay

More on Doug Spearman:
Hot Guys With Gun

Mark Anthony Samuel also appears in:
Hot Guys With Guns

Leon Acord and Rylan Shelton also appears in:
Hot Guys With Gun