WATCH: The underrated series that brought messy (in a good way) deaf, gay stories to the TV screen

WATCH: The underrated series that brought messy (in a good way) deaf, gay stories to the TV screen

You are currently viewing WATCH: The underrated series that brought messy (in a good way) deaf, gay stories to the TV screen
wp header logo png
Image Credit: ‘This Close,’ Sundance Now

This week, April 15 – 21, marks National Deaf LGBTQ+ Awareness Week, a project launch by the Deaf Queer Resource Center to uplift, support, and bring greater visibility to these multiply marginalized communities. Every day this week, Queerty will be spotlighting a short film that focuses on deaf, queer characters—all of which you can watch right now.

As we wrap up our coverage of Deaf LGBTQ+ Awareness Week, you may find yourself wanting more—and that’s a good thing!

Hopefully the short films we’ve spotlighted over the past few days have shown that there’s so much potential for stories at the intersection of deafness and queerness, especially when deaf, queer people are involved in front of and behind the camera.

But these shorts are, by their nature, well… short. And the truth is there’s still a lack of longer-form, mainstream storytelling—whether on stage or screen—that creates space for this underserved and underrepresented community.

With that in mind, we’re breaking our own rules for the final recommendation of the week, and instead of highlighting a short film, we’ve got a full series: This Close, a dramedy that premiered in 2018, and was the first of its kind to star and be created by deaf talent.

Actually, to be fair, This Close was initially a short, of sorts. In 2015, friends Josh Feldman and Shoshannah Stern independently created a TV pilot called Fridays, loosely based on their own lives, about the day-to-day joys, challenges, and all the awkward stuff in-between for two deaf best friends.

After crowdfunding, Feldman and Stern were able to flesh their story out into the series we know today, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival’s episodic program in 2017, then aired on the Sundance Now network the following year.

In the series, Feldman plays Michael, a struggling artist and newly single gay man in Los Angeles, whose experiences navigating the dating scene are sometimes romantic, sometimes cringey, and always eye-opening. Stern plays Kate, engaged to the handsome, hearing Danny (Midnight Mass‘s Zach Gilford) and a rising employee at her PR firm where she has to push back against being tokenized as “the deaf girl.”

Over the course of two seasons and a total of 14 episodes, This Close was able to explore the complexities of Michael and Kate’s personal and professional lives—and their profound friendship—allowing them to be fully-formed characters defined by so much more than their deafness.

“There are all kinds of deaf people in the world,” Stern told LAist in 2019. “Deaf people can be a**holes, too.”

“Typically deaf characters are these “amazing” people,” Feldman added. “We really want to make sure that Kate and Michael would not be mistaken as role models. Like, they’re just two normal young adults just trying to do their best.”

Image Credit: ‘This Close,’ Sundance Now

Through the friends’ intersecting lives, we’re shown that the deaf community is by no means a monolith. For example, Michael is completely non-verbal and communicates through ASL, while Kate does speak and uses hearing aids—the show’s clever approach to sound design demonstrates how she experiences the world with and without them.

But it’s not just Michael and Kate. The world of This Close is filled with plenty other multi-dimensional deaf characters—played by some familiar deaf faces like model/activist Nyle DiMarco, A Quiet Place‘s Millicent Simmonds, John McGinty (who we previously featured in the short Sign), and Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin as Michael’s mother.

Other actors who appear throughout the series include Desperate Housewives‘ Marcia Cross, The Practice‘s Camryn Manheim, Wings‘ Steven Weber, Glee‘s Dot-Marie Jones, comedian Margaret Cho, and even Real Housewives icon Lisa Rinna. And the show boasts some fantastic queer talent behind the camera, too: Fire Island‘s Andrew Ahn directs the entire first season and the series finale, with actor-comedian Jordan Firstman and Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party‘s Stephen Cone helming episodes as well.

All of that is to say, there are plenty of reasons to watch This Close and continue to support deaf, queer artists. Both seasons are currently streaming on AMC+, which is also available via Amazon Prime Video and The Roku Channel.

And, for more ways to help support, celebrate and participate in #DeafLGBTQWeek, head to the website for the Deaf Queer Resource Center.


Leave a Reply

This site uses User Verification plugin to reduce spam. See how your comment data is processed.