Mr. Zacky, who in his previous post in development at TLC helped turn that network into a reality-TV powerhouse with programs like Cake Boss, insisted Logo will be coherent going forward. “I get it. People look at it at first blush and may not fully understand it. But as we get closer to each of these shows launching, they’ll begin to see why it makes sense for it to be on our network.”
The shift includes transforming shows that already exist, like the Drag Race spinoff RuPaul’s Drag U. Heretofore, the show had shown drag queens remaking the lives of “women who had lost their mojo,” in Mr. Zacky’s telling—a yet queerer Queer Eye. In its upc oming season, the show will feature specific tips for the straight female audience watching at home. “It gives women one more reason to watch and participate,” said Mr. Zacky. “It’s the cherry on top!”
Not everyone thinks so. Ben Harvey, a reality TV enthusiast at the Huffington Post, wrote, “Gay TV as we know it is dead” and compared Logo’s shift to MTV’s move away from music video programming. “The new Logo will be a Cuisinart-blended cocktail of Bravo, Lifetime, and Oxygen, with a pink boa as garnish.”
J. Bryan Lowder at Slate chimed in, “This is obviously just a ploy to transition Logo to a more economically lucrative ‘lifestyle’ model,” though he contended that Logo’s move made sense from a quality perspective. “Logo’s reality shows (aside from Drag Race) were just poorly made, plain and simple.”
Lisa Sherman, Executive Vice-President at Logo, emphasized to The Observer that Logo’s changes were prompted by a broad view of gay citizens’ expanding role in the culture. “The truth is I don’t think it’s a mission shift at all. I think it’s a shift in the culture and the way gays are living more in a mainstream culture. The culture in the last six or seven years since we’ve launched has thankfully become a very different place for gay people.”
The channel launched in 2005, the summer after George W. Bush had won re-election on a “moral values” platform. It had to strike a delicate balance between appealing to a core audience and getting acceptance from advertisers (there were but three charter advertisers) and cable providers. At the time, MTV Networks chair Tom Freston said: “We’re not using profanity, we’re not using sex. This is going to be mainstream programmiGng that you see everywhere else, except for the fact that it’s targeted to the gay and lesbian community.”
Since then, Mr. Bush’s campaign manager came out as gay and same sex marriage passed in New York. Modern Family and The Ellen DeGeneres Show are both hits, and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed. To Ms. Sherman all of these are bellwethers, and gays are leading what she called “far more mainstream, integrated lives.”
Logo’s shift isn’t just engendered by a vague feeling, though. The media research group Starcom performed a study of the gay community for the network, the results of which were presented at Logo’s recent upfront presentation for advertisers. Esther Franklin, the executive vice-president of Starcom, told the ad buyers in attendance that the gay community could be segmented into eight “identities,” five of which were “most exciting for advertisers.”
These included the “Just who I am” identity, which she called “the face of average, everyday American life.
“What I love about this community is its ordinariness—if that’s a word. The normalcy of ‘Just who I am’ is what makes it revolutionary.” These people, in Ms. Franklin’s telling, tend to be most interested in chilling out in front of the television, and not overly concerned with whether the characters they watch are straight or gay.
Another identity was “Out and Proud.”
“When I think about this community, Kool and the Gang’s ‘Celebration’ starts to play in my head,” said Ms. Franklin.
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