Here TV launches its first original comedy

Gay television network Here TV will premiere its first-ever original sitcom, “From Here on OUT,” March 28.

Written and created by actor Terry Ray, the new comedy goes behind the scenes at the LGBT premium-cable network following the adventures of aging gay writer Jimmy Randall as he tries to get his dream project made into a television series. After years of struggling, he finally sells his show, “Guy Dubai: International Gay Spy,” to an 18-year-old president of Here TV.

Ask any gay writer and performer on or off television and he’ll tell you that, these days, networks that cater to LGBT viewers would much rather air reruns of popular network sitcoms instead of producing original, scripted comedic content. But Ray, who has had success in independent films, said Here TV is taking steps to remedy that.

“They’ve never done anything scripted that is a comedy before,” Ray said about Here. “I have been an actor and a writer for years — an actor forever but a writer more recently. I did a film called ‘Gaydar,’ which is a comedy that did really well in gay and straight film festivals. David Millburn is my producer and he is a friend of mine. He saw ‘Gaydar’ and started reading other things that I wrote. He always liked my work and I was hopeful because he worked at Here TV and I was hoping to get something there, but they were never interested in doing a comedy. And then finally they were like, ‘Let’s do a comedy.’ They let me do something where I could spoof the network, which I thought was brave of them, to let me just go crazy and create something that spoofed the entire world of creating gay shows.”

Ray praises Here TV for allowing him to poke fun at the inner workings and the politics that go on at gay-themed TV networks.

“It’s a spoof of what it’s like at a little tiny struggling gay network,” he said. “When they did do original material, they did these super, uber-sexy things and it’s a spoof what it would be like and what it is like to make those kind of shows. We’re poking fun at every aspect of it, which is really especially exciting to me to make fun of myself and to make fun of everybody. They were so game about that. Every time I’d turn in a script I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, did I go too far? Did I push the envelope?’ and they were like, ’It’s funny, it’s great!’ I think they were brave to let me do it.”

Ray doesn’t spare himself from satire in the show, as he said the struggles of Jimmy Randall closely mirror his own experiences as a writer and an actor.

“I am a struggling writer and trying to get work done,” he said. “In the very first scene, my character is on a couch trying to get a job. That is the couch I sat on when I got the job. The room we auditioned the actors in for my fictional show is the room we auditioned the actors in. We are making fun of my age and trying to get a break at this point in my life and how many years I have struggled. Here TV wants to have nudity in the show and I would prefer not to, personally. I would prefer to focus on the story. But my job was to make the nudity funny. My character, I put the same thing in there. I put the network asking my character to have the nudity and my character struggling with how to do it. It was a situation that I was put in and I tried to put it back in the show, which I thought was fun.”

Adding to the hilarity of the series is the fact that Jimmy must hire an openly gay leading man or the series will not go forward. He casts the sexy, talented Sam Decker, who is secretly straight. To keep their show on the air, Sam has to live publicly as a gay man and the two have to convince the network that they have become a couple.

Ray said it’s a funny twist to create a character who is the opposite of what he sees in other actors today.

“I don’t know anybody like that,” Ray said about the character of Sam. “He’s fictional for me. But his struggle as an actor doing what he needs to do to get the job, I can relate to in my world. That struggle is something that I wrote because I can speak to that. That was the twist for me. I wanted to make that the opposite of what people would expect. In this world, I’m surrounded by actors who are gay who are trying not to be gay. I’ve been to auditions for gay roles and everybody went out of their way to make it known that they weren’t gay but they were willing to play gay. Really? Do you have this speech before you go in for a murderer or rapist to make everybody know that you are not really a murderer or a rapist? I just kind of spoof those situations.”

Ray said that with six episodes already filmed and another six written, he hopes the new comedy will catch on with audiences both gay and straight.

“I think we’re going to have 12 episodes and hopefully the audience will be there to justify making more,” he said. “What’s exciting also about this show is — and I think what appealed to Here TV — when I did ‘Gaydar,’ it was a gay-themed comedy, but it was very well-received by the straight community and played in over 100 film festivals, mostly straight. I think it was appealing to the network to have gay content that other people can enjoy. If you are gay-friendly — not to take away from the fact that this material is for gay people — comedy is comedy. So I’m hoping that it will be a nice way for them to expand their audience to people who wouldn’t normally watch the network. Not to dumb-down the fact that it’s a gay network and we’re making gay content, but just to me it’s appealing that other people would want to watch too.”

Whether or not the series becomes a hit, Ray said “From Here on OUT” has opened doors for him and the network.

“It’s already motivated Here TV,” he said. “They’ve got new stuff coming based on the fact that they’ve really enjoy this process. It has reinvigorated their desire to create material. I think it was a shot of adrenaline into that.

“I’m writing a lot of TV movies right now,” he added. “I have been hired to write two TV movies at the moment and another movie as well for a different company. So I’m writing three movies at the same time.”

“From Here on OUT” premiers March 28 on Here TV. For more information, visit www.heretv.com.