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Logo broadens programming

MTV-owned brand keeps Ru shows but gets less LGBT specific



Drag ‘professor’ Tyra Sanchez gives a facial on Logo’s ‘Drag U’ in episode 209 with guest star Raven-Symone. (Photo by Aaron Young, courtesy Logo)

Logo, the gay and lesbian-themed cable channel launched by MTV in 2005, has announced a new programming slate that is already causing some controversy.

A February press release said “Logo is evolving its programming focus with new series and development deals that reflect gays and lesbians’ increasing integration into mainstream culture today and their desire for shows that appeal to their multiple interests. In the six years since Logo launched, there has been a seismic shift in culture and the network’s new programming slate reflects that.”

Logo has worked with the Starcom Mediavest Group to study the programming interests of the LGBT community. “The gay community continues to evolve in size, influence and identity,” said Esther Franklin, head of SMG Americas Experience Strategy. She notes that their research allows them “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.”

Based on that research, Logo executives have concluded that while most gays and lesbians do not hide their sexuality (52 percent), most also do not prefer living and socializing in exclusively gay and lesbian communities. “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,” said Lisa Sherman, executive vice president of Logo. “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.”

The evolution of Logo programming starts with a tweaking of one of the network’s flagship shows, “RuPaul’s Drag U” which will be back for an even “draggier” third season. The show currently features RuPaul and her drag queen assistants giving “diva makeovers” to “fashion-challenged” women. Just like the popular “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” these makeovers include sequins, wigs and coaching for the lip-synch performance of a lifetime (“Lip Synch for your life!”). The new season will also include practical tips on hair, makeup and wardrobe so that the “draguates” can apply their new-found style and confidence to their everyday lives.

The evolution continues with the other shows on Logo’s development slate. “Eden Wood’s World” (already in production) will feature even more sequins and tiaras than “RuPaul’s Drag U.” At the age of 6, Eden, who was featured on TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras,” has already retired from the junior competition pageant circuit after winning more than 300 crowns. Now she will travel the country with her mother, her manager and her publicist to help other girls achieve their dreams of stardom while she pursues her own dream of becoming an actress/singer/model/entertainment superstar. Each week, Eden and her “E-Team” will “bring the sparkle” to a different pageant hopeful.

Another show already in production is “The Baby Wait.” Developed by the ream behind such hit shows as “Teen Mom” and “Pregnant at Sixteen,” the series will chronicle the process of open adoption and the real “modern family” that’s formed. The show will follow not only the adoptive parents, but also the biological mother after her child is adopted, and will include straight couples, gay and lesbian couples and single parents.

Other shows on Logo’s development slate include:

“Scandalicious,” a countdown show with flair.

“Wiseguys,” a screwball comedy about Michel Verdi and her crazy Italian family: her long-suffering husband Jay, her Mafioso father (newly released from prison), her mother and new step-father, her gay brother and her zany, boy-crazy cousin.

“Design My Dog,” where teams of dog owners and fashion designers compete for prizes for the finest in doggie couture.

“Love Lockdown,” which features an unorthodox therapist who leads a variety of couples through an intensive 24-hour therapy session.

And, “Outrageous,” a fresh look at the most intriguing and shocking stories in pop culture (like gay Republicans and Kim Kardashian’s expensive wedding and brief marriage).

Not surprisingly, LGBT critics are already looking askance at the shift in Logo’s programming. For starters, the network is belatedly following the broader trend in favor of reality shows and against scripted shows. More seriously, however, none of the new shows has an LGBT lead or are even strictly LGBT themed.

Writing in The Bilerico Project, television critic Victor Kerney expresses his confusion about the programming shift. He writes, “I can’t understand why the execs would take this route. If they wanted to reach a broader audience, they could start with a few scripted shows that showcase different aspects of our community, reality shows that go beyond gossip and sex and a serious news show … It feels like Logo is selling us out. Everything they stood for is being replaced to fit a more mainstream format. Yes, we want more diverse views of our community, but instead of giving us any positive images of LGBT people, we get ‘Design My Dog’?”

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  1. ChapStkLez

    March 8, 2012 at 11:42 am

    The vast majority of LOGO’s programming is by, for and/or about men. When I have written them they referred me to AbFab & RuPaul as their Lesbian programs. I responded that’s like the boys being satisfied with Axemen. Maybe if they diversified their programming to something beyond the G in LGBT they’d grow their audience.

    The lesbian audience is starving for good quality shows & movies. Currently the best we get is usually low budget & frequently foreign. On TV lesbians are left scratching for crumbs with the likes of Rizzoli & Isles, which has only disappointed.
    I find this extremely ignorant of the investors & was very disappointed in yet another women-centric group – Powerup seemingly selling out to the boys.

    All I can say is if TPTB in the LGBT community cannot support the entire community in an equitable manner, then they should expect like support in return. I won’t miss LOGO, they never considered me as a valuable customer anyway.

  2. Jeremy Katz

    March 9, 2012 at 12:59 am

    “I can’t understand why the execs would take this route. If they wanted to reach a broader audience, they could start with a few scripted shows that showcase different aspects of our community, reality shows that go beyond gossip and sex and a serious news show …” I remember when Logo had scripted series, a news show, a show with a masculine guy starting a bar and a sports team show. I guess if that’s what we’re crying for we should have watched it. We took it for granted or we were just bored. Gays should start supporting other gay performers. But… we keep buying Madonna & Kathy Griffin tickets and wonder why there is no gay programming. SUPPORT OUR OWN FIRST… IF THAT WOULD HAPPEN THEY WOULD KEEP MAKING GAY SHOWS… HELLO!?

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New music documentary is ‘Velvet’ perfection

A piece of pure cinema that exemplifies its genre while transcending it



The Velvet Underground (Photo courtesy of Apple TV)

When it comes to great music documentaries – the ones that stick with you after you watch and make you want to come back to them again and again – there is one ingredient that stands out as a common thread: immediacy.

From D.A. Pennebaker’s fly-on-the-wall chronicle of young Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of the UK in “Don’t Look Back,” to Martin Scorcese’s joyful document of The Band’s final concert performance in “The Last Waltz,” to Jonathan Demme’s thrilling cinematic rendering of the Talking Heads in performance at the peak of their creative genius in “Stop Making Sense,” all of these now-revered films have endured – indeed, even grown – in popularity over the years because they captured the talent, the personality, and the power of their subjects on celluloid and preserved it for the ages, allowing generations of audiences, fans and soon-to-be-fans alike, to feel as if they were there.

But none, perhaps, have ever done it quite so viscerally as Todd Haynes’ “The Velvet Underground.” This is a remarkable feat when you consider that the films listed above, as well as most of the other highly regarded “rockumentaries” of the past, were all concert films, showing the performers at their center in the full bloom of their musical gifts, and Haynes’ film is not that. It’s something else, something singular, a piece of pure cinema that exemplifies its genre while transcending it entirely.

The basic outline of the band’s story is well known, now. Coalesced in the early ‘60s New York art scene around a pair of charismatic geniuses (John Cale and Lou Reed), the Velvet Underground was swept into the orbit and under the wing of Andy Warhol, who turned them into the house band at his famous “Factory,” added to their mix an exotic European chanteuse named Nico, and launched their record career by producing their first album – and designing an instantly iconic cover for it featuring a banana, to boot. They were, for a while, the darlings of the New York underground set, birthing a handful of additional albums across the latter years of the decade; but their sound, which was experimental, rough, and a far cry from the flower-power sound being embraced within the status quo of Middle American music fans, did not catch on. That, combined with the volatility of the relationships at its core, ensured an ignoble and unsung dissolution for the band; though its two front men went on to forge expansive solo careers on their own, the Velvets themselves remained a kind of blip, an ephemeral presence in the history of rock – and the history of New York – remembered by anyone who wasn’t actually on the scene as nothing more than a buzzy band they never actually heard with a catchy name and a familiar album cover.

As one of the voice-over interviewees in Haynes’ movie points out, however, the counterculture wasn’t actually the counterculture – it was the culture. The rest of the world just didn’t know it yet. Decades later the Velvet Underground is credited with, among other things, providing early inspiration for what would become the punk rock movement, to say nothing of influencing the aesthetic palate of (surely without exaggeration) thousands of musicians who would go on to make great music themselves – often sounding nothing like the Velvets, but somehow cut from the same raw, edgy, white-hot honest cloth, nonetheless. Yet in their moment, they were doomed before they had even begun to become a sideshow attraction, hurling performative realness in the face of a curious-but-disinterested glitterati crowd that was already embodying the superficial fakeness that would be so aptly monikered, both as an ethos and a watchword, as “Plastics” by Buck Henry and Mike Nichols in “The Graduate” barely a year after their first album was pressed.

Frankly, it’s the kind of story that makes for a perfect rock ‘n roll legend, and the kind of legend that deserves to be explored in a film that befits its almost mythic, archetypal underpinnings. There’s nobody more qualified to deliver that film than Todd Haynes.

Haynes, of course, is a pioneer of the ‘90s “New Queer Cinema,” whose body of work has maintained a consistent yet multi-faceted focus on key themes that include outsider-ism, dysfunctional socialization, and the fluid nature of sexuality and gender. Each and any of these interests would be enough to make him a perfect fit as the person to tell the story of the Velvet Underground, but what gives him the ability to make it a masterpiece is his ongoing fascination with music and nostalgia. Beginning with his controversial debut short “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story,” the musical landscape of his formative years has been inseparable from his milieu, and films such as his glam-rock fantasia “Velvet Goldmine” or his post-modernist Dylan biopic “I’m Not There” have dotted his career like cornerstones. Likewise, his painstaking recreation of the past in period pieces like “Far From Heaven,” “Carol,” or “Wonderstruck” has proven his ability not just to capture the look and feel of a bygone era, but to transport audiences right back into it.

In “The Velvet Underground,” it’s more like he transports the era to the audience. His comprehensive chronicle is not just the story of the band or its members, but the story of the time and place that allowed them to exist, in which a generation waking up from the toxic artificiality of their parents’ “American Dream” took creative control of the future through an unprecedented explosion of art and culture. Art was a by-any-means-necessary endeavor that now demanded a fluency across various forms of media, and a blending together of any and every thing that worked to get the message across. And yes, sometimes the media itself was the message, but even within that depressingly superficial reality was room for an infinite layering of style and substance that could take your breath away.

That description of the era in which the Velvet Underground thrived, in which Andy Warhol turned the shallow into the profound (whether he knew it or not), in which music and film and photography and poetry and painting and every other form of expression blended together in a heady and world-changing whirlwind, is also the perfect description of Haynes’ film. Yes, there are famous veterans of the age sharing their memories and their insights, yes there is copious archival footage (including the godsend of Warhol’s filmed portraits of the legendary faces in his orbit), yes we get to hear about Lou Reed’s struggle with his sexual identity – and it’s refreshing that Haynes makes no effort to categorize or finalize that aspect of the rock legend’s persona, but merely lets it be a fact. But even though “The Velvet Underground” checks off all the boxes to be a documentary, it’s something much more. Thanks to Haynes’ seamless blend of visuals, words, history, and – always and above all – music, it’s a total sensory experience, which deserves to be seen in a theater whether you subscribe to Apple TV or not. It puts you right in the middle of a world that still casts a huge shadow on our culture today.

And it’s unforgettable.

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PHOTOS: Best Of LGBTQ DC party

Blade’s 20th annual awards celebrated at Hook Hall



Cake performs at the Best of LGBTQ D.C. Awards Party on Oct. 21. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade presented the 20th annual Best of LGBTQ D.C. Awards at a party at Hook Hall on Thursday, Oct. 21. To view this year’s winners, click here.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Arts & Entertainment

First Trans Amazon introduced by DC Comics In ‘Wonder Woman’

DC Comics-Warner Brothers became more LGBTQ+ inclusive with the introduction of the character of Bia, a Black trans woman



Courtesy of DC Comics-Warner Brothers

BURBANK – The world of DC Comics-Warner Brothers became more LGBTQ+ inclusive this weekend as the venerable comic book franchise of Wonder Woman expanded with the introduction of the character of Bia, a Black trans woman, in the first issue of the series Nubia & The Amazons.

Earlier this month on National Coming Out Day, the canon of the Superman series changed for the life of Jon Kent, the Superman of Earth and son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, taking a bold new direction. After initially striking up a friendship with reporter Jay Nakamura, he and Jon become romantically involved, making Kent an Out bisexual character.

In this latest offering, Stephanie Williams and Vita Ayala, writers and creators confirmed that Bia is a Black Trans woman. They stressed that she “isn’t a box to tick … [she] is important to her community. Just as Black trans women are important to us in real life.” 

Of special significance to the introduction of the character in the DC Comic worlds was the endorsement of actress Lynda Carter who played the title role of Wonder Woman on television based on the comic book superheroine, which aired on ABC and later on CBS from 1975 to 1979. Earlier in the week Carter tweeted her support of Trans women;

Writing for the DC Comics-Warner Brothers website blog, co-creator Stephanie Williams said;

It’s been a dream to work with the likes of Vita Ayala, a non-binary Afro-Latinx comic writer who has been making quite a name for themselves. And then there is the illustrious and widely talented and dedicated Afro-Latina artist Alitha Martinez who is already in the comic hall of fame for all-time greats. Her passion for Nubia is unmatched. It shows in every cover and panel from Nubia’s Future State story written by L.L. McKinney, her Infinite Frontier #0 story written by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, and now the Nubia and the Amazons miniseries written by myself and Vita Ayala.”

Courtesy of DC Comics-Warner Brothers

I’m so excited about the history we’re creating, adding to, and remixing. The foundation has always been there, but needed some TLC. As Nubia embarks on this new journey as Queen of Themyscira, I hope her rebirth will be met with open arms and the desire to keep her always at the forefront. Nubia, now being queen, is poetic in so many ways, but one that stays on my mind is the very personal connection I feel. As I help to add to her legacy, she’s opened the door wider to my own,” Williams said adding:

Long may Queen Nubia reign, forever and always.”

Nubia and the Amazons #1 by Stephanie Williams, Vita Ayala and Alitha Martinez is now available in print and as a digital comic book.

Along with co-writing Nubia and the Amazons, Stephanie Williams writes about comics, TV and movies for Check out more of her work on Den of Geek, What To Watch, Nerdist and SYFY Wire and be sure to follow her on both Twitter and Instagram at @steph_I_will.

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