I Want My Gay TV – The Progressive, 7/30/2005

Good news for anyone chanting “I want my Gay TV!” We’ll soon have not one, but three new gay channels!

Despite the public bonhomie among the three, (“there’s room for everybody, everyone will find a niche”), they are all rushing to get on the air first and a frenzy of pitch meetings. Initially, I worried that the programmers would take any old proven television formula, add a gay, a couple rainbows and be good to go ‚Äì Gay Friends, The Gay Shandling Show, Really Judging Gay Amy, Gay Ellen. Those shows were pitched and nixed, and a few got through, but the new channels are developing TV that reflects our lives and tells our stories. And these days, Gay Survivor seems so redundant.

Here! TV, established in 2002 is a pay-service cable network. Viewers can subscribe or purchase individual on-demand programs. In addition to its gay and lesbian film library, Here! is developing original programming. Its ambitious goal is six new series and twelve new films per year. Already in the can are shows on gay parenting, a supernatural soap opera, a gothic horror series, a naval action drama, a drama about a rogue asteroid and a hard-boiled detective series. They also plan to film live drama and comedy.*

Q TV, launched in late 2004, proudly self-identifies as “a gay lifestyle” channel for gay, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals and the curious. It is available on the satellite service RCN in Boston, San Francisco, New York and is soon to expand to Denver, Washington DC, and Seattle. It covers gay travel, gay sporting events including gay bowling, and gay pride festivals. In addition, it plans to host live broadcasts, though their morning show Good Morning Gay America was nixed by ABC for copyright infringement. It is now known simply as Gay Day.

Unlike the other gay-per-view channels, LOGO from the cable giant Viacom, is an advertiser-supported, basic cable channel. It will broadcast its movie library as well as an ongoing documentary series, specials, narrative shows, newscasts and reality shows. Its February launch date was postponed to late June for programming reasons and because LOGO experienced difficulties getting into some markets: a.k.a., “A gay cable channel? Over my dead body.” Some reps informed LOGO that there were no gays in their markets. I think that was the Cheney Ponderosa in Wyoming.

Of course, everybody does not love our Gay Monde. Among others, the American Family Association’s head PEO [Puritan Executive Officer], Tim Wildmon, warned that late-night gay channels could turn pornographic given that “the very nature of homosexuality is based on eroticism and infatuation with sex.” Apparently his basic cable package does not have HBO’s Sex in the City or ABC‚Äôs Desperate Housewives.

It remains to be seen how many subscribers are actually chanting for their Gay TV. Expanded community bandwiths have spawned many fine local gay cable shows. That combined with Will and Grace, The L-Word and The Queer Eye sometimes make the new channels seem so five years ago. I hope the new formats will offer an opportunity to discover, showcase and preserve some of the daring LGBT plays and performances which are often only seen live. Think Playhouse Gay 90s.

My fear is, in this very extreme time for gays, that TV is too medium. It can suck the life force out of the populace. TV is a portal to passivity. TiVo is not activism. Virtual community is not real community.

If masses of GLBT protestors appeared with their “Gay is Go_D” signs every Sunday as the local religious right jumbotrons were cooling down from spewing anti-gay rhetoric and the security guards were overheard saying to one another “That cursed religion show on Here! must have just signed off,” I might feel better. If statehouses were flooded with gay marriage advocates and judges were heard mumbling, “It‚Äôs that damnable Take Back Your Government show on Q-TV,” I might feel better. Or if women‚Äôs health centers were suddenly guarded by GLBT health vigilantes and besieged providers were heard saying, “Thank goddess for that LOGO Health Show, here‚Äôs a condom,” then we’d be onto something.

Kate “* full disclosure: here! Taped my Kate Clinton: Talking a Blue Streak for a July through September airing” Clinton is a humorist.