Logo’s good to go

Logo, Viacom’s gay channel, ends months of speculation by announcing a June 30, 2005, launch date. Its president, Brian Graden, talks to Advocate.com about what to expect from the fledgling network.

BY Alonso Duralde

January 13 2005 12:00 AM ET

Last summer Viacom announced that its new gay and lesbian basic-cable channel, Logo, would launch in February 2005. And then...nothing. But while the company remained mum, out Logo president Brian Graden and his crew were putting the 24-7 outlet together, accumulating a substantial film library and green-lighting original series. Now Graden’s ready to talk about the network, which will finally broadcast on June 30 to an estimated 10 million homes.“One of the things we felt was really important was to come with a whole, complete channel and to have really deep, viable offerings on every front,” said Graden in a phone interview. “So on the [film] acquisitions front, for example, pretty much any primary gay title that you can think of from the last 20 years, we’ve managed to close deals on with every major studio. Most recently, we just closed on Angels in America as part of the opening-window launch package of Logo, which we’re very proud of, and I think that really speaks to the kind of quality we’re going for. We’ve just added new titles like Far From Heaven to the arsenal that includes Philadelphia, The Birdcage--a long, long list.” The network has also scored the television debuts of such acclaimed queer features as A Home at the End of the World, Girl Play, and Testosterone.Given the popularity of nonfiction programming on cable TV, it’s not surprising that Logo will pursuing new and classic documentaries. “In the last six months we’ve made a lot of progress there, from Celluloid Closet to Paris Is Burning to Ruthie and Connie, Hip Hop Homos, just a lot of great documentaries,” notes Graden. “And that was important to us because it inspires a higher kind of art that will allow us to be broadly reflective of the community.” Logo’s own series called Momentum will feature a diverse bunch of new hourlong docs. According to Graden, “We really want to challenge stereotypes by doing documentaries on diverse groups within our population. One of our titles, for example, profiles a gay rugby team. Might not be the first thing you think of, but they play in an all-straight league, and [the show] sort of follows them over the course of a season. That should be really interesting. We have a documentary called In the Name of Allah [produced by Trembling Before G-d’s Sandi Dubowski] that explores what it’s like to be Muslim and gay. We even have one on what it’s like to be gay and Republican, since 20-plus percent [of U.S. gays and lesbians] identify as Republican.”The documentary’s flashy cousin, reality TV, will also have its spotlight with the new logo shows My Fabulous Gay Wedding (queer couples work with a wedding planner to create the nuptials of their dreams) and Cruise (a series from The Real World’s Bunim/Murray Productions about the goings-on during a gay cruise). On the original-series front, Logo has picked up Patrik-Ian Polk’s sexy dramedy Noah’s Arc, which concerns the love (and sex) lives of four black gay male friends living in Los Angeles’s West Hollywood. “I love the idea that that show can be alongside something like Ruthie and Connie, which features a 50-year love story between two lesbians,” says Graden.The whole idea of diverse programs side by side is key to Graden. “We definitely don’t want to segregate according to ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian,’ ” he says. “Society has done enough segregating; we don’t need to do that and pile on, we’ve decided. We tend to segregate our content according to emotional themes. For example, there are a lot of films that celebrate our history, like Wilde or Stonewall, so we’ll probably block things according to our history. There are films that celebrate our heroes, like [lesbian ex-National Guard member] Margarethe Cammermeyer and other people, so we’ll have theme nights that celebrate heroes. We’re looking more for unifying emotional themes than gay/lesbian or gay/straight or whatever.”With major advertisers like Subaru, Orbitz, and Viacom corporate sibling Paramount onboard, as well as plans to create attention for original series by staggering them HBO-style, Logo is raring to go. But since Logo is a basic-cable network like MTV--and not a pay channel like HBO or Showtime--content in films such as Mulholland Drive and Being John Malkovich (two of the recent additions to the Logo library) will have to be edited for general audiences. But Graden isn’t worried about having to play it safe, even in this era when the Federal Communications Commission seems to be on permanent red alert. “We don’t exist to push standards; that’s not how we intend to win,” says Graden. “We plan to win by telling great, honest stories and including gay people in the tapestry for the first time. I don’t think we need to push the boundaries beyond any other basic cable channel to tell our stories, because my life story isn’t fundamentally different from anybody else’s.”

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