Gay media fans were shocked this year when news broke that Logo, Viacom’s gay and lesbian channel, was moving away from LGBT programming to compete with broader lifestyle channels like Bravo for advertising. Pilots for promising gay shows had stalled. Soon after the network canceled its “gay housewives” franchise, leaving only RuPaul’s Drag Race as the net’s last gay property.
That’s on television. Online at logotv.com, the story is more complicated and still in flux. Logo has long been interested in distributing independent gay web series online. 2010′s In Between Men was the first case I knew, but none have premiered.
Until now. Head to Logo’s website today and you’ll see a promo for — surprise! — the season finale of new gay show. It’s called Hunting Season, an eight-episode romantic comedy about a 20-something New York blogger and his search for sex and love. It’s the most recent hit in a year that’s seen a flood of quality indie web shows (see: The Outs and The Slope, Husbands, Jenifer Lewis and Shangela, Gay’s Anatomy, It Gets Betterish).
“I just had this bug to try something completely indie again,” series creator and director Jon Marcus said. “I was sort of jealous of the people I knew who were working in web series. It reminded me of the indie film world in the 90s.”
A veteran of Christine Vachon’s famed Killer Films outfit, Marcus broke into production at the tail end of that first boom in gay entertainment — the post-New Queer Cinema world that spawned films like Boys Don’t Cry. After producing Macaulay Culkin’s queer comeback vehicle Party Monster and co-producing the ABC series Scoundrels, Marcus tried to develop a TV-version of a popular blog, The Great Cock Hunt. There were several gay networks starting up at the time — Logo and here!, primarily — and Marcus thought the blog was the perfect gay answer to Sex and the City. The channels didn’t bite.
“None of the three networks ended up coming up with kind of programming that I thought they would need to be a gay network,” he said.
So Marcus adapted The Great Cock Hunt into a web series, and Hunting Season was born. The show follows Alex, a Gawker writer who blogs anonymously about sexual escapades, and his friends, who all have different perspectives on dating and relationships.
What distinguishes Hunting Season is not only production quality but also its relatively frank depiction of urban gay male life. The show features characters who smoke weed, gripe about Grindr and argue about racism and dating.
But it has received perhaps the most attention for depicting ample male nudity.
“For a gay audience, I wanted to shock and titillate a little bit, in order to push it forward and break down the double standard,” Marcus said. He wanted a show that represented a specific gay experience as honestly as possible. “I want straight people to watch my show, but I call it a gay show.”
While GLAAD recently reported that gays have never been more represented on television, Marcus said Hunting Season is a response to the whitewashing of those gay characters, desexualized and sanitized to make them acceptable to straight audiences. By making a show that speaks to gays first, Marcus believes both networks and audiences win.
The deal with Logo materialized at “the 11th hour,” Marcus said. Under it Logo licenses the show from Marcus, who gets a small fee from the network, plus the revenue from digital downloads of the uncensored versions of the show, which have been selling. Marcus expects to break even on his investment. For the gay web series market, that’s a success. “It’s done really well for them,” he said of Logo.
“It’s a lot of work to get a gay audience in the first place,” he added. “It’s not something I have personally taken for granted.”
The trailer and first episode for Hunting Season are embedded below. Visit its website for all episodes.