I’m told that Chad Allen was a closeted “teen idol” on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Man.” I guess that means he didn’t play the title role! (OK, I looked it up: he played Matthew Cooper in 147 episodes of that series.)
I never saw the program, but have seen Chad Allen in three Donald Strachey tv movies adapted from detective novels by Richard Stevenson: Third Man Out, Shock to the System, and On the Other Hand, Death. (A fourth, Ice Blues, is not yet on DVD, but was also broadcast in 2008.)
Allen plays Strachey as a detective as less cynical than Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade, but with a penchant for irritating the police similar to Marlowe’s, and a joking relationship with his secretary familiar from many detective stories. As the eager, young would-be detective Kenny Kwon, Nelson Wong is charming in the manner of Jeffrey in the Hetty Wainthrope franchise. Kenny is not as femme as the also charming, pudgier Rex Lee as Ari Fleischer’s assistant, Lloyd, on “The Entourage.” Kenny even has a sex life, unlike most gay characters on tv-most notably Will Truman on “Will and Grace.”
As an openly gay detective based in Albany, New York with a life partner who works in the state government, the very patient Sebastian Spence, played by Timmy Callahan, Strachey gets a lot of cases involving anti-gay crimes.
The case he is on at the start of “Other Hand” involves tailing a woman who works for a real estate mogul. Almost immediately, he finds out that she is an undercover police officer. The real estate shenanigan plot is far too complicated to explain and figuring out what is going on with it takes most of the movie.
Greed also turns out to be mixed up in the hate-crime plot. Dorothy Fisher (Margot Fisher), a Hollis high school guidance counselor came out of the closet after about thirty years and the fathers of some gay male students are on the warpath to get her fired. She and her partner, Edith Strong (! Gabrielle Rose) are being aided by a California lawyer whom Dorothy helped earlier on, who is also Timmy’s ex, Andrew McWhirter (Damon Runyan!), who gets the nude scene, trying to seduce Strachey.
The interweaving of plots is skillful. There were some surprises for me, though not a connection between the sons of the two leading homophobes. The noirish detective story has to pause periodically for editorials about intolerant parents and plugs for the Trevor Project, a worth endeavor that attempts to aid parents of gay and lesbian children. It still comes in under an hour and a half in length.
The movie has good thriller music provided by Canadian Peter Allen. Kidder and Rose turn in effective performances as a couple with secrets from each other even after 30-some years.
Not a lot of acting is required playing Donald Strachey. I discovered that Chad Allen can act from his performance in the more demanding (emotionally) roles in “Save Me” and “Hollywood, je t’aime.”
The DVD has a 25-minute puff piece for the movie, labeled “backlot” and trailers for all four Donald Strachey mysteries so far filmed by Ron Oliver (i.e., including “Ice Blues”).