BBC2: Friday 4 September, 11.05pm
Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, a San Francisco city council member who, in the mid-1970s, was the first openly gay man elected to public office in the US.
His story ended in the wrong kind of headlines when Milk, along with the city mayor George Moscone, was gunned down in 1978 by a crazed colleague, former cop Dan White.
Now Mr White’s story is quite interesting (he was also an ex-fireman – clearly the guy couldn’t hold down a job) and was the subject of a TV movie starring Tim Daly. Josh Brolin plays White here, but it’s virtually a cameo. This show belongs entirely to Sean Penn’s portrayal of Milk, a role that got him an Oscar.
It’s nowhere near the erratic Penn’s best work but perhaps Academy members were inclined to look favourably upon it because in their minds they somehow confused homosexuality with physical and/or mental infirmity.
And, for a raging heterosexual like Penn, playing a gay who’s so far out of the closet is perhaps the equivalent of going – in Robert Downey’s memorable Tropic Thunder phrase – ‘full retard’.
As far as drama goes, Milk is as bland as its title, and you’d imagine it sold few tickets outside of San Francisco.