Wonder Woman to launch France's 1st gay TV station

Marc Burleigh | September 30, 2004

Lynda Carter as Woner Woman
PARIS — France's first gay TV station, which from next month will offer its viewers a heavy diet of English-language comedy and homosexual porn, has lassoed in a pop culture icon as its media mascot: Wonder Woman.

The scantily clad superhero – in the form of Lynda Carter, star of the 1970s US television series – will be seen every day of the week on the channel, Pink TV, when it begins broadcasting on cable and satellite October 25, executives told a press conference here Tuesday.

Her lithe figure, tucked into the customary skin-tight stars-and-stripes costume, will be the figurehead of a wide-ranging programming mix of gay erotica, documentaries, interview shows and imported series that the fledgling station hopes will attract its niche "gay and gay-friendly" audience.

More widely, however, the management of Pink TV (slogan: "Liberty is worth watching") figure their time has come in a country where homosexuality has hit the mainstream.

In recent months, newspapers have given extensive coverage to the first legally gay family, headed by two lesbians, an ongoing debate over gay marriage sparked by a June wedding of two men, and a government-sponsored bill to toughen punishment for homophobic crimes.

Add to that the influence of Paris's first openly homosexual mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, on cultural events in the capital, and the annual welcome given to a lively Gay Pride parade, and it's no surprise the station feels the time is ripe to bring gender-bending broadcasting out of the closet.

"There is a real viewer base today for Pink TV," the channel's president, Pascal Houzelot, said, adding that it planned on becoming "a real laboratory of cultural diversity". As one of its presenters, Eric Gueho, put it in a recorded message played at the press conference: "This is a big step for TV – and a little step in platform shoes." Perhaps the most eye-catching news confirmed at the conference was that gay porn movies would be a staple on the channel after midnight on weekends.

That X-rated recipe proved an early success for France's first cable channel, Canal Plus, which has gone on to be one of Europe's biggest pay-TV operators – and which is one of the major investors in the new station.

Pink TV will also offer a slew of shows imported from Britain and the United States, where gay programming has become firmly established in the past few years.

Thus viewers in France hungry for such fare as Metrosexuality, Queer as Folk and French and Saunders – all in English with French subtitles – will find their fill on the channel.

Another notable feature will be Pink's sports coverage – presented by a 45-year-old transvestite, "Brigitte Boreale", who has an evident passion for field exploits practised by men in tight shorts.

Gay opera and ballet and documentaries will also be screened, as will interview shows, notably one hosted by one of France's leading news presenters, Claire Chazal, who is moonlighting from the top-rating commercial network TF1, which is also associated with the channel.

TF1 is not leaving the sudden "vague rose" entirely to the upstart, however.

One hit US programme that banks on gay aestheticism, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", involving homosexual style mavens giving heterosexual slobs a cosmetic and clothing makeover, started its French version on TF1 last week.

Given the copycat culture reigning in reality TV programming, other channels, notably the commercial competitor M6 (also a Pink participant) are also likely to follow suit with gay-style offerings if "Queer" proves successful.

For all the attention the media trend has generated – including the newspaper Le Monde asking "Are we seeing a gay wave in television?" – it remains to be seen whether the distinctly urban edge to the fare will win many viewers outside the French capital, in a country noted for its general conservatism.

For city TV-watchers, however, the new programming will offer a bridge to many English-language shows previously unseen here – and will restore some contemporary punch to the term "Gay Paree". – Sapa-AFP

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Viacom revives gay-themed television project [30/03/2004]



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