Showing posts with label gay shows. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gay shows. Show all posts

October 6, 2017

Will and Grace Gave Birth to a More Out Gay TV


In the years since Will & Grace premiered in 1998, much ink has been spilled over exactly what the presence of Will Truman and Jack McFarland on our TV screens has done for the LGBT community. And now that NBC's revival of the beloved sitcom has proven to be one of the fall's bona fide hits, there's no doubt that the conversation will continue.

Some voices have championed the inclusion of characters in our TV landscape as daring, especially at the time of their inception, positing that their mere existence (and America's relative comfort with them) did more to further the acceptance of the LGBT community than anything else had in all the years since or after. 

Even former Vice President Joe Biden falls in that camp, citing the show when he finally came out in public support of marriage equality. But for others, the characters fall short—Jack, in particular, whose hilarious high camp persona has been criticized as a sort of gay minstrelsy in some circles. 

While that debate will likely always rage on, there's one aspect of Will & Grace's legacy that can't be understated. And that's the road the show paved for future LGBT characters on television. Because once Will and Jack kicked open TV's closet, there was no looking back. When NBC made the decision to add co-creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick's bawdy little comedy, the ultimate unrequited love story between interior designer Grace Adler (Debra Messing) and her neurotic gay lawyer BFF Will (Eric McCormack), to its stable of programming in 1998, there were no real gay characters on TV to speak of. Sure, Ellen DeGeneres' eponymous character had just came out on her ABC series, but that was after four seasons spent with the character in the closet. 

The sudden decision to have art imitate life only confused the audience, and Ellen quickly disappeared from the airwaves. Prior to that, there had been a smattering of gay characters in a handful of series, though they were always in a supporting role—and often they befell some great tragedy while any realistic depiction of a love life was avoided at all costs. These characters were GINOs—Gay in Name Only—and usually only when it came time to die of AIDs. But when Will & Grace hit the air, finally there were two gay men who did not pretend to be anything other. They were here and they were queer, honey—so you better get used to it. And audiences did. While the series wasn't an overnight success, by its third season, the series proved to be a hit with real lasting power, staying in the Nielsen Top 20 for four of its eight original seasons. And because show business is, above all else, just that—a business—network executives were quickly realizing that putting gay characters front and center wasn't ratings suicide.

A year after the show premiered, the first "romantic" kiss between two gay characters would take place on Dawson's Creek. Two years later, Showtime would kick down the closet walls completely with the arrival of the explicit and provocative Queer as Folk, a move they replicated four years later for lesbians hungry for representation with The L Word. And that's not to mention 2003's groundbreaking Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the arrival of Modern Family, Glee and RuPaul's Drag Race in 2009, Orange Is the New Black in 2013, Lookingand Transparent in 2014—and the list goes on. If Will & Grace had never seen the light of day, a daring exec may have taken a chance on one or two, but all of them? Not a chance. 

"I think we always kind of made a habit out of not dealing with this aspect of what you would say was the success of the show. This wasn't where we spent a lot of time. It was always a little uncomfortable to take credit for...what people are talking about and what the show represents," Mutchnick told E! News back in June when he and Kohan were at Logo's fourth annual Trailblazer Honors, an event that honors leaders at the forefront of LGBTQ equality. "It was always better for our ego and for our writing if we just stayed focused on telling good stories for Will, Grace, Jack and Karen."

And inside that humility belies the secret to Will & Grace's success. With the intention of creating great stories about underrepresented identities, rather than strictly championing underrepresented causes, the key to unlocking the audience's ability to embrace what was once considered unpalatable was revealed. Without Will Truman, there is no Mitchell Pritchett on Modern Family or Captain Ray Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine or Conor Walsh on How to Get Away With Murder. Without Jack McFarland, there is no Max Blum on Happy Endings or Titus Andromedon on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or Daryl Whitefeather on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. 

While LGBT representation on TV has yet to be perfected—and for some, it may never be—we shudder to think about what it might look like had we never met Will and Jack. And now that they're finally back on our TV screens, may they only continue to push us forward, honey.
Will & Grace airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on NBC. And make sure to check out Will & Grace After Party, an after-show hosted by E! News's own Kristin Dos Santos, every Friday at 6 a.m. PT for the first six episodes of the season, on the NBC app, the Will & Grace social accounts, YouTube channel and E! News platforms.

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

March 8, 2013

Gay web Dramas Flourish Like Daisies in The Spring

The Outs

A screenshot from an upcoming episode of the gay web TV series The Outs. Photograph: The Outs
Netflix's high-cost, highly watched House of Cards blazed a new trail for mass-market, internet-based television, but Kevin Spacey's political blockbuster could have come from any of the traditional US networks. Not so far away on the web, a clutch of series aimed at the gay community – filmed for a sliver of the $100m House of Cards budget yet still attracting a respectable audience – are showing up the reluctance of mainstream broadcasters in the US to stray far from the middle of the road.
Where the Bears Are focuses on a group of husky, hairy sleuths living in Palm Springs; Husbands revolves around a newly out sports jock and a fey tabloid star who marry on a whim; Hunting Season is a sexually frank show about a 20-something gay man exploring the sexscape of New York; and The Outs is about two ex-boyfriends coming to terms with post-breakup life in Brooklyn.
On first glance, these gay-themed internet shows don't look so different from their network television counterparts. And of these are experiences not so far removed from those depicted in a more heterosexual context on network TV. Where the Bears Are even compares itself to two iconic television programs – Murder, She Wrote and Golden Girls – and the creators of Husbands liken their project to I Love Lucy. But in all of them, the differences are clear: the dialogue is more honest, the woes more authentic.
The first season of Husbands consisted of 11 mini-episodes running at about two minutes each. Writer Brad Bell, a former producer for VH1's Pop-Up Video, who also plays the more feminine of the titular spouses, finished the first script in April 2011. Epsenson, Bell and the rest of the cast, including second husband Sean Hemeon, were shooting by August, the season debuted in September and the entire series had aired by 18 October of that year. It was a hit from the start and even inspired the New Yorker's first review of an online television show.
"On a nothing budget, Espenson and her teensy cast score laughs," wrote Emily Nussbaum. "The sad truth is that, so far, most web series are worth watching only in theory. Husbands is one notch better." It was a start.
With fans clamoring for another season and still cash-strapped from the first, self-funded go-round, Espenson and Bell turned to the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, and on 19 March 2012, they put out a request for $50,000 worth of individual donations. By 18 April, they had $60,000 from 956 people and have so far used that to produce three eight-minute episodes featuring guest stars such as Joss Whedon, Mekhi Phifer and Jon Cryer, the Emmy-winning star of one of network television's most popular shows, Two and a Half Men. And they have a surprisingly diverse audience.
"We thought our audience would be mostly women, but it's actually almost 50/50 men and women and spread almost evenly across the age demographics," says Husbands producer Jane Espenson. "It's an extremely broadcast-network type demographic." That's an important modifier – broadcast-network type – because for years web-based shows were treated like the entertainment industry's unwanted stepchild. And LGBT series were perhaps the most wretched, either openly mocked or ignored, even by the communities they hoped to represent. Husbands, whose first episode has been viewed on YouTube, just one of the many platforms where it aired, more than 120,000 times.
Husbands took off not only because Espenson's connections and contacts from her work on Ellen DeGeneres' sitcom, the gay-friendly Buffy, The Vampire Slayer or the equally inclusive Torchwood. Nor was it just Husbands' primetime-ready production value, though that definitely helped. Mostly it was the crisp, honest discussion of gay lives, loves and pressures, all set against a familiar sitcom background.
"Husbands really sort of represents I think what the internet can be for creators that are hungry to see stories told that just aren't being given to them by major network television or even film in some cases," says Matt Kane, associate director of entertainment media at GLAAD, the gay media watchdog group. "This is what LGBT and other minority communities have done for decades – not seeing itself thoughtfully served in media and wanting to take matters into their own hands. Back in the 90s, that meant raising a couple thousand dollars, putting together a camera crew and producing an independent film." Today, all you need is a phone, an internet connection and the support of a few strangers.
"Creators can directly reach an audience who in many cases is hungry to see their stories told in a much more immediate way," Kane says. "And that also invites them to feel participatory in the process by giving a $15 donation on Kickstarter."
Adam Goldman used Husbands as a model when producing The Outs. Like that of his predecessors, his gamble paid off. After posting one self-produced episode online, Goldman turned The Outs over to Kickstarter, and between 18 June and 2 July 2012, made more than $22,000 from 503 people, giving him and collaborator Sasha Winters enough money to finish the planned six-episode season, as well as bankroll an additional seventh, set to premiere next month. The show has been written up in a slew of publications, including New York magazine and Time Out New York. The Brooklyn Museum recently hosted a special screening celebrating The Outs and its real-life fans.
Though Goldman never set out to change the media narrative or make a gay political statement, he's aware that he's tapped into something meaningful. "The internet provides a really incredible opportunity for representational content about minorities," he says. "Production has become a process where you say, 'If this represents you, you can make it happen.' The viewer owns part of it psychologically." Studio executives no longer decide how gay people should be represented – it's the creators and the fans making the decisions.
Ultimately, trying to get the US networks to cast a wider net may not only be an uphill battle, but a pointless one. House of Cards showed that web series can get massive amounts of press, and Husbands and The Outs show that web series can be cheaply made and reach beyond target audiences. Both developments that prove again that networks no longer hold all the power when it comes to attracting viewers. And with Netflix, Hulu and "super syndication" deals that allowed Husbands to air on YouTube and the streaming services Blip and Roku, traditional network divides and distribution models will continue to melt away.
Espenson, the television veteran, thinks that moment has already come. "We consider Husbands television. It's just television that arrives in a different box." Maybe that's why none of the creators seem too concerned about striking deals with television networks. Espenson and Bell are focused on the Husbands comic book being published by Dark Horse press; Jon Marcus and Adam Baran from Hunting Season are debating what to do for a potential second season (the Viacom-backed gay network Logo ran season one on its website); Adam Goldman's finishing The Outs' seventh episode and says he's looking for a new direction – and the second season of Where the Bears Are, paid for, novelly, with DVD sales of the first season, will premiere around this summer's gay pride season.
As for well-rounded gays on traditional television, Goldman predicts it will happen. I have a strong impression that over the next few years it's going to become a thing, like Girls, and Two Broke Girls; people are just going to catch on."

December 8, 2012

British Writer Neil Gaiman says He is “Thrilled’ About ‘Husbands'

British writer Neil Gaiman is quoted on Gay Star News as saying it’s  a ‘smart and loving romp through genre’, the web series was written by Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Once Upon A Time’s Jane Espenson and character comic Brad Bell.
The series describes itself as the world’s first marriage equality comedy, set in a fictional America where every state has legalized it.
Two celebrities, an out-and-proud actor and a recently-closeted baseball player, accidentally get hitched in Las Vegas after only dating for six weeks.
The comic book has more of a fantasy theme than the web sitcom, where the couple are thrust into a series of adventures after receiving a magic wedding gift.
‘As a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, I am thrilled to discover he is a fan of Husbands.
‘Brad Bell and I wrote the show that we wanted to watch. Now, to find that people we idolize are watching? That is beyond gratifying,’ said Espenson.
You can watch almost 9 minutes uncut of episode 3:

January 10, 2012

Cam& Mitch } 'far-right’ is dare not to love show's gay couple

 Steve Levitan says Cam and Mitch have been embraced around the world

While gay marriage has been a hot topic in the GOP presidential primaries, Modern Family creator Steve Levitan told TV critics Tuesday (10 January) that there has been very little pushback about his show's gay couple.
'To the far-right, watch the show and I kind of dare you to not love Cam and Mitch,' Levitan said. 'I'm pleasantly surprised to the world's reaction to that part of our modern family.'
Cam and Mitch, played by Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, have been two of the Emmy-winning sitcom's most popular characters since the show's debut in 2009.
On the show, Mitch and Cam are raising adopted daughter, Lily, and are given equal screen time to the other members of the sitcom family.
'It's easy for people to object to something in the abstract but when you make it personal and show these people have good hearts and are loving and committed parents, it's hard not to love them,' Levitan said.
Levitan, participating in a panel of comedy showrunners at the TV Critics Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, also made a reference to Pope Benedict's remarks earlier this week that gay marriage is among the things that 'threatens the future of humanity itself.'
'One of the big surprises of our show is America and the world really has embraced Mitchell and Cam,' Levitan said. 'We are in 200 markets around the world, including the Vatican City. They have embraced Mitchell and  Cam. I think that's interesting.’

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