By Charles Karel Bouley II
Originally published on Advocate.com April 14 2005 11:00 PM ET
What a dilemma. While cruising around my DirecTV channels one night, I mosey through pay-per-view choices. When I get up to the adult choices and start whizzing through (I really don’t do Naughty Dorm Girls) I notice channel 190, Here.Here…here! (as they prefer it be written.) Hey, that’s the new gay channel. And now I have it.I switch to channel 190, and I get a message: “For ordering information press select.” So I do. DirecTV wants $5.99 to watch three hours of programming. That’s odd—what if I want to watch it all? There must be some mistake. Isn’t it worth more than three hours?I call DirecTV and find out that they offer a monthly subscription to Here for $9.99. Ten bucks. Oh, dear. Dilemma.I ring up my friend Oliver Wilson, as I often do in dilemmas.“They want $10 for Here, Oliver, and I don’t know what to do!”“Why not, dear, get it if you want.”“No, I’m been trying to economize and cut down on expenses. I only have basic and HBO. Plus, I really want Showtime so I can watch Fat Actress. It’s hysterical. So if I were to spend $10, I think I’d want to see Kirstie Alley and her fat ass more than—well, than God-knows-what on Here.”“That’s a tough one. Maybe you should try it out for a month and then decide. It’s only $10 that way.”Good advice. The dilemma is the guilt. You see, I want to support Here—and Logo, once it launches. But the problem I have is this: Historically, if anything is strictly one thing, like strictly gay, it’s usually not the best it can be. I know Showtime would be useful, particularly because it has Fat Actress. I’ve seen a few episodes and it is downright hysterical. Worth the price of Showtime alone. Would Here be worth it too?Well, probably not at first. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be.I hang up with Oliver, determined to do the right thing. I usually don’t fall in line and “do the right thing” when it comes to being a good homosexual. I don’t go to the right circuit parties, go to the proper eateries, listen to the proper satellite channels—I don’t do anything, or much of anything, exclusively gay.For seven years I’ve been on major market talk radio, first on KFI in Los Angeles and now on KGO in San Francisco, being openly gay but not exclusively gay. I don’t eat at exclusively gay restaurants because the food is usually secondary to the biceps of the host or interior design of the place. I only listen to the morning show on Sirius OutQ because my friend Larry Flick is the host and I like the show. The other shows lose me—they’re either too NYC or to gay-sex-centric. So, what was Here to be?And then I realized it didn’t matter how good or bad it was. This was one that I was going to have to take for the team. I don’t say or do that much, but this time, it’s a must.Here and Logo will not survive if people don’t subscribe to them, that’s the cold hard facts. It would be nice, given all the hoopla, if they launched with an incredible lineup of fresh shows—hell, including mine. There’s no doubt I want to be their Bill Maher, their Larry King.I call DirecTV back and get my subscription and begin watching. The first movie is about a 40-year-old musician who has an affair with an 18-year-old. I would say how cliché except I just finished dating a 19-year-old and I’m every bit of 42. But instead of exploring the complexities of such a relationship, it becomes a show about the 18-year-old coming out to his mom. It ends with him and mom side by side staring up at the stars and remembering all the good times. They will make it through this. As for the affair, we never quite know what happens there.Next, there’s a movie about hookers and drug addicts with a bittersweet tragic ending—very Lifetime. Oh great, Here is going to be a gay Lifetime channel. Then there’s a showing of Metrosexuality 2, a great British TV movie-series. That’s fun to watch, but I’ve seen it.I doze off and awake to a black screen. Yes, Here on DirecTV currently goes off the air many hours of the day. The next day, I begin to watch, and what do you know, it’s the same movies from the day before, just at different times. A documentary or two is thrown in about this or that acceptance issue and then some short films with lots of lesbians.Maybe I should have bought the three hours instead of the month. Who knows?OK, so the launch of Here isn’t the greatest programming in the world. I’m told it’s going to get much, much better. And it would never have that chance if I didn’t subscribe, if you didn’t subscribe.You see, there comes a point in the community when we have to stop criticizing, second-guessing, bitching and get on board some trains. Even those of us who don’t usually jump on that particular line.We must be seen more as a viable block, both in buying power and entertainment desires.We need a few gay networks. I never thought we did. I thought we should incorporate our programming into the nongay networks. But it would appear those networks don’t want us to have real programming. If Queer as Folk, Will & Grace, and The L Word are the best that we can do on mainstream networks, then we do need our own. Those shows are overblown soap operas with really stereotypical representations and not a lot of depth. It would be nice to turn on the TV and see my life reflected back from the flat screen. Maybe Here (and Logo) can program things that don’t involve crystal meth, promiscuous sex, and a man and his fag hag.There comes a time for all gays and lesbians to do something just because it’s the right thing to do for our community. Good or bad, Here and Logo must succeed in order for us to come of age on television. If networks about landscaping, fine wines, or plastic surgery can survive, we make ours a viable choice on cable.The cable and satellite providers are not being helpful in this quest. The Here subscription channel on DirecTV is right in the middle of the porn channels, which tells you how they think of it. What message does that send? It’s not near the Tina Turner freeview concert or the showing of Spider-Man 2. Nope, it’s up by Spice TV.This is one time each and every one of us must cough up the $10 a month for at least a year to give Here a foundation on which to build. And when Logo launches as a basic cable station, the price we will be obligated to pay will be measured in the time we watch it, the time we spend to talk up its best offerings, to help build ratings.If our investments help Here and Logo to build great networks, great. If they go the way of bad movies involving half-naked high school boys (one of these flicks has been on Here three times now—a horror flick of sorts) and documentaries talking about our oppression repeatedly, then after a year I’ll be gone. But if they create channels that have a sense of fun, that have music videos by gay artists I might never see elsewhere, that have sitcoms with gay themes—and movies, well-made movies with gay plots or subplots…It they can offer a variety of shows to entice a variety of gay and nongay subscribers, then I’ll stay.I’ll probably get Showtime anyway, because Kirstie is hysterical. But I’ll keep Here for at least a year. I can consider my $120 subscription a donation for the year. For one year, I’ll stop talking about what we need, what we have and don’t have, and I’ll support what we’re doing.It’s easy to wait until Here or Logo is a success to then get on board. But I say that each of us, the millions of gays and lesbians with cable and satellite TV in America, must get on board right now. Order the channel as soon as your provider carries it, and if it doesn’t carry it, put pressure on them to carry it.But this support comes with a warning to the programmers working on Here and Logo: You have my blind support for one year, because it is the right thing to do and because most homos spend more per year on martinis than on your station. Now, do something fabulous. We, as a group, have some of the most creative minds in Hollywood. Hell, some of us are the top creative minds of Hollywood. So give me networks of which to be proud. Give me one a family member could watch and enjoy as well, even if I’m not in the room. You’re investing in me as a consumer, and I’m investing in you as a network. God knows there’s a lot of crap on most premium channels, from HBO to Showtime, from Cinemax to all the others. But they also have some of the best programs on TV, like Six Feet Under, Carnivàle, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, so on and so forth. Give me some quality shows to grab on to, some anchor shows that bring me back.I often write that unity in the gay community is a myth. Well, I’d like to be proved wrong, at least in this case. We could direct millions of dollars into Here and millions of eyes onto Logo and give them the foundation they need to grow and expand and give us something new and unique, something groundbreaking and desperately needed.Or we could get gay Lifetime TV.Either way, let’s give them a chance. This is one time we must do it just because. So get thee to a remote and order Here. When Logo comes out, watch it. Talk about it. Find what’s good about it, and give it some time. Maybe our time has come and we’ll get some decent representation on TV. Maybe not. But if we don’t pony up and put our money on the table and our eyes on the screen, we’ll never know.