Cablers step up to plate with original gay p’gramming

Here! aims to ensure gay characters on channel are realistic

Here! is now, at least in terms of a steady pipeline of gay original TV programming.

The pay service, which is now in 58 million homes, has seen steady growth since its launch in 2002. Many original programs are returning for another season, including:

  • Talkshow “Birch & Co.,” featuring political activist Elizabeth Birch;

  • “John Waters Presents Movies That Will Corrupt You,” with wraparounds from the Baltimore-based helmer;

  • “Dante’s Cove,” the gay gothic horror series; and

  • telepics including Mariel Hemingway starrer “In Her Line of Fire,” about a Secret Service agent protecting the vice president.

Founder and CEO Paul Colichman says the mission of Here! is to ensure that the gay characters seen throughout the channel are realistic, not a glossed-over or patronized version often depicted in broadcast television.

“Our battle every day is to make sure we are showing an authentic look at the lives of our viewers,” Colichman says. “What’s shocking to me is what a soap opera can show at 2 in the afternoon but that’s considered beyond the pale (for the broadcast networks’ standards) for gay programming.

“We are the gay HBO. We set our sights very high.”

Like many networks looking to strengthen their brand and reach consumers via digital platforms, Here! is broadcasting on cell phones and through Google video. If there are extra costs incurred, no problem. Colichman says ponying up isn’t a deterrent for the net’s high-earning demo.

“Our content is well-suited to that,” Colichman explains of delivering programming through nontraditional means. “Plus, people want to receive it (at their convenience).”

Meanwhile, MTV spinoff network Logo, found in just over 20 million homes domestically and with an international presence as well, will host this year’s GLAAD Media Awards and is hoping to use the kudocast as a way of permanently drawing auds.

On the original programming schedule, second-season renewals of “Round Trip Ticket” and “Noah’s Arc” will be surrounded by the premieres of reality skeins “Can’t Get a Date,” “U.S. of Ant” and “Coming Out Stories.” Doc “Elephant in the Room” examines the struggles of gays and lesbians within the Republican Party.

Logo has also just greenlit a new comedy series exec produced by Rosie O’Donnell. Set to premiere later this year, tentatively titled “Simply Sketch” will use a variety-show format — musical numbers, parodies and satire.