And, all the while, Graden sorted through piles of pitches of exactly the type you’d expect a gay channel to receive—Queer Eye clones, hunk-meets-hunk dating shows, and tried-and-true-formats-with-a-twist. (It’s Big Brother . . . with gays!) He’s too polite, or perhaps too politic, to describe precisely what was pitched and ditched, but it’s clear that Jack would never be made a VP at the real-life Logo. “A lot of them were just taking generic television and dropping in gays,” he says, “as opposed to saying, ‘Let’s start with what our life experience is, and let the shows suggest themselves from there.’”
So after passing on a number of reality shows about club life, for example, Graden came upon one that caught his eye: Open Bar, a show about a recently closeted man who’s opening a gay nightclub. “This one appealed to me because it’s really the story of one person’s coming out,” he says. “The fun, interesting backdrop of a gay bar suddenly has more dimension to it.” Another original drama, Noah’s Arc, about a group of young, gay, black friends in L.A., came from a Website featuring rough-hewn, shot-on-the-cheap footage. But when Graden watched the show, he saw something more. “It was a homemade pilot shot with too little money,” he says. “It didn’t really have a story. There was nothing slick about it. But there was one guy who, when he smiled, you liked him. I wanted to put my arms around Noah and take care of him. That’s it.”
Less than two weeks before Logo’s official launch, all that exists for public consumption is a four-minute promo, concocted for potential advertisers at the “up-front” presentation held at Madison Square Garden in May. Before screening the promo, Graden shows me a few MTV shows he’s particularly proud of. (“Pretty groovy,” he says of one.) Then he pops in the Logo tape.
When he talks about TV, he often does so without emotion, as though conducting a seminar. But when he’s actually watching TV, he folds one leg up under the other, leaning forward over a backward chair with a gleeful grin on his face. As he watches his Logo tape, it’s easy to see in him the midwestern kid who grew up soaking in The Partridge Family, Gilligan’s Island, and anything else beamed to him from the great big outside world.
The promo is little more than a flashy rundown of the schedule packaged with slick graphics and pounding music. But it’s obvious the shows cover an impressive spectrum: There’s Tickled Pink, an I Love the ’80s–style look at gay pop-cult icons; Farm Family, a documentary about a middle-aged male couple on a midwestern farm; and Curl Girls, a “reality soap” about a half-dozen attractive lesbian surfers. If anything, the shows seem inclusive to a fault, linked by a warm, celebratory tone rather than the smarty-pants irony you might expect.
But this welcoming inclusivity is, to Graden, the defining feature of Logo, both as a political mandate and a necessary strategy. “People always ask, ‘What’s your demographic?’ ” he says. “They assume it’s a 36-year-old white guy in West Hollywood. Well, maybe in the future there will be nine different channels targeting this audience, each with specific sensibilities. But for now, this is it. This is what there is.” And suddenly his talk of “diversity” seems less hokey and more like Realpolitik—the only way to approach a channel that so many people have been waiting for, for so long, and each will want to claim as their own.