Is Logo, America’s first broadcast channel for the LGBT community, going straight?
The network let Queerty have a sneak peek at its upcoming programming slate for 2012 and there’s no denying there’s been a shift in focus: Greenlighted programs for the spring and fall include Design My Dog, a canine makeover series from the creators of America’s Next Top Model; Eden Wood’s World, an unscripted series about Toddlers & Tiara’s 6-year-old diva Eden Wood; and Wiseguys, a sort of Real Housewives meets Mob Wives show following a straight Mafia princess‘ adjustment to life in L.A.
Also on the schedule are pop-culture countdown shows Scandalicious and Outrageous, and two family/relationship-oriented series, the tough-love therapy show Love Lockdown and The Baby Wait, which follows various couples through the open-adoption process.
If you don’t see the pattern, this is the first time that Logo hasn’t developed any new programming with gay leads.
General manager Lisa Sherman says the network is simply evolving to accommodate the modem queer appetite. “I don’t think our mission has changed really,” she explains. Sherman, who was hired just three months before the network launched in 2005, recalls a saying staffers had in the early days: “We said we were going to allow people to see themselves and be themselves. And that’s still true.”
What’s changed, she believes, is the larger culture. Now gay viewers can see themselves all across the dial, from ABC’s Modern Family and Fox’s Glee to Ellen DeGeneres‘ syndicated talk show and Bravo’s Tabatha’s Salon Takeover. It’s no longer just about visibility.
“From our research, gay people are living far more integrated lives that before,” says Sherman (left), referencing a study Logo conducted with Starcom Mediavest Group that indicated 53% of LGBTs didn’t see showcasing their orientation as a priority and only 30% “preferred living and socializing in exclusively gay and lesbian communities.”
“Being gay is an important part of their lives but it’s not what they lead with,” she explains. “So if we’re going to keep to that idea of displaying their lives, we need to reflect that new reality.”
A former staffer in Logo’s development department whom we’ll identify as “John Smith,” is suspicious of this spin. He claims the channel is betraying its original mission of creating queer television: “They’re only developing shows with non-gay leads. They are trying to be Bravo—a gay best friend—as opposed to just being gay.”
Smith also says others at the network aren’t happy with the changes. “I was right there. I would hear the meetings and the phone calls. Not one new show has a gay lead. It makes everyone that works there sick to their stomachs, but they’re all afraid to say anything.”
So what’s motivated this major left turn? Joe Del Hierro, producer of Logo shows like Transamerican Love Story and The Big Gay Sketch Show, claims it’s a financial decision: “They need to appeal to a broader audience to get the numbers up, so they can charge more for ad revenues. It’s what Bravo did in its early years.”
But Smith disagrees: “I worked very closely with sales and there are tons of major brands [that] not only support LGBT programming, but are required to spend on LGBT-oriented material. Several huge corporations have that mandate.”