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Can We Kickstart Gay Programming?

Aymar Jean Christian February 2, 2012 Culture Comments Off on Can We Kickstart Gay Programming?
Can We Kickstart Gay Programming?

UPDATE: As Logo makes a sharp shift away from gay programming, producers of gay shows have lost a buyer but gained a more eager audience online. UPDATE 10/1/2012DTLA is headed to Logo.

Two years ago I mourned the death of the “gay show.” In the early-mid 2000s cable networks boasted scripted shows with all-gay leads — Queer as Folk, Noah’s Arc, The L Word, DL Chronicles, Dante’s Cove — following post-Will & Grace buzz and advertiser demands for targeting.

After those shows went off-air, broadcast and cable nets alike realized they could get gay audiences and retain straight women with just one or two gay side characters, without taking the risk of making them leads. Gays became the perfect accessory to an ensemble — from True Blood and Smash, to Modern Family and Happily Divorced.

A number of the producers from those earlier shows have started to take matters into their own hands, using crowdfunding to finance independent and web productions featuring all-gay casts. Call it the inevitable slide down the long tail.

Whether fans can help producers is uncertain, but so far it seems like we might see some movement on that front soon.

Quincy LeNear  and Deondray Gossett, who created the short-lived here! TV show, The DL Chronicles, have been trying to bring it back for awhile now. Last year, they launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a second season — hoping to garner over $100,000 from fans. They didn’t quite make it, raising a still-impressive total in the mid-tens of thousands.

Undeterred, the two took to Indiegogo — which allows fundraisers to keep whatever they raise, as opposed to Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing policy. From that campaign they raised $15,000. LeNear and Gossett also have investors interested in financing what could be three half-hour episodes.

“After noticing the absence of men of color in LGBT themed films and television and an absence of LGBT people in ethnic themed films and television, we were inspired to address the void,” they said as part of their campaign statement. “Furthermore, while witnessing the misdirected attacks and scapegoating of Same Gender Loving men of color in the media during the height of the country’s Down Low hysteria and HIV witch hunt…we wanted to address the topic from it’s sociological and cultural truths and paint a more accurate picture.”

What helped LeNear and Gossett raised that amount of cash wasn’t just their TV clout — which we’ve seen again and again is a huge help to web creators — but their release of a four-part, 30-minute web series, The Chadwick Journals, to get fans excited about more content. Well done!

DTLA is an original series also harkening back to the aughties boom. Executive producers Larry Kennar (The L Word, Barbershop, Funny or Die Presents), Darryl Stephens (Noah’s Arc), Mark Erickson, Helene Shaw, and Michael Andres Palmieri are looking to raise $25,000 from Kickstarter for post-production on the six-episode, half-hour soap. The team says they have distribution through Canadian gay network OutTV and interest from two US cable networks. (UPDATE: Their campaign was successful).

DTLA might strike a chord from fans nostalgic for QAF and its peers, especially as it brings back a number of familiar faces, including Noah’s Arc star Darryl Stephens, The L Word‘s Erin Daniels, Leslie Jordan of Will & Grace and The Real Word‘s Danny Roberts.

Are DL Chronicles and DTLA arriving at the right time? Maybe. There might change in the air. Last summer I wrote about another thirty-minute pilot, Half Share, from former Nanny writer Sean Hanley, looking to bring a gay show back to TV. “Don’t you think a gay network needs a signature show?” Hanley said. Executives at Logo and here! expressed skepticism that scripted gay content could come back to TV, but they nonetheless praised Half Share‘s frank and niche-driven humor.

Outside of television and web series, I’ve been noticing a number of crowdfunded campaigns for longer-form gay content. Dane Joseph (of the recently full-length Drama Queenz) and Dwight Allen O’Neal (Christopher Street TV) last year sought funds for a feature film, Langston’s: a film (4) colored boys, with filmmakers Daniel Armando and James Peoples. While unsuccessful, the campaign raised an impressive $20,000.  “The film is unapologetically colored, daringly gay, and yet strikingly universal,” Joseph wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed.

For queer fans of color there are more films to come. Of course there is the accomplished (if somewhat familiar) Pariah making its way across America, and arriving this year should be The Skinny from Punks- and Noah’s Arc-creator Patrik Ian Polk.

What the web promises is a last resort for producers looking to finance hard-to-market programs and films. What it doesn’t guarantee is anyone — fans, networks — will pay attention. But given the sizable sums of cash being raised, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a small revival in the gay show soon.

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

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