Skeleton Crew Celebrates Body Diversity


Skeleton Crew is a refreshing, independent gay series that features … wait for it …. gay characters that don’t have “perfect bodies”.

It’s truly groundbreaking stuff.

And yes, I’m being facetious only because of the ridiculousness of having to point this out. It’s 2018 and for all the progress we’ve made, it’s kind of shocking at how limited our representation in tv/web series still is.

I get that sex, youth and beauty sells. But unless your tv show is specifically about a gay modelling agency that features frisky models in their early 20s, surely as an audience we’re capable of seeing other body types, ages and ethnicities on our screens?

Turns out, mainstream TV/web shows aren’t there yet.

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Joshua R. Pangborn, Barbara Thomas, J. Cerio

Luckily for us, Skeleton Crew is a series produced by a company, SideKick Productions, that thinks a little differently. In fact, SideKick Productions is geared towards producing body-positive work and size acceptance.

Skeleton Crew is a web series that focuses on a gay bear couple, presenting positive portrayals of plus-sized men and women in all situations. The show is not interested in stories about dieting or how their bodies and weight are burdens to their lives, but instead celebrates these people for living their lives as fully as they can.

The series also showcases the fringes of gender identity and sexuality in attempts to present them as genuine, real, and not something mysterious or “other.” This includes representation of gender fluid characters, transgendered characters, characters interested in unique and diverse sexual “fetishes,” and characters in healthy open and polyamorous relationships.

So far, three seasons of the show have already been produced. All episodes are available on YouTube. Here’s the debut episode for you to check out:

Since 2015, Skeleton Crew has been popping up in more and more places, including a recent episode of the TLC series My Big, Fat, Fabulous Life when one of the cast members wore a Skeleton Crew T-Shirt.

Now, after three increasingly popular seasons, Skeleton Crew is poised to tell its biggest stories yet. Skeleton Crew is currently raising funds for Season Four.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with Joshua Pangborn – the show’s creator and star.

Check out our chat below!


Maggie Shirk, Joshua R. Pangborn — Image credit: Ryan Watson

Little Gay Blog – Thanks for your time Josh and congratulations on the success of Skeleton Crew. Producing three seasons is no mean feat. Can you take me back to the beginning and tell me a little about how the series came about?

Joshua – Thanks for your time, Paul. I’m excited to share Skeleton Crew with you and your readers.

Skeleton Crew is a full-length television series (season 1 was 12 episodes, seasons 2 and 3 are 10 episodes each). Every episode is between 25-60 minutes in length.

The show follows the story of couple – Hunter and Anthony. They’re two bears/chubs in a tumultuous relationship, with their friends and family along for the ride.

The show actually started as a full-length play (The Skeleton Crew). I’d been writing for the theatre all my life, but I’d been itching to try something different, specifically a web series. This was the first play I had ever written which ended without neatly wrapping things up at the end.

And it was the first play I’d written which had stories I could imagine continuing. I realised this was the opportunity I needed to tell stories to a wider audience and further the mission of SideKick Productions.

So I grabbed a few of my regular collaborators – including Stuart Kiczek, my co-director and co-star – and we sat down to a fried chicken dinner. We talked about the possibility of trying something none of us had any experience with, and we agreed to do it anyway!

So, we dropped the “The” from the play. I wrote twelve scripts – and Skeleton Crew was born! We are now entering our fourth season. We’ve made some new friends along the way and the stories have gone in directions I never dreamed of back in 2014.

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Hunter and Anthony 3 Day 27 w Logo

J. Cerio, Joshua R. Pangborn

There seems to be a bit of a mini-renaissance at the moment with independent, LGBT-themed web shows/series. What are your thoughts about this?

I think this is incredible. The internet has really permitted talented voices to find a way to share their stories with the world. And people want this.

You have streaming services like Revry developing specifically for LGBT content. You have countless YouTube channels telling stories that can’t get funding from mainstream outlets, for various reasons, but at least they can find a home online.

People bemoaning the repetitive nature of the entertainment industry as they constantly produce remakes and sequels, really should look into finding ways to support these independent series being developed by new creators with fresh ideas.

How is Skeleton Crew funded and how can people get involved and support you?

Skeleton Crew, and all SideKick Production projects, are pretty much entirely funded by the money I make from my day job. So when I say we work with no budget, we really work with no budget.

Last year I finally tried crowdfunding and we had some incredibly supportive fans. This year, we are trying it again. People can also purchase merchandise at our online store.

(** Links can be found at the end of the interview).

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Joshua R. Pangborn, Ken Dillon

The show features a number of “plus size characters”. How real is the reluctance of producers and other decision makers to cast and feature larger characters in their work – and why do you think that is?

I think it is a very real reluctance. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I started SideKick Productions.

You don’t see plus-size characters on the big screen outside of roles that specifically call for them. And when you do, the character is usually focused on losing weight, not being happy with their size, the recipient of all the jokes or the recipient of pity.

Also, when a work is adapted to film or television that features a plus size character, most of the time the character is changed to be thin/fit/athletic even.

Look at the redesign of Amanda Waller in DC Comics, in Smallville, in Suicide Squad. Or look at the upcoming New Warriors series featuring a 300+ character named Microbe played by a thin actor. Look at the upcoming adaptation of of The House With a Clock in Its Walls which features a chubby protagonist in the novel, but a thin one in the film.

I wish I had the answer as to why this happens. My guess is that it’s because this is the way it has been for ages. For an industry that can be progressive, the bureaucratic elements of it move the slowest.

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Hunter and Anthony Day 18 w Logo

Joshua R. Pangborn, J. Cerio

What sort of feedback has the series received? What are some highlights, and has there been any negative feedback?

The response to the series has exceeded anything I could have expected.

When we started, I was excited with maybe 200-300 views per episode. But we’ve accumulated over 1.1 million minutes of watch time, with thousands of views per episode. Our pilot episode is closing in on 20,000 views and several of our episodes have exceeded 10,000 views.

We’ve been contacted by viewers from around the world. After the United States, the country which tunes in the most to see the show is Saudi Arabia.

We’ve gotten a lot of wonderful comments, some on the work itself (one fan has called the show “experimental, innovative, and fascinating”), and some on the use of plus-size actors (one recent comment thanked us for “representing real people and not the usual Hollywood types”).

It’s really fun to watch the episodes and see the fans start to engage one another as they talk about what they’ve watched. We enjoyed seeing the speculation about who was at the bathroom door in the last scene of Season 3, Episode 10.

We’ve even had some fan art. One fan even wrote fanfic which I hope to be able to film one day. All in all, I never expected the response we’ve gotten. I’m so glad the series has helped people see themselves represented in some way.

Of course we’ve gotten some negative feedback too. There has been criticism of the acting, the writing, the technical errors, one person even criticised the continuity of some of the actors’ beards in an episode.

But you can’t let the criticism get to you, not when so many people are telling you how much the show means to them.

At the end of the day, we produce a full season of television without a budget and with a literal skeleton crew of people behind the scenes. We know the product we make isn’t technically perfect. But there is a lot of heart and passion there, and we don’t let anything negative bring us down.

We also love constructive criticism and have used that to make the show better. Constructive criticism keeps us from going for the easy choices and pushing our limited resources beyond their limits in a positive way.

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Skeleton Crew Cast Shots-75

Ashley Monique Menard, Marchelle Thurman, Jacob Ariel, Joshua R. Pangborn — Image credit: Ryan Watson

What would you like the legacy of Skeleton Crew to be? Do you think it will help open doors for more diversity on our screens?

That’s a great question. I guess I’d never really imagined the show having a legacy, but after four years now, I suppose it will.

There are a number of comments I’ve received from people wanting to know when the next season is coming. I want the show, flaws and all, to be seen as it is: the stories of people, some of them big, some of them weird, some of them eccentric, but all of them people.

And I want future audiences to be able to see themselves in the characters and stories, to laugh and cry. I want people to be inspired by the show to make their own shows about people, especially people who society might see as different, and treat them as anything but.

I’m also hoping to find a way to develop the show, to make it bigger and have it reach a wider audience. If any producers are reading this, please do let me know!

And lastly, what are some other awesome indie shows/series you’d recommend checking out?

Well, I know for a fact SideKick Productions is developing three new series, so I’d definitely suggest checking those out in the coming months and years!

But in the meantime, I’d also suggest checking out The Fluffies Channel if you like seeing bears explore cities and try food (it’s a fun travel type series).

I just started watching Magic Funhouse, but it is pretty weird and there are funny bits from what I’ve seen so far. I’d also encourage you to check out Neem’s Themes.

I also know there’s a great series coming out by Oblivion TV called Chaka and the Dogs. Definitely worth checking out, Oblivion Productions is one of my favourite production companies and I’m so excited to see them transitioning to independent television!

You can see all episodes from all seasons of Skeleton Crew on YouTube.

You can also follow Skeleton Crew on Facebook here.

To support the show, you can purchase Skeleton Crew and MoneyShot$ shirts here.

And to learn more about SideKick Productions, please visit their offical website here.

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