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Queer Eye on a Straight World

Sun 13 Feb 2005 In: Television View at NDHA

In a year which promises to see GLBT issues made into a political football once more, courtesy of the religious right, pending laws to recognise our relationships and sexualities legally, and a general election, the GLBT communities need all the help they can get media-wise in presenting our issues from our perspective, rather than filtered through the prejudiced (however unintentionally) lens of the mainstream. When it comes to television, TVNZ have been accused of being slow off the mark in commissioning replacements for the long-running Queer Nation, which was dumped last year after its eleventh season. But there are to be two new GLBT television shows this year. NZ On Air funding has been confirmed for one proposal from Bettina Hollings' Imagination TV, and a second from Cream TV. Hollings expects her programme will be ready around June, and won't divulge information about it until closer to the time. However, Derek Stuart of Cream TV is happy to give us the heads-up on their programme, Kiwifruit (not Kiwi Fruits as has been previously reported), on the eve of their search for a female presenter for the show. “The motto of the show is 'queer eye on a straight world', and that's essentially our approach,” he says. “So as well as covering things that have previously been covered on gay television, we want to look at things that may have been considered predominantly straight issues, or straight things are viewed through a gay perspective.” So it's not a show particularly focussed on gay and lesbian issues? “No, it does take into account gay and lesbian issues, but essentially the world is predominantly straight,” Stuart says. "So we would like to look at things and say; this is how life exists in a staight world, how does that affect a gay person? What's a gay person's take on it?" We asked Stuart to elaborate a little on this idea. “Well, for instance, a television review: rather than just looking at gay programmes with gay content and reviewing them, we might look at the news and ask, what does that offer me as a gay person? We'll look at things that haven't actually gone and targeted gay people as an audience, analyse them and see what is in there for a gay audience." “Or perhaps go to a Warriors game," he continues, "and sort of say, OK, as a gay person, how entertaining is this situation? What's the food like? Are the players' legs any good? How do they look in their uniforms? And you can take this through into things that are quite trivial to things that are quite serious issues.” Will there be room for news and politics on Kiwifruit? “Well, absolutely. The thing is, on this show – anything goes. It's very easy to cover something that is a [specifically] gay issue. But there are other issues out there that might impact on the gay community in ways that we hadn't imagined. We want to examine any sort of occurrance in a national and international perspective and see how that affects this community, or how this community views it.” Transgender issues? “Sure,” he laughs. “Look, it's an open palette. We haven't started researching this show, but essentially, we want to broaden the focus. We're hoping to encompass everybody. We want to broaden the net rather than narrow it. The simple answer is yes, but we haven't researched stories yet, so I can't give a firm answer. We'd like to work together with gay media in sourcing stories.” When it comes to tone, Stuart is keen for a balance – not too heavy, not too light. “We want to tackle serious issues as well, but we dont want the whole thing to be political and serious. We want a mixture of light and shade basically. We will tackle serious issues, but at the same time we'll do things that might be more humourous and enteratinment-based. But we want a mixture of both. Not just one or the other.” There are to be ten episodes of Kiwifruit, but before any shows can go in the can, Cream TV needs presenters. One female and two male presenters appeared in the test pilot, which TVNZ put before a focus group late last year, along with a test pilot of Hollings' show, and a recent episode of Queer Nation. As a result of feedback from that focus group, Cream have decided to replace their female presenter. “No-one was bad or wrong,” Stuart stresses. “We just had two really strong male presenters, but they were looking for a woman who was equally as strong.” Stuart hopes that Kiwifruit will enjoy a slightly earlier timeslot than its predecessor. Queer Nation's 11pm timeslot was by far the number-one complaint about the show over its nine-year run. He'd like to see Kiwifruit go out closer to 10pm, but he acknowledges that those sort of decisions are out of his hands. "TVNZ tends to make those decisions once they start seeing finished programmes, and where they think it will fit. It depends on their line-up and the content of the programme." Queer Nation went off the air for a final time in November last year, and earlier reports had suggested that a replacement would be on-air by April. That now seems unrealistic as neither Cream nor Imagination think they'll have product ready before the middle of the year. Even with ten episodes each of two new shows for viewers to look forward to, 2005 is a major step down in terms of visibility for local GLBT television, by and for GLBT people on our screens. Since 1999, Queer Nation had been running for forty weeks a year. With the fledgling shows having a quarter of Queer Nation's episodes, the pressure will be on to establish their brands and find their audience in a much shorter space of time. The support of the community will be needed to ensure their success, as it appears TVNZ's commitment to ongoing, consistent GLBT programming is much less than it is for other minorities. Chris Banks - 13th February 2005    

Credit: Chris Banks

First published: Sunday, 13th February 2005 - 12:00pm

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