In 1999 writer Russell T Davis (now known for Doctor Who and Torchwood) engaged, shocked and transformed the nation with Queer as Folk. Later to be remade for the American audience, it was first shown in theUKon Channel 4. Queer as Folk was met by high praise and stark controversy in the British press – but with millions tuning in to see the show; Queer as Folk became a triumph of broadcasting and a great step forward for more queer characters.
In the US the previous year, NBC had started the first series of soon-to-be hit comedy Will and Grace; a high camp and hilarious show about a gay guy living with his (usually) single best girl friend.
The wheels had been set in motion by the late 90s for networks and TV stations to say yay to gay and provide the viewing populous an insight into a world that before had only ever been about death and despair. As the years went on, more pro-gay programming and countless gay characters in films, soap operas and documentaries were brought into people’s home all across the US and Europe. Even the once stuffy BBC have had many gay characters on prime time television but have never broadcast a show that was solely about homo life… until now!
To fill the void of the soon to finish Friday night show, My Family – the BBC are bringing together My Family’s Robert Lindsay and Harry Potter’s Uncle Vernon – AKA Richard Griffiths – as a quirky gay couple in a brand new sitcom announced this week. “It’s slightly less than conventional in terms of the family set up but it’s the 21 century and things move one” said one BBC insider.
The new show will start filming in autumn with the working title: George and Bernard Shaw. So far the BBC are only committing themselves to a pilot, but if this works there’s no reason the show couldn’t run for eleven years just like it’s predecessor My Family.
I’m trying to reserve judgement until I’ve seen the show, but I am unsure whether moving the main character from one primetime programme (where he plays a straight father and devoted husband) to being shacked up with another man in the same timeslot on the same channel is the right thing to do. You would think that the core viewing audience is going to be the same and how differently can Robert’s character really be at that time? Perhaps his character is leaving the onscreen marriage to Zoe Wannamaker, coming out as being a gay man to live with a guy… but I can’t see that happening. Who know though – many more extraordinary things have happened on TV shows; Dallas – it was all a dream, Cheers – the doctor is going to get his own more popular show and let’s not even get started on Twin Peaks?
It is great though that the BBC is bringing a gay sitcom to their primetime audience and I am looking forward to seeing George and Bernard Shaw when it airs next year. Both actors are well known, talented and naturally funny so I have no doubt that they will make a storming piece of entertaining television. Now it’s down to the writing and the audience figures to see if this is sustainable.