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Hi-Def Dish: Gay characters are not exactly nice guys on ABC's "Revenge," and that's OK

Wealth on the East Coast feels different than wealth on the West Coast.

Beverly Hills has a much different vibe than Southampton on Long Island in New York – cash, flash and palm trees on the hills along the West Coast, and quiet, discrete old money on the dunes of the East Coast provide a stark contrast.

ABC’s new television drama “Revenge” effectively captures these quirks, the nuance and the far less public lifestyle that’s legendary to the Hamptons.

Maybe its proximity to Hollywood and all things entertainment that makes some of the rich and famous of the Left Coast a more open book. Much West Coast wealth comes from the entertainment industry, and to make it in that business it’s true: There’s no such thing as bad publicity.

The Right Coast is arguably more about privacy and less about showmanship, Donald Trump and company excluded, of course. The elite there are by design, less in the spotlight. That’s what makes “Revenge” so fascinating.

But it’s that very trait, the conservative discrete ways of the Right Coast that may add to a not-so-rosy portrayal of gay men.

Somehow, even in the second decade of the 21st century and even with close proximity to New York City, homosexuality is fodder for raised eyebrows, blackmail and scandal in the Hamptons, at least in the fictional world of “Revenge.”

Emily Thorne, as played by Emily VanCamp (“Brothers And Sisters”) moves back to the Hamptons. She seeks revenge on the Graysons, a mega wealthy and powerful family whom she believes is responsible for the death of her father, David Clarke, as played by James Tupper. Her father was arrested when Emily was a child and was wrongly tried and convicted for treason. Ultimately he died in prison.

Emily inherited her father’s wealth, changed her name, moved in next door to the Graysons, and initiated an incredibly convoluted plot against the people responsible for her father's downfall.

It’s a complicated plot, enriched by good writing but sometimes befuddled by a timeline that skips like a scratchy record. The opening scene in the first episode is, in fact, the final scene in the saga, and the plot of “Revenge” is essentially all about filling in the blanks.

But let’s go back to that gay subplot. Hang on – this plot continues to thicken, dense as an early morning fog.

Gabriel Mann plays Nolan Ross, a young software tycoon and computer genius. Nolan is an ally and benefactor of revenge-seeking heroine, Emily. Nolan also claims to be bisexual in the series, though there have been no heterosexual dalliances to date.

Ashton Holmes plays Tyler Barrol, a school chum of one of the Grayson sons and apparent permanent houseguest. Tyler is angling for a job in the Grayson financial dynasty and enamors himself to the family patriarch, Conrad Grayson, as played by Henry Czerny. Ashton ingratiates himself in a big way by bringing in a $20 million investment from Nolan, the software billionaire.

But the terms of the investment were sealed in the bedroom.

It turns out that Tyler is an imposter and not the old-moneyed peer as the Graysons believe. Instead, Tyler made his college pocket change as a gay male hustler. Apparently skilled at his craft, Tyler sealed the investment with a kiss.

Well, more than a kiss …

What’s puzzling in this storyline is the apparent lack of other gay men in the Hamptons because it seems that Nolan is really, really hard up for a date.

Things go wrong, the source and background of the investment are revealed to Conrad Grayson. The patriarch fires the hustler, and the hustler blackmails the patriarch to keep his job.

It’s a complicated plot and one has to sit up, pay attention or get hopelessly lost. But still, it goes back to the original premise. Is being gay really such a big deal on the Hamptons? And why are the only two gay characters so unsavory?

Personally, I’m keeping an open mind. There’s room for salvation for at least one of the non-heterosexual players of “Revenge” and in time, perhaps the tables will turn, yet again.

On a positive note, it’s another sign of progress. We’re on equal ground. Even in a portrayal of the buttoned-up, conservative Hampton crowd, enchanted gay folks aren’t pariahs simply for being gay. They’re pariahs because to date, both these guys are jerks and thankfully, neither Tyler nor Nolan is a victim. Quite the contrary. They keep up with the backbiting heterosexuals of Southampton very, very well.

Stereotypes be damned. Social climbing and financial ambitions aren’t limited to either coast and certainly these ambitions are hardly limited to folks of a non-enchanted persuasion.

The details

“Revenge” airs Wednesday nights on ABC at 10 pm PT.

To watch full episodes of "Revenge" online or to learn more about the TV show, click HERE.

Kurt Niece is a freelance journalist from Tucson, Ariz., and author of "The Breath of Rapture." He writes about television for Echo Magazine in Phoenix and SDGLN. He is also an artist who sells his work on his website.