Today, in stock gay archetypes: Champions, a new comedy from Mindy Kaling, is riffing on the time-tested formula of two clueless adult brothers raising a child together — except this time the child is a sassy gay half Indian kid!
Finally, it’s the answer to no one’s prayers: A semi-woke Two and a Half Men!
In the show, former high school baseball star Vince (Anders Holm) discovers he has a 15-year-old son with his ex, Priya (Kaling) — and it isn’t long before he’s helping sashaying freshman Michael (J.J. Totah) get through performing arts school.
Cut to the Champions writers room:
Writer: “But isn’t that kind of a stereotype?”
Mindy Kaling: “Yeah, but it wouldn’t be as funny if he, like, wanted to go into law.”
Cue Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” pumping in the tv spots, add Michael’s campy, quippy zappers like, “My mother is an angel. You robbed her of her youth and left her for dead, just like Fantine in ‘Les Miz,'” and you’ve got… Ugly Betty‘s Justin Suarez (Mark Indelicato), circa 2006. J.J. Totah plays the teen like a wise-beyond-his-years Bianca Del Rio/Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) combo platter.
On the bright side, maybe Champions will normalize sassy queer teens on mainstream TV in a way that Dan Savage’s The Real O’Neals could not. Plus, the actor playing Vince’s brother, Matthew (Andy Favreau) — who co-owns a gym with him — is (subjectively) hot AF. (See: this.)
Former Mindy Project writer Charlie Grandy is listed as a co-creator on Champions, so the show will not likely be terrible — even if the presence of a sassy gay teen isn’t an actual step forward for queer representation.
With that being said, is Champions really just a clever way to hook would-be Drag Race viewers into another regular Thursday night show of broad strokes bitchery?