I didn’t want to write this but here we are. When I started Equal I wanted to love it, I really tried to love it even. It seemed like an important series, a history lesson that too often gets ignored. How many of us can talk about our history and how we got the rights we have today? No enough and that is the truth. But the thing is Equal simply not as good as it thinks it is. Is it educational? Sure. But what does that mean when it is so boring that you are simply looking away and wishing to be watching something else. I wish I liked this docuseries, it has a good idea of what it should be but just fails to execute it. Part footage and part dramatic recreation, Equal tries to navigate the two the best way it can but the truth is that it just doesn’t work. Narrated by Pose’s Billy Porter, Equal tries to educate and entertain at the same time but is only successful with one of those things, and that is educating the public.
Documentaries that navigate the world of dramatic recreation and footage can work, look at the amazing Three Identical Strangers which used the recreation to put the words of its subject into images with great efficiency. But Equal tries something else. Instead of simply recreating what we are being told, they get well-known actors to play real-life people and have them narrate with Billy Porter letters and interviews that we are also seeing footage from. It’s overstuffed and simply has no idea what it wants to actually be, it tries so hard that it simply fails and that is a shame. Because I would love an entertaining and interesting docuseries about LGBTQ+ history. But Equal is not that.
I love Billy Porter, I will cheer for him as much as a can but he was simply not a great narrator for this show. Maybe it’s the material he was given and the fact that we navigate two worlds that never seem to gel well together, but the whole time he was describing the event, I just didn’t care enough. It’s a shame because I was excited for him to be part of this but he just never feels right. I don’t even know how to explain or why I found myself just wishing he wasn’t the narrator, it just happened. It’s a shame because he is a great choice, but never did he feel invested or remotely interested in what he was saying, it just seemed like he was reading his text, tried to put some emotion in it when he could but that was all. Not everyone is made to narrate, and Billy Porter is one of them.
What is, even more, a shame, is that I wouldn’t even be able to tell you about the actors and who they play because they are given so little to do that they don’t even feel like realized characters. They are simply there to look pretty and say words that we will hear Porter repeat a few seconds later. It’s a shame because the subjects are people we should all know, they did so much for us and our generation and we don’t even know their names. But this show doesn’t do them justice, doesn’t bring them front and center as it should. They are there but that is it, you don’t remember them or care for them and that is a shame because we should absolutely care for them and what they did.
Equal should have been better, should have been a show that we talk about and recommend to our friends and family. But it isn’t. It’s overstuffed, boring and simply not good. You learn stuff but at what price? I can just go read a book on the subject instead and probably will be more entertained than what this gave me. The great cast can’t save it and it’s a shame because they deserve so much better.