Logo ::: Less fierce TV?
There was a joke some years back that Lifetime was television for straight women and gay men. Then Bravo took over that role. In 2005 Logo zeroed in on part of that equation - giving cable television a network aimed exclusively at the LGBT community.
Now Logo is evolving again: retreating to television aimed at... straight women and gay men.
Why this change is taking place has do with the evolution of the LGBT community in the larger society, at least according to Logo’s marketing research; as well as a general disenchantment with the "LGBT only" programming the network has focused on.
"The A-List" falters
In other words, a show like "RuPaul’s Drag Race," the network’s biggest hit, is popular because a healthy percentage of its audience is straight women; while a franchise like "The A-List" not only performed poorly with gay audiences, but also brought comparisons to such more sensationalized reality series as "Jersey Shore" (with Reichen instead of Snookie).
Logo was formed in 2005 as part of Viacom Media Networks (which owns channels like MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, TV Land, and Spike TV). According to the Logo website, the network is staffed independently of these other channels. "Logo has its own staff and we make our own decisions," reads its website.
Their most recent decision - at least evidenced by the new programming they have scheduled - shows a move away from its existing programming thus far, which included such scripted series ("Noah’s Arc,") comedy shows ("The Big Gay Sketch Show") and reality shows ("RuPaul’s Drag Race," RuPaul’s DragU" and "1Girl, 5Gays").
According to a press release, the upcoming shows 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."
The reason for the change has much to do with the changing demographic of the LGBT community, at least according to Lisa Sherman, Executive Vice President of Logo, who said in a press release: "Culturally, we’re past the tipping point. For gays and lesbians, it’s part of who they are, but they don’t lead with it, because many are leading fully integrated, mainstream lives.
"Our goal at Logo has always been to honestly reflect our viewers’ lives. We’re now reinforcing our commitment to them with programming that truly mirrors how many of them are living and want to be entertained today."
"Meaningful and relevant"
What led them to this decision was a new study Logo conducted in partnership with Starcom Mediavest Group and its Beyond Demographics (TM) series. "Coming out this spring, the identity research gives light on how lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender community lives today. For instance, early findings show that 53 percent conveyed that Gays don’t hide being gay, but that for them it’s not a priority to showcase it. And only 30 percent indicated that they preferred living and socializing in exclusively gay and lesbian communities.
"The gay community continues to evolve in size, influence and identity," said Starcom Mediavest’s Esther Franklin, EVP, head of SMG Americas Experience Strategy. "Beyond Demographics (TM) allows us to understand the needs of this critical community as they emerge and to paint a clearer, more specific picture of what’s meaningful and relevant in their lives."
So are shows about dog makeovers, child beauty pageants contestants and Mafia princesses what LGBT people find "meaningful and relevant?"
Housewives with balls?
Over at the Huffington Post, LGBT writer Ben Harvey looked at Logo’s evolution this way:
"In 2009 Logo decided to take the Bravo template and turn it on its head, plucking out the gay best friends and granting them their own fabulous reality platform. With "Fierce TV" as its new slogan, Logo abandoned its Subaru-heavy, lesbian-leaning, activist roots and led with gay -- in a big, big way. And so came RuPaul and his fierce drag queens, who starred in essentially a female makeover show with a flamboyant twist. Then there was ’The A-List,’ also known as "Housewives with Balls," which was advertised on graffiti-strewn billboards aggressively placed around NYC. ’The A-List’ was Logo’s attempt to recreate the soap opera of ’The Real Housewives’ but within a supposedly aspirational set of New York gay socialites.
"The problem? Women apparently didn’t tune in to see their gay best friends making fools of themselves on Logo -- and neither did gays. ’The A-List’ has failed to make a dent in ratings, especially compared to the Bravo reality juggernaut (’The A-List: New York’ garnered around 150,000 viewers per episode, while ’Housewives’ episodes receive up to 4 million viewers per episode). Gay viewers have likened the series to a gay minstrel show, and its cast members have been eviscerated by The New York Times. To their credit, even the A-Listers themselves seemed uncomfortable with the entire premise onscreen, dispassionately reciting testimonials in bitchy gayspeak likely fed to them by the show’s producers. ’A-List’ cast member Reichen Lehmkuhl, once a just-happens-to-be-gay cult hero who won ’The Amazing Race 4’ with his then-partner Chip, was reduced to defending himself against various unsubstantiated rumors and venomous plotlines. Evidently, Fierce TV struggled not just to draw ratings but also to make over-the-top gay stereotypes seem convincing."
Change was financial
Joe Del Hierro, a producer of Logo shows "Transamerican" and "The Big Gay Sketch Show," told Queerty that the reason for the change was financial. "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."
Logo has faced criticism for promoting stereotypes in shows with shows like "The A-List" and "Drag Race." Though the latter is the network’s most popular series - its premiere episode this season attracted nearly a million viewers - the show was passed over by GLAAD for an Outstanding Reality Show award because the LGBT advocacy group "felt the show [was a] poor representations of LGBT people."
The network has also has been criticized for cutting LGBT films for what they deem offensive content, despite the fact that the same films appeared on other basic cable networks with the cut footage intact.
While some bemoan the changes as showing that Logo is co-opting its mission, Harvey, doesn’t see the change in direction as a setback. "... given the current state of Logo’s programming," he writes, "the decision just may be a blessing in disguise for the gay rights movement..."
He concluded: "At this juncture in America, reality-show leads are best left to the tried-and-tested bitchy straight woman, and Logo is doing the gay community a favor by taking us out of the spotlight. Sure, most people are smart enough to make the distinction that all gays aren’t like those gays on Logo, just as Italians aren’t all table-flippers like those ladies on ’The Real Housewives of New Jersey.’ But when it comes down to it, we live in a country where the vast majority of gay Americans can’t marry legally, and there’s a real threat of an anti-gay candidate becoming president. And, as unfortunate as it may be, stereotypes on TV greatly influence straight America’s perception of who we are. That’s a reality we don’t want to point and laugh at."