Promotional portrait of the cast of American television sit-com, 'Family Ties,' 1980s. Standing, American actors Meredith Baxter Birney and Michael Gross; sitting, left to right, American actress Justine Bateman, Canadian-born actor Michael J. Fox, and American actress Tina Yothers. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Getty Images)
The folks at A&E have made reality shows that deal tastefully with highly personal subjects such as addiction, hoarding and obsessive compulsive disorder. And they’re gonna need all the good taste they muster for their next project: a docudrama series featuring people coming out of the closet. Nikki Finke at Deadline reports:
I hear Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman who's known as the “Coming Out Guru” is developing with JUMA Entertainment an A&E project with the working title, natch, Coming Out. The concept will feature multiple public figures coming out of the closet. Casting is still in process. Bragman has been working with celebrities coming out of the closet for two decades and recently orchestrated exposure for Meredith Baxter and country singer Chely Wright.
The biggest stumbling block of this program is that A&E plans to focus on so-called “public figures.” That might make it more compelling on the surface, but I think the viewing audience is largely uninterested in celebs coming out now. If anything, it will smack of a publicity grab. Whereas if they featured real people who were coming out (and weren’t doing so as career move), it would be far more affecting.
There’s precedent for people coming out on television. MTV has done two True Life episodes on the subject, both of which were extremely well done and provided a positive message. There’s a way to treat this subject without being crass or exploitative. The fact that this show is on A&E and not VH1 is certainly a help. But if the channel is serious about making a gripping show about a struggle millions of closeted gay Americans have to deal with on a daily basis, they’d best avoid the Meredith Baxters of the world.