Going back to 1965, “Out Rage ’69” describes the undercover lives of gays and lesbians as they slipped into anonymous bars and hid from vice cops, presentedstraight facades or accepted conformity. Reagan’s 1967 “I happen to subscribe to the belief that it is a tragic illness” melds into Anita Bryant’s 1977 virulent anti-gay stance.
Spec eyeballs the gay underground erupting with the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village.
Second hour, “Culture Wars,” sleekly produced, rich with controversy, delivers an account of the 1990 bludgeoning of Julio Rivera of Queens. Three thugs slaughtered him for being gay. The trial, New York’s first involving a gay-bias murder, had a dramatic conclusion.
In 1992 Pat Buchanan, sounding off on family values, has a ready-made tool for his presidential campaign as he lambastes Marlon Riggs’ “Tongues Untied,” PBS docu about gay blacks.
Oregon Ballot Measure 9 brings the homosexual issue to a boil as the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance, part of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, vents its hate through rough language and death threats.
In “Hollow Liberty,” the military stance on gays in 1980 is illustrated by events on a naval vessel with women and men aboard. In 1982, a man’s arrested for having sex with another man in his own bedroom in Georgia. He appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court — and loses, thanks to Georgia’s anti-sodomy law.
The hour leads up to Clinton’s statement in June 1992 that “we don’t have a person to waste in America. We need all of you,” and the subsequent letdown as the administration hops into a more politically acceptable bed.
Final episode, “Generation Q,” looks at the views of gay teenagers at L.A.’s EAGLE (Emphasizing Adolescent Gay-Lesbian Education) Center, formed to help homeless gay and lesbian adolescents. But docu spends too much time on teenagers showboating their differences from general society. Interspersed among the testifiers, the solo readings and the artsy shots of youthful hand-holders are heavy-handedly intro’d clips from a shrill 1966 B&W school lecture on homosexuality.
ITVS, established by Congress in 1991 in St. Paul, Minn., is aimed at infusing pub broadcasting with diverse programming. Present series, sometimes sad, sometimes wearying, often inspiring, makes no effort to be objective; that may be too much to ask.