A recent column of mine for the Advocate was killed due to time and space constraints, so it has become a proud, pamie.com exclusive! My next piece will run in the print edition of the magazine, on stands next week. Which I’m looking forward to mostly because it means we’ll get a new cover. And it’s not that I don’t love Bill Maher — because I really, really do — but there are few things that make me feel less gay than two straight weeks of him on the cover.

Anyway:

Gay TV For You and Me

At the midseason mark in the television season, we check in on what’s gay (and what’s not) in some mainstream television offerings.

by Daniel J. Blau

Why do television networks feel there needs to be niche programming for gay viewers? And, far more importantly, why does it have to be so lame so frequently? For example, Lifetime recently announced yet another dating show — this one imaginatively entitled Gay, Straight, or Taken — in which some poor woman has to choose whether three suitors are, well, please refer back to the title. Wackiness ensues. Culture continues its treacherous decline.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad there’s a LOGO and I’m glad there are so many permutations of “Queer [X] for the Straight [Y]” and I’m glad there’s an Anderson Cooper, but not all television needs to be made by and for gay viewers to be considered, in and of itself, “gay television.” Sometimes it seems that the suits who program the mainstream, creamy nougat center of the television universe forget that gays’ viewing habits pretty much reflect exactly what everyone else is watching. I mean, along with the Jews, they practically run Hollywood already, right? So here at midseason, let’s pause and reflect on five shows all audiences can enjoy (or, in one case, abhor) together, why they’re inherently appealing to gay viewers, and what they could do to become just that teeny bit gayer.

Ugly Betty
What is it: ABC’s freshman comedy/drama features the misadventures of plucky, fashion tone-deaf Betty Suarez (America Ferrera) as she tries to make it at fashion magazine Mode.
Why it’s a little gay: Truth be told, it’s more than a little gay. In the fashion world, Betty runs into her share of over-the-top fashion and over-the-top personalities, ranging from Vanessa Williams’ fashion diva Wilhelmina Slater to Wilhelmina’s doting assistant, Marc (Michael Urie). Marc is such a perfect cliché of the snarky gay fashionista that Wilhelmina at one point snipes, “Do you know how many curly-haired, effete sycophants there are waiting to replace you?” (Answer: “You have five on speed dial.”) Meanwhile, back at home, Betty spends time with her young, showtune-loving nephew Justin (Mark Indelicato), who sings and dances through the borough of Queens (appropriately), reading fashion magazines and choosing the Halloween costume of — you guessed it — a sailor.
How we would make it just a little gayer: If possible, we’d love even more screen time for the excruciatingly funny Becki Newton who, as office assistant Amanda, drops acid bon mots worthy of the world’s cattiest gay men. That, and we’d like to see as much as possible of World’s Cutest Boy Christopher Gorham, who has recently joined the cast as Betty’s new love interest, Henry.
Gay ranking: Four pink triangles.

How I Met Your Mother
What is it: It’s a CBS sitcom that’s actually funny!
Why it’s a little gay: What at first glance seems like another example of clueless heteros stumbling around a sitcom on their quest for true love is gayed up big time by three words: Neil Patrick Harris. Harris routinely steals the scene as the shallow, womanizing Barney Stinson, a character that has grown even more winking and outlandish since Harris officially announced to the world that he’s gay.
How we would make it just a little gayer: Introduce Wayne Brady as James, Barney’s gay, black brother, and play on the meta theme that he’s so gay and Barney is so straight. Which, come to think of it, is EXACTLY what the show did on its November 27 episode. Like we said, this show is a lot more clever than people give it credit for.
Gay ranking: Two and a half pink triangles.

Lost
What is it: Desert island. Plane crash. Others. Numbers. Hatch. If you need much more of an education than that, you might not actually own a television set.
Why it’s a little gay: Lost is a very special type of porn…the kind that entire families can enjoy together! It maybe a cliché, but it bears repeating: there were really that many hot men on that one little plane? Jack, Sawyer, Charlie, and Jin landed on an island and soon met Mr. Eko, creating a new society of flawless Y-chromosomes, who will one day mate with the women of Lost island to create a race of super-hot babies. This season, Sawyer looks so good and so shirtless in his cage that we can almost forgive the show for its dual crimes of depriving Charlie of any meaningful screen time, not to mention the almost unforgivable season one killing off of Boone, far and away Lost‘s most adorable cast member.
How we would make it just a little gayer: Get Kate out of Sawyer’s cage and replace her with Jack so that the two of them can JUST KISS ALREADY and get it over with. Knowing that it’s going to be three more seasons before we find out why there are polar bears on the island, waiting to see any combination of these men make out just one time is the reason at least half of the audience still tunes in every week. And one more note: I don’t care how you do it, Lost, but BRING BACK BOONE.
Gay ranking: Three pink triangles.

Top Chef
What is it: Bravo’s reality show is brought to you by the same production company that has brought us three glorious seasons of The Gayest Show Ever, the superlative Project Runway. Instead of designing dresses, Top Chef contestants chef up truffles, and instead of a perky host and a panel of bitchy judges, there is…a perky host and a panel of bitchy judges.
Why it’s a little gay: What isn’t just a tiny bit fey about twelve people trying to make the prettiest flambé?
How we would make it just a little gayer: Hold our breaths, close our eyes, and will ourselves into a hibernation-like state until Project Runway once again graces our TV screens.
Gay ranking: Two pink triangles.

Big Day
What is it: ABC’s new, critically-skewered sitcom about a couple’s wedding day. Like 24, the audience experiences a single day in real time. Unlike 24, this time you’ll actually be praying for a cataclysmic terrorist event that destroys the city in which these people live.
Why it’s a little gay: It’s not gay at all. But like Fox’s odious Til Death, it proves to gay audiences once and for all that straight couples hate each other. They bicker, they connive, they put their own needs ahead of their partners’. Big Day seems to argue that marriage is worthy of fear and mistrust between partners, and that we would be better off to avoid it completely. What a potent argument that maybe we don’t even want marriage if it’s going to be this entertaining.
How we would make it just a little gayer: Change the channel until you find a syndicated rerun of Will & Grace. Or, better yet, Golden Girls.
Gay ranking: [zero]

Posted in Dan