What Makes 'Hunting Season' Special?
By Jerry Portwood
Pictured: Ben Bauer (left) with Walker Hare (who plays Lenny) from Hunting Season
Boys will be boys. And most of the time, when they're not looking to get laid, they're talking about it. But series creator and director Jon Marcus didn't want the boys on his web series Hunting Season to only talk the talk. He also wanted to show them stripping down and getting it on—to appeal to the gay guy demo that isn't getting the entertainment they desire.
"The most important thing was to find an audience that’s not being served well by what’s out there. I want to appeal to them, and I knew not to try to be like network TV and please everyone," Marcus explains. "So we go for pleasing a small audience—and make sure we do what you can’t do on TV."
And one of those things is not cutting away when the guys in the show strip off their clothes and jump into bed. "I felt like there was plenty of nudity and sexual explicitness on cable TV. But I didn’t see any reason why there souldn’t be penises," Marcus says. "This isn’t a political show, but I do have a sense of justice and fairness."
In one episode, the protagonist, Alex, gets a buzz at his apartment, and his casual sex friend, Reese, shows up wet from the rain. They're soon making out. A friend asks: "Do you want me to join." But instead the couple end up for a sexy romp, and afterward Alex is seen wiping his chiseled belly off. Genitals are blurred, but you can pay to see episodes uncensored.
Although many people think it's softcore, Marcus is adamant. "It's not porn," he says. But Marcus explains that having Logo behind Hunting Season helped cement its legitimacy. "People who, perhaps, were afraid to embrace the sexuality of the show, having a cable network, gave the show some legitimacy. This is not scary, you don’t have to be ashamed to like it; it’s an entertaining and risk taking show."
And he's right. Despite the fact that there's plenty to get titillated over, the storylines revolve around issues of dating, relationships, and friendships that most twentysomethings struggle with. The fact that sex and hormones add to that confusion shouldn't be edited it out. But much of the appeal of the series hinges on the charisma of Ben Baur, who plays Alex. He combines open-hearted charm with a playfulness that never comes off cocky or sleazy. Although his character is a fictional Gawker blogger, Baur really resembles the flirty bartender who everyone wants to take home at the end of the night.
While the show is an ode to being young and gay in New York City, with superlatives touting the nightlife and romantic opportunities (sometimes feeling very Sex and the City), Baur is only a recent transplant to New York. He was an actor in Los Angeles when he auditioned for the part via Skype. After being cast by Marcus as Alex, Baur traveled east for a week of rehearsal with the other men cast as his friends—Jake Manabat, Marc Sinoway, Jack Ferver—before the filming began in earnest. But what about all the nudity in the script?
"I'm not gonna lie, I was a little worried when I read: Page 14, he sticks his tongue in Alex's ass," Bauer says with a laugh. "But I was reassured we're NOT making porn. I'm not necessarily a naked person, and some of those scenes... But I had to get naked and be naked."
Knowing he was going to show off his assets for the viewing public, Bauer said he and the rest of the cast made sure to prepare. "I seriously worked out for two months," Bauer admits. "I didn't eat carbs after 4 p.m. and cut out drinking anything but red wine. All of us guys, when we'd have 'lunch' on our breaks, it would be two sides of sweet potatoes, asparagus and Brussels sprouts, please."
Now that the final episode of the web series has ended, Marcus and his crew are looking forward to the next season. And if a recent screening party at a Hell's Kitchen bar for the final episode is any indication, there's a strong fanbase eager for more sexy stories that speak to their experiences.
As Marcus explains: "The best compliment from one fan was: It made me laugh; it made me cry; it made me hard. I think that's the highest compliment you could pay me."