“Stranger Hearts,” a new original series from queer streaming Network Dekkoo, is set to launch this weekend.
Created by filmmaker Kevin James Thornton (“How To Get From Here To There”), and described by the network as “thoughtful, sexy and deeply heartfelt,” it follows three queer characters from wildly different backgrounds, played by Amo (MTV’s “The Challenge”, “The Real World: Go Big or Go Home,” musician Matt Moran, and newcomer Qua Robertson Harper.
The series seeks to illuminate the connections that bind the diverse, disparate LGBTQ community together though the stories of three people whose lives are intertwined, although they don’t know it – yet.
In the first two episodes, we meet each of them: Andre, a shy young African-American man who lives with his mother and is struggling with his sexual identity; Luka, a gender non-conforming photographer who is broke and out of work to find a job; and Billy, a smooth-taking media mogul who runs an understaffed empire by day while cruising the leather bars at night.
The series introduces them briskly but succinctly in its debut chapter. Luka’s melancholy internal musings on turning 30 serve as narration while we follow the three through a day in their lives, each of them somehow trapped – knowingly or not – in a life that seems unsustainable for them. By the end of the first brief, introspective episode, we get the sense that something is about to break.
It’s in the second entry that the wheels begin to be set in motion; Andre’s mom finds his secret stash of gay porn, Luka’s fruitless job search leads him to make a desperate decision, and Billy faces a health crisis that will force him to change everything about his life.
It’s to creator Thornton’s credit that his show packs a lot of information into its first two installments and yet never seems strained or rushed. It reveals the details through careful, quiet observation rather than expository dialogue, and it flows smoothly through a documentarian cinematic style that is enhanced by the authenticity of its performances.
That authenticity is further bolstered by the casting; the three leading players are not the kind of ripped, cookie-cutter hunks that often grace queer stories on the screen, but actors that look like “real people.” That’s not to say they’re not just as attractive; indeed, the series, which looks in its early installments to be aiming for a welcome self- and sex-positive approach in its depiction of gay life, offers proof (if any were really needed) that “real people” are just as sexy as any magazine cover fitness model fantasy – and maybe even more so.
“Stranger Hearts” enters a market that is increasingly loaded with new LGBTQ content, and it might be easily overlooked in the sea of bigger titles from bigger networks with bigger stars – but it deserves not to be. It gives us an up-close, slice-of-life look at queer experience that not only avoids cliché, but delivers an affirming message while treating all of its characters with empathy and sensitivity.
The first five-episode season of “Stranger Hearts” will be available on Dekkoo beginning March 12, via iTunes, Google Play, Xbox, AppleTV, Xfinity X1 and Roku. In the U.S. and U.K., Dekkoo is also available via Prime Channels.
You can watch the trailer below.