Hard to please

Has the ABC shunted a new show be­cause of its gay con­tent? Colin Vick­ery and Dar­ren Dev­lyn report

Herald Sun - Switched On - - New Series -

IS Please Like Me too gay? That is what Josh Thomas is ask­ing as he pre­pares for the de­but of his new TV com­edy. Please Like Me was orig­i­nally set to screen on ABC1 last year but has been shunted into dig­i­tal chan­nel ABC2.

Thomas plays twen­tysome­thing Josh who lives with best mate Thomas (Thomas Ward) and, at first, is in a steady re­la­tion­ship with girl­friend Claire (Caitlin Stasey).

Claire splits with Josh, telling him that he is ob­vi­ously gay. His de­spair is short-lived when young hunk Ge­of­frey (Wade Briggs) en­ters the scene.

Ge­of­frey wants to get phys­i­cal with Josh. Cue lots of manon-man kiss­ing, bed scenes, and jokes about sex.

Later, Josh is forced to move back into the fam­ily home af­ter his di­vorced mum Rose (De­bra Lawrence) over­doses.

Please Like Me has a sweet­ness that sets it apart from other boundary-push­ing come­dies such as Chris Lil­ley’s An­gry Boys and Sum­mer Heights High – which hap­pily found a home on ABC1.

The ABC in­sists the gay con­tent isn’t the rea­son Please Like Me was shunted to ABC2, where it is sure to at­tract a smaller au­di­ence.

‘‘ The tone of Please Like Me and the is­sues dis­cussed are prin­ci­pally aimed at an au­di­ence in their early 20s,’’ an ABC spokesper­son says.

‘‘ Since ABC1 is largely a chan­nel of mass ap­peal that tends to at­tract an au­di­ence with an av­er­age age the other side of 35, we de­cided the best home for Please Like Me was ABC2.’’ Thomas isn’t con­vinced. ‘‘ They told me it (the switch to ABC2) was a com­pli­ment. I don’t be­lieve them,’’ Thomas says. ‘‘ I don’t know if what they were really say­ing was, ‘ Josh the show is a bit s---’ or, ‘ Josh the show has too much sui­cide and gay sex in it’.

‘‘ Peo­ple have sug­gested to me that (too gay) is why they did it (put it on ABC2). I would be shocked if that’s why – but I also wouldn’t be.’’

If Thomas is right, this wouldn’t be the first time net­works have be­come squea­mish about gay con­tent.

In 2009, Aussie Melissa Ge­orge played bi­sex­ual in­tern Dr Sadie Har­ris on Grey’s Anatomy.

There was spec­u­la­tion her char­ac­ter would have a full­blown screen ro­mance with Cal­lie Tor­res (Sara Ramirez). The show’s cre­ator, Shonda Rhimes, changed tack af­ter Ge­orge started film­ing. Ge­orge ini­tially signed for be­tween eight and 11 episodes, but fin­ished early.

Her exit fol­lowed that of Brooke Smith, who played les­bian Dr Erica Hahn in the med­i­cal drama. Smith was dropped af­ter her char­ac­ter con­sum­mated her re­la­tion­ship with Cal­lie.

Gay lobby group, the Gay & Les­bian Al­liance Against Defama­tion, ex­pressed its con­cern about the short-lived na­ture of the Cal­lie-Erica sto­ry­line, which ini­tially had been hailed as a break­through for main­stream Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion.

That same year, Chan­nel 7 cen­sored a les­bian kiss be­tween po­lice­woman Char­lie Buck­ton (Es­ther An­der­son) and deck­hand Joey Collins (Katie Bell) in Home and Away.

Seven’s de­ci­sion came af­ter com­plaints about the les­bian sto­ry­line from con­ser­va­tive lobby groups. ‘‘ The plot lines that young kids and teen

agers should be pre­sented with should be about really au­then­tic re­la­tion­ships that are not just sex­u­alised,’’ Pro-Fam­ily Per­spec­tives di­rec­tor An­gela Con­way said.

An­der­son had said she had no prob­lem with the scene.

‘‘ I don’t think it’s like I’m lift­ing the lid on some­thing they don’t al­ready know about,’’ An­der­son said. ‘‘ To me, there’s no dif­fer­ence – love’s love.’’

US pro­duc­ers have used the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing les­bian kiss­ing scenes to boost rat­ings in TV shows. First there was Amanda Dono­hoe and Michele Green in LA Law, then Jen­nifer Anis­ton’s Rachel kiss­ing Wi­nona Ry­der’s Melissa on Friends and Mis­cha Barton go­ing girlon-girl in The O.C.

In the late ’ 70s, Billy Crys­tal played gay son Jodie Dal­las on Soap, but he later ad­mit­ted to early mis­giv­ings about tak­ing the role.

In 1997, co­me­dian Ellen DeGeneres went pub­lic with her ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity on The Oprah Win­frey Show.

There was an early back­lash but DeGeneres is now one of the most suc­cess­ful and ad­mired women on Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion.

Num­ber 96’s gay lawyer Don Fin­layson (Joe Hasham) was a ground­break­ing char­ac­ter on Aus­tralian TV. Water Rats fea­tured an­other no­table gay char­ac­ter, Sgt He­len Blake­more (Toni Scan­lan).

Neigh­bours in­tro­duced gay char­ac­ter Chris Pap­pas (James Ma­son) in 2011. To its credit, the Ten soapie didn’t use Chris’s sex­u­al­ity to shock.

This was no cyn­i­cal rat­ings grab. In­stead, the soapie dug deeper to show that Chris’s sex­u­al­ity was only one as­pect of his per­son­al­ity.

‘‘ The good thing about Chris is that he is an or­di­nary per­son who is a me­chanic and hap­pens to be gay,’’ Ma­son has said. Please Like Me, ABC2, Thurs­day, 9.30pm

Con­tro­versy: Josh Thomas (right); Melissa Ge­orge; and the Home And Away les­bian scene (above).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.