The last time CBS featured a show with a gay character in a lead role was in the spring of 2001 when they were trying to ride the Will & Grace gravy train on a flop show called Some Of My Best Friends. In my opinion, that show was a flop only in that it didn’t attract a mainstream audience, but it was a fantastic show that was co-written by Marc Cherry (pre-Desperate Housewives) and co-starred Alec Mapa before he landed some more prominent roles on Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty. Only 7 episodes were produced and CBS only aired 5 of them before unceremoniously yanking the show from its line-up. CBS never seemed to recover from the experience and has featured very few LGBT characters on their shows since then, unless they played someone who died at the beginning of a CSI or Mentalist episode.
This fall may open the door for the gay community as they will be featuring a series with 2 gay characters. One is played by Michael Urie (Ugly Betty) and the other hunky Brandon Routh (Chuck, Superman). And while Brandon doesn’t typically come across as someone you would peg for portraying gay, he’s done so a few times before, coincidentally on Will & Grace, as well as in the Kevin Smith movie Zach and Mira Make A Porno.
The show itself emulates the lives of the show’s creaters Max Mutchnick and David Kohan. In real life, these two were responsible for Will & Grace with Mutchnick being openly gay while Kohan is openly straight. As described by CBS president Nina Tassler, Partners is “ a show about working with your best friend with whom you’ve grown up” and “how do you find that balance between what you tell your partner and what you tell your best friend.”
The pilot episode opens up with showing the two leads in quick flashbacks from their early childhood until present so that you immediately have a sense that they’ve been life long friends who, like in our real life, have grown into very different individuals. And yet, they still have managed to keep a tremendous bond with one another as best friends and business partners. For those who remember Michael Urie from his Snarky Assistant role on Ugly Betty, you may not immediately recognize him as he is a bit different individual this time around who proves to have some great comedic timing. (Kind of reminded me of a gay “Jack Tripper”..)
I’ll confess in the first 10 minutes of the version I received, I wasn’t sure this was going to fly. Urie (Louis) made me a bit uncomfortable with his over the top personality. But by the last half of the episode, we seem to get a better sense as to what he’s all about and settle in with his character. Brandon Routh (Wyatt), who’s character plays a registered nurse, is a perfect partner for Urie in that he seems to have a laid back persona that compliments the Louis character’s type A persona. You also have his business partner David Krumholtz (Joe) who begins with his dilemma about whether or not to propose to his girlfriend, played by Sophia Bush (Ali). Both had great timing as well and you had a sense that these people had chemistry together.
It’s always difficult to catch up the audience with the character setup while keeping things interesting, but the first episode managed to do so by the end. But again, I’d give this one a chance if you aren’t fully invested in the first 10 minutes.
I don’t want to spoil too much here, but had to share my favorite joke thrown to Brandon Routh’s character acknowledging proof that he is gay by his obsessively recording all of the shows on Bravo. (Interesting how they picked Bravo instead of LOGO, don’t ya think?)
Anyhow, the characters, both gay and straight seem to have some dimension to them, but there is definitely room for some growth. Will and Grace took some time to catch on as well. Let’s just hope that CBS allows this show more time to catch on than they did for Some Of My Best Friends. Fingers crossed.
Part 2 in my unintentional series on Gay backlash…
My last blog regarding LOGO-TV’s change of direction seemed to inadvertently touch upon another important issue for the Gay community that turned into a bit of a Twitter war. It all started when “sarcastic Mark” came out to respond to LOGO’s twitter advertisement for their latest Jeanine Garofolo comedy special.
I basically stated that it was a good idea to air the Jeanine Garofolo special and promote the heck out of it, because we all know that gay comedians aren’t funny (hence, the sarcasm). Somehow, this touched a real bad nerve with one gay comedian I never heard of named Shawn Hollenbach, but not in a way I was expecting. Here’s how it all went down (remember it’s Twitter and we are limited on letters so no grammar police – thank you):
Shawn: Tell the gay world to stop buying Kathy Griffin tickets and support gay comedians.
Mark: Thank god Wanda Sykes came out. I just got tickets & wouldn’t want to piss u off.
Shawn: Of course you don’t support gay male comics. Why would a gay man do that?
Mark: Wow now I can’t even c a lesbian w/out getting yur rath? Any more conditions Hitler?
Shawn: Yes, condition is don’t ask a network to play something you wouldn’t watch.
Mark: cool – I won’t request you then. -:)
Shawn: I’m retired.
The conversation goes on but it doesn’t get any prettier. So in between all this rigamarole, I was corresponding with another comedian I actually have heard of (and follow on Twitter) named Brad Loekle. He was fairly annoyed with me as well because he felt that I was making light of the fact that I was one of many gay men out there who Brad believed only supported females – whether it be comedians like Wanda and Kathy Griffin or singers like Cher, Lady Gaga and Madonna who get scores of gay men idolizing them. Note: he has a point – I immediately flashed to my best friend who wore a Cher T-Shirt for good luck when he was a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire…
So while Brad may have a point here given the bitterness of my ex-friend Shawn, who as Brad put it “HATES me” now, (Damn Shawn, our friendship was so short-lived and I was hoping we could do a sale at Barney’s together), but the truth is, I would happily support any comedian, male or female, gay or straight, that I can relate to. We laugh at truth and sometimes this truth might be gay related, but often times it’s another aspect of our lives that hits our funny bone.
And like in dating or friendship, just because you are gay, doesn’t mean I’m going to like you or you are going to like me.
People, gay or straight, naturally tend to gravitate to people that we can relate to and also, are exposed to. I stumbled upon my love for Wanda Sykes because she was in a really awful Chris Rock movie (pick one, any one) and I remember hating the movie but loving her. So from that point on, I’ve always kept an eye out for her. I didn’t know or care at the time if she was gay or straight, but when she actually did come out, I was thrilled.
Gay male comedians such as Shawn Hollenbach have a point that we may have not supported their career, but is it fair for them to ask us to seek them out so that their living can be supported? I remember my first exposure to Brad Loekle years ago from Out Q, a station for the LGBT community on Satellite Radio, as a regular weekly guest on Larry Flicks morning show, but I honestly hadn’t heard from or about him much except for an occasional Outfest special back when LOGO-TV actually featured gay comedians.
Since then, I hadn’t heard anything new about Brad, but his career managed to survive without my knowledge thanks to the TRU cable channel, who hired him to host the popular World’s Dumbest Criminals show on Thursdays nights. (Ironically, it’s now on against and has more viewers than Kathy Griffin’s highly promoted talk show.) I also explained that I’m new to Twitter and now I that I am a resident in Twitter country, I can follow my favorite comedians and support them easier by knowing when they are in Chicago.
As for Kathy, I always have had mixed feelings for her. I have gone to her shows and have been a loyal viewer. But here is where the “mixed” part comes in. Kathy continuously refers to us has her “gays” and jokes around that every one of us has perfect taste in how to dress, hates sports and a “fierce” attitude. Do I know that she is just throwing a “wink” at us and knows that we know that she knows we really aren’t all the same? Of course I do and it’s fun to say we are all this slightly different variation of Carson Kressley and throw out some jokes about it to one another. But with Kathy throwing out the “one size fits all” gay jokes she does, I laugh and I get it, but does the Tennessee mom with 3 kids who is afraid they will learn about homosexuality in school get it?
Or will she go out and sign a petition to keep her state free of Gay marriage? Again, feelings are mixed. I don’t have the answer – maybe you do. Is it possible to for us to educate the general public without losing our sense of humor?
So back to Brad Loekle. Brad, thank you for reaching out and taking the time to explain your concerns. It is evident that he has a passion about this as I’m sure other gay male comedians do so I don’t want to make light of it. I want to also note that Brad mentioned that he no way harbors any resentment to the female comedians out there and as stated in his final tweet to me:
“I ADORE all the “ladies”… but we can still love them while we put our money & love behind ourselves too”
And for what it’s worth, I have several male comedians out there who I’d love to see in action on stage based on my experiences with seeing them on TV, Brad, Alec Mapa, and Andre Kelley immediately come to mind. Alec, probably the most successful in terms of recognition, has been a favorite of mine since the very short-lived and under appreciated CBS flop, Some Of My Best Friends.
You also have Dave Rubin, who probably has done the most to promote other gay comedians as he used to have a fantastic podcast that I subscribed to and listened to religiously called Hot Gay Comics. (Which was also a series on the “hard to find anywhere” HERE TV network). I guess he ran out of Hot Gay Comics and had to move on to something different. So now he’s the host of The Six Pack on Sirius/XM, which is also a podcast you can subscribe to at http://sixpackradio.com/. I highly recommend following him on Twitter @therubinreport as his tweets can be highly entertaining.
As for other gay comedians, I listen to former Daily Show comedian Frank DeCaro on Sirius Out Q radio and believe him to have a great following of gays, but perhaps not as much for his humor as for his lesbian sidekick, Doria Biddle, who manages to keep the show balanced from becoming a 3 hour discussion on classic TV. She also looks eerily like Jeanine Garofalo. And one of Frank’s fans, who has his own fan base thanks to his heckling style of sarcasm with Frank on the phone, “Paul From Massachusetts”, continually promotes male comedian Adam Sank on his blog and on Facebook. The Derek and Romaine show on Sirius Out Q also has featured a plethora of gay comedians. I assume these people also go to their shows so we can eliminate that there is no support from the Gay males out there, but is there enough?
I don’t make any excuses though as to whom I like or don’t like and don’t feel the need to support people who don’t warrant it. But there is support out there for “the gays” as Kathy would say. Maybe there is enough support for male comedians out there, or maybe there is not enough ….. or maybe you just aren’t funny. Incidentally, Shawn Hollenbach, has since retired from Standup at the age of 31.
However, if any of the above mentioned are ever in town (except for my ex-friend Shawn), please let me know and I’ll even try to bring a few more gay males with me. I hope you don’t mind if one of them is wearing a Cher T-Shirt.
Well based on the response from my “Open Letter To LOGO” post, one thing 99.2% of the responders agreed on ….. LOGO is on the road to bankruptcy. But it seemed that a few took exception to my views and at the same time, gave me insight into all of the self-loathing gay stereotypes out there that must have had some horrific experiences reading through the gay want-ads that said “NO FATS, NO FEMMS”. One guy actually asked me if I wanted him to commit suicide. Based on what? My yearning for some non-stereotypical gay programming for the LOGO Channel? Aren’t we being a bit of a drama queen?
And thanks to Michael Musto’s Village Voice posting, I viewed other responses from “Ick” (how appropriate) – “Some of the guy’s statements are illiterate and some of his suggestions for shows would get no ratings. does he not realize Logo is a business, not a charity operation?” And Jessica answered brilliantly “Only someone with a narrow and illiterate mind would think the only way to attract an audience would be to find flashy flamboyant drag queens.” But in actuality, I would have to take more exception with someone posting I have illiterate thoughts without an explanation. Are you too illiterate to ellaborate?
As for the shows I suggested that would get no ratings, well, I can tell you that the Bar Takeover idea did quite well as a stand alone episode on Bravo on a little show called “Tabitha Takes Over”. While Tabitha typically takes over hair salons, here, she stepped out of her comfort zone to take over a gay bar in Long Beach, CA., renovate it and put it back on the map. And the show attracted over a million viewers, which is quite good for Bravo and I’m sure 10 times what LOGO’s kiddie pageant series “Eden’s World” drew.
My favorite comment was from Slimjim, who said “What next–BET will show white shows because they’ll say we found out that’s what black people want???” Exactly Slimjim (except for the grammar issue I had). BET actually is quite popular with their niche audience and a show that failed on the CW called The Game drew over 5 million viewers on BET because they know their audience. Some of you out there would have suggested the LOGO-TV type approach of putting on reruns of Spin City on the channel because there was a black character on there. (Shhh, I forgot, the character was gay too, don’t give LOGO any ideas.)
This also answers JDolphy’s question posed earlier “How does one cater to a community that has no identity?”
Great discussions out there people, but what I found frightful was JDolphy’s later comment that said:
“No one was watching and this forced Logo to rethink how they would reach out to our community. You know what they found out? Gay men, in particular, care more about straight artists with a strong and independent persona than they do about gay ones. So if Logo wants to make a 24-hour Madonna/GaGa/Kathy Griffin/Campy movies/Circuit Party Music-type channel, I would have to agree that it might actually get more people to care. Look at Drag Race. It’s about the only thing on the channel that actually gets good viewership.”
This sounds like someone working inside the LOGO network. Yikes!
So in response.. First of all, I disagree – get new researchers. The A List also had good viewership, but LOGO wanted to “go in a different direction” as per one of the stars of the show, Reichen Lehmkul’s tweet.
Others however, such as Sirius Out Q’s Derek Hartley, publicly denounced the A- List show as heinous in its poor portrayal of the gay community. At the same time, this doesn’t mean we don’t have an interest in watching men being men.
I remember there was also outcry over one of my favorite shows Queer As Folk (the US version). Say what you want about the sexual storylines, but they hit home with the gay world I witnessed and the variety of gay people that touched most aspects of the gay community during its run. And yet please take note JDolphy, people watched! Go figure. And without everyone dressing up in their best boa and shouting for Kathy Griffin.
I think Michael Musto’s Village Voice synopsis showed he was the most spot-on when it came to understanding the message I conveyed. And despite his discomfort with my remarks about LOGO-TV just catering to the Drag side of the gay community, I was pretty clear in stating that I enjoyed the Drag Race series and have no issues with TV shows that highlight the flamboyant side of our community, however, isn’t it about time we showed that we can be funny without being flamboyant?
OK, maybe because I’m partnered with a very funny gay cop who doesn’t exude any of the stereotypical traits found in Modern Family’s Cameron character, I’m a bit biased, but again, speak from experience. I’m also not like some of my militant gay com-padre’s who won’t watch anything gay that has a hint of effeminate mannerisms. I don’t care, I want to be entertained and there are a lot of “Cameron’s” out there who possess them in real life so yeah, I watch and laugh with the rest of America. BUT, I’d like someone to convey the side of gay life seldom scene. Interesting gay people doing interesting things without camping it up. LOGO-TV has the power to do something about this and create quite a niche for themselves, but they choose not to.
It’s unfortunate that you never catered to the LGBT community in the past very well, but now you seem to have abandoned them all together, with the exception of your Drag Race fans. Your latest offering – “In The Big House” looks to be another travesty. And while you are touting this as the “real life” Modern Family, the truth is, this is anything but a bunch of straight mobsters who happen to clash with another gay stereotype. Even your “about LOGO” shows that you no longer want to cater to LGBT.
Logo celebrates one-of-a-kind personalities, unconventional stories and discovering what’s next-all through a mix of original and acquired entertainment that’s outrageous, smart and inclusive. Entertaining a social, savvy audience of gay trendsetters, Logo also attracts a straight audience that wants to be ahead of the curve.
Come on now LOGO, who are these social and savvy gay trendsetters you speak of? Latrice Royale fans? Please also note, I watched every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race so I’m not anti–Drag, but I’d love it if you offered some other representation.
The Gay Community understands that it is difficult to create something fresh and modern that may have a cross appeal on a limited budget, however, BRAVO seemed to figure it out just fine. Watch What Happens Live is probably the cheapest produced show I ever saw, yet it’s continuously fresh, innovative, entertaining and routinely attracts over 1 Million Viewers nightly and many of which are both straight and gay.
They know their audience and they know how to be creative in bringing in viewers.
It’s great you found 1 hit show in all these years thanks to the cross-appeal of Drag Queens, but it would be nice to show the rest of the world that you can also attract a more mainstream audience by showing a more original facet of gay culture. Perhaps showing a gay version of Real Housewives was not the answer. Perhaps the answer is finding an element in the gay community that doesn’t present us as a “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” video would be a bit more captivating.
There are a lot of lower budget ways to find an audience. LOGO should be the first network that can show the rest of the world that the gay community can be interesting without having to put on a dress or camp it up. Here are a few rough ideas
- A dating and/or cooking competition show that features all sorts of representatives from the gay community.
- A Gay Bar Rescue type of show where someone saves another poorly run Gay Bar from failing…
- A talent / variety show that features all from the LGBT community?
- The life and times of Gay Cops and Firemen.
While the concepts may not be all that original, the casting, execution and presentation of these can be.
Perhaps if one of these clicks, you’d have a budget for scripted entertainment – a sitcom that shows a more realistic version of a gay couple raising a kid, or a group of gay singles trying to find their way in the world of love. Or better yet, a Soap Opera that takes place in West Hollywood or someplace not often publicized much by the gay community, like Chicago -:).
There, now I’ve put together your 3 year blue print for success.
With many of these ideas, you could actually put together shows that encompasses LGBTQ all in one half hour! Not even the mainstream networks have accomplished that yet. (Sorry Modern Family, sorry Will & Grace)
I always thought that the Gay Community was one of the most creative groups of individuals out there, but apparently that must be another stereotype I was unaware of.
It was recently announced that LOGO TV was going to ditch it’s popular A-List series and according to a Facebook post from Reichen Lehmkuhl, one of the A-List NY stars, the network is seeking out a new direction which the A-List doesn’t fit into.
But what direction would that be? I got together with LOGO’s hot new programming team to speculate based on LOGO’s short list of exciting new series they are looking into blessing their presence onto the airwaves. Check them out below and let LOGO TV know which ones you’d like to see!
- The D List– This fresh new series would use the popular A-List format, except with Drag Queens.
- 5 Drags Queens and a Monkey – 5 drag queens discuss trendy topics with a monkey in drag.
- RuPaul’s World – Little kids in drag compete for $ 500 in Cosmetics..and a chance to have their picture appear on RuPaul’s next CD. RuPaul stars!
- Senior Moment– Old Drag Queens take to the streets as they play tricks on unsuspecting people. Wettie White
- Big Sex– Latrice Royale and other popular plus sized drag queens talk about their favorite sexcapades with sex specialist, Chris Donaghue.
They’ve also picked up repeats of Toddlers and Tiarra’s.
So I think it’s now clear on what direction the LOGO TV network is looking to go…
Now just sit back and enjoy the ride folks!
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