It's a gay, gay world for Fred Savage
All-grown-up Wonder Years star Fred Savage is attracting curious stares and generating wagging tongues as he walks through The Abbey, a popular gay bar in the Boys Town section of Los Angeles.
When a gay patron, Freddy Alvarez, 34, pulls Savage aside and asks: "Inquiring minds want to know. Are you here doing research?" Savage smiles politely and says, "Sort of."
But in fact, Savage requires little research for his role as gay son Mitch Crumb on ABC's new sitcom Crumbs (Thursday, 9:30 ET/PT). As residents of West Hollywood, Savage and his wife of a year and a half, Jennifer Stone, have been to The Abbey several times with gay friends.
"We love it here," says Savage, 29, sitting on the front patio with his show's gay creator/executive producer, Marco Pennette. "This is our neighborhood."
Pennette says several actors he approached for the role told him they would never play gay.
Savage initially turned down the part, too, because he says he had grown tired of traditional sitcoms (he also appeared in the 1997-99 series Working) and was focusing on directing children's programming for Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel.
But after further discussion about the show's scope, Savage signed on. Pennette pitched it to ABC as a hybrid of the '70s sitcom Soap and the film Ordinary People, and Jane Curtin (Kate & Allie) and William Devane (Knots Landing) playing Mitch's parents appealed to Savage.
Savage and Pennette happen to have an astrological connection: they were both born July 9. They celebrated together last year by attending the musical Sweeney Todd on Broadway.
Similarities between Pennette's real life and his semi-autobiographical Crumbs extend beyond Mitch's sexuality. Both the Pennettes and the Crumbs dealt with the drowning deaths of a son, a father who gets another woman pregnant and a mother's mental breakdown and institutionalization.
Savage has dealt with none of this drama in his own life.
"My life and family is fairly normal," he says.
Bor-ing," Pennette chimes in.
"Yeah," Savage says.
"There won't be a sitcom called The Savages."
Pennette and his partner, Steve Rabiner, a TV talent manager, just celebrated their 10-year anniversary and have a 2-year-old daughter, Ally.
Pennette hopes Crumbs will continue long enough for Mitch to find similar happiness. (The show is drawing reasonable ratings on Thursdays, averaging 11.6 million viewers in its first two weeks and ranking second in its time slot to CSI, thanks in part to its strong lead-in, Dancing with the Stars.)
First the character will have to come out of the closet, which he will begin to do this spring in a manner that likely will match the dramatics surrounding Pennette's own coming out.
"I was outed in front of my family on the red carpet of the People's Choice Awards," recalls Pennette, who was there accepting an award for creating Caroline in the City. "A network executive ran up to me and started talking about my boyfriend right in front of them."
The episode in which Mitch breaks the news of his homosexuality to his mother also will introduce Illeana Douglas as Mitch's father's pregnant girlfriend. Other stars set to appear on the series: Elliott Gould as Curtin's boyfriend and Teri Garr as Gould's witchy ex-wife (who, like Garr, has multiple sclerosis). And actor Rider Strong (who played the best friend of Savage's brother, Ben, on Boy Meets World) will show up as one of Mitch's beaus.
Savage isn't concerned that the fans he acquired during the Wonder Years may be turned off by Crumbs' sexually charged humor. (In one scene, his character chats over the Internet with a man who identifies himself as WonderQueer.)
"The Wonder Years ended over 12 years ago," he says. "I think people have been very accepting to see me in other roles."
But he does admit to being disappointed about his visits to The Abbey. "I haven't once been picked up by another guy. And I feel a little bad about it."
Of course not! They can tell he is straight and don't want to make him uncomfortable. He is after all a local and displays tollerance, even support, for their lifestyle.
Originally Posted by Fred Savage