The internet has always served as a place where fans could rescue beloved shows that never got the acclaim they deserved. For the web series The Outs, its underdog status has basically become its defining characteristic. Creator/writer/lead actor Adam Goldman funded the show's first season through two successful Kickstarter campaigns in the early 2010s. Now, after a three-year hiatus, the show is back on Vimeo as one of the platform's original series.
The show, about a pair of exes who live in Brooklyn, feels extremely real for a very specific person—read: middle class gay white men in metropolitan cities—but its theme of learning how to exist in the world while dealing with breakups are essentially universal.
The first season of The Outs featured great musical moments, and it raises the bar on the soundtrack this time around. Goldman’s fellow Bard College alums PWR BTTM lent their song to the second episode, and ex-Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij also crafted an original song for the show that’s set to appear in the fourth episode of this season.
I spoke to Goldman on the phone from Vimeo's headquarters in New York, where he sat alongside his castmates and explained why the show feels so real and what it’s like to pick up your work after leaving it alone for an extended period. Check out an exclusive clip of The Outs below.
There was a significant break in time from the Hanukkah special in 2013 until now. Did you give any thought to how you were gonna continue the show with this big pause?
ADAM GOLDMAN: Yeah, I mean, we never intended to make another season. It only really happened because Vimeo approached me about doing it and they've been great to work with. I think it was about just being more honest, rather than saying, "The next month everybody looked a little bit different." [Everyone looks] three years older, so we moved the story to a while later. Story-wise, I was more interested in it because, just from an artsy-fartsy writing perspective, I like that idea of dipping back into these people's lives when they're a little older and a little wiser. Our audience has grown up too so we wanted to kinda reflect that.
I think when my friends and I saw it, it was this gay love story that felt extremely real to us. Could explain why you think these characters resonate so much?
I don't know, I think because with gay people, it's just a part of gay life that hasn't really been explored—certainly in this age bracket. A lot of what’s on TV is sort of the Andrew Rannells character on Girls type stuff—and I'm not casting aversions at Andrew Rannells or at that character or at that show, frankly—but the discussion of gay people who really don't like to go out is not something that gets covered very much. So I think that's an element of it. It's just under-representation and we're showing something that's not really out there. And I also hope that there's just something in the relationship between these people that resonates, whether you're gay or straight or whatever.
In the time since you've been away, there was Looking on HBO and that did kind of feature a "going out" sort of crowd, but it didn't really resonate with a lot of people in the same way. I think there was some resentment from the beginning from watchers of the show, but do you have any thoughts maybe on why that show didn't connect?
I certainly do not have any thoughts about that. I imagine if you talk to the people who made Looking, they made something with a really singular vision that was what they wanted to make and I think there was a huge amount of pressure placed on Looking in terms of being an HBO show—a big cable show about gay people. We tend to kinda eat our own in this community of people who are really hungry for representation. We want every representation to represent everybody and that's not what Looking was about. That wasn't the point of Looking and that's frankly an unfair expectation to place on a piece of media.
So I couldn't tell you why it didn't resonate, why it's not still on, but I think at the end of the day that show obviously had a very specific and deliberate artistic angle and maybe that didn't get on with people but that happens all the time on television. That's not the exception, that's the rule, you know. And I think I'm sad that it's off the air too because I think that more is better and that we should have more and it would be easier for people to tell other queer stories on television and in film if we had a show that we could really champion and was still out there kicking ass. I know they do have a special coming out and hopefully that will provide a lot of closure for the community of that show.
What you said reminded me of that interview with RuPaul in Vulture. He was talking about straight culture borrowing from gay culture and he said "gay fans will accept a straight version of a gay thing because there's still so much self-loathing." For a show like The Outs, which has received so much overwhelmingly positive support, do you agree with that assumption at all?
Well, all I can say to that honestly is that the self-loathing is not a part of Outs and maybe that's what’s interesting about its characters. People aren't really talking about how they came out. And there are certainly certain parts of this season—without giving too much to people—Jack and Paul are having a kinda open relationship. You don't see the conversation where they decide to do that.
I think what the show does that maybe other people don't is we fast-forward past things that aren't relevant. We pick the story we're gonna tell. And, you know, all those coming out stories are are really like superhero origin stories, right? That's never the most interesting part of someone's life, especially 10 or 15 years later. I don't wanna say the show's not about being gay but it's not about those kinda aspects of being gay and that's maybe unique about it. There's not much straight about The Outs, so even the straight shit's pretty gay.
There was this scene in the second episode where there's a PWR BTTM song and I was wondering how that came to be.
Madeleine Wise, who plays Lisa on our other show Whatever This Is, recommended them to me and they actually went to the same school. We all went to Bard College and they are just fucking great and they're blowing up right now. I heard their music and it felt like—I really like crunchy guitar stuff and those songs are just so fucking well written and we actually feature another one of their songs at the end of the season. They're just great. Liv Bruce, who is in PWR BTTM, went to my high school and then went to my college. It's a parallel lens. They're just incredibly talented and it felt like a good match for the show.
Yes, I think all of the music in the show is always really well placed.
Sometimes a scene will come out of a song and sometimes it's the other way around. The song at the end of the first episode is called "Skype w/Me," by a guy named RubyCon—his name's Ian Turner and he went to Bard with us as well. There's a song about Skype sex and I heard that song as I was writing the episode and I was like, "That's it!" I knew that moment in my head visually. So it really works both ways and I just think the sound of the show is really important to me, particularly those songs that we play over the credits. Endings are really important to me because the way that something ends can really reframe the way that you think of the whole thing. And, to be honest, you can get away with a lot as long as you leave people with a good taste in their mouth. That's why the way the show sounds and the way those endings sound is really important. It's just another thing that we're maybe more deliberate about. We put a little more care into a lot of stuff.