A&E plans a celebrity 'Coming Out' show: You interested?

bragman-baxterImage Credit: Todd Williamson/WireImageLook, it’s 2010, and we’re living in a post-gay world. Neil Patrick Harris is Emmy nominated again this year for playing straight horndog Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. Openly bisexual Anna Paquin could heat up the screen opposite a brick wall on True Blood. Chicks and dudes alike scream with randy delight as Adam Lambert swivels his hips on his current Glam Nation tour. So when it comes to our entertainers, it really shouldn’t matter who’s gay, who’s in the closet, or who’s taken a vow of fameosexuality.

Yet, if it’s really that simple, how come I’m so intrigued by today’s news that A&E has greenlit Coming Out, a one-time reality special from Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman that will focus on famous folks living up to the show’s title and, yep, coming out of the closet? (Bragman, who served as a spokesperson for Chaz Bono and Meredith Baxter when they made public their sexual orientations, told PRNewser that he’s currently in casting mode, with an eye on a late 2010 airdate.)

To me, this show sounds like must-see TV, and here’s why: First and foremost, there’s inherent drama in the coming-out routine. (And having gone through the process myself almost two decades ago, I speak from experience.) Imagine keeping a secret — any secret — from everyone in your life, for the duration of your life, only in the case of Bragman’s proposed show, “everyone in your life” gets multiplied and intensified into hundreds of thousands of fans. Now imagine the pressure you’d feel if you were on the brink of detonating that secret. How would you reveal the truth? When would be the perfect moment? (Spoiler alert: There never really is one.) How would your loved ones react? What could you do to avoid being completely defined by this one heretofore unknown aspect of your personality? Yeah, as Seinfeld professed, “not that there’s anything wrong with it.” And yet we still live in a world where people lose their jobs for being openly gay or lesbian. (Just ask Dan Choi.) And we still live in a society where, with millions of investment dollars on the line, studio chiefs and label execs might find themselves less willing to gamble on the unknown quantity of a gay star than a straight one. On one hand, it’s just business. On the other, it’s the choice by a celebrity whether or not to keep living a public lie.

It’ll be interesting to see how Coming Out plays out. Will the show air live, with celebrities A, B, C, and D — and I think all of us have potential candidates in mind, whether or not we’re willing to admit it — wait backstage, and one-by-one pop out from behind the curtain with a “Yep, I’m gay, too!”? Or will it be a more behind-the-scenes look, with the cameras rolling while a particular celeb grapples with the decision, plans his or her P.R. strategy, perhaps breaks the news to mom and dad before popping up on the cover of a celebrity magazine? Those details remain to be seen, but whatever the case, you can bet my DVR will be set to record whenever  the show busts open the closet door. How about you?

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  • Em

    I hope it’s well thought-out. I look forward to it with equal parts excitement and trepidation…

  • cam3150

    This sounds like the most ridiculous show I’ve ever heard of. I can’t believe this is something that is even in the idea statges. No, I will not be watching.

    • MultiPass

      maybe after you come out, sweetie

  • Bug

    So I’m confused. Will the people coming out be celebrities? Or just normal people at one particular moment in their lives, a la Intervention?

    • Liz

      I would be interested in either version.

      • Karate Pants

        I might interested in either version too. The article describes this as being specifically geared toward celebrities though.

    • D

      Most probably D-list celebrities.

      I would actually tune in if it were people like Zachary Quinto, Anderson Cooper…

      • OR

        JAKE GYLENHAAL please.

  • Justin C.

    I think the idea is quite interesting because there is a very common psychological phenomenon when people first come out of the closet: suddenly, they want the whole world to know. I felt that way and remember several of my LGBT friends who did as well. Now, a few lucky celebrities will have the chance to tell the whole world, literally. At the same time, I’m nervous for the show because I realize the “coming-out” state of mind can be very self-absorbed and short-sighted. I would hope the featured celebrities are older individuals who have through this through carefully, and not young upstarts caught up in “coming out” addiction.

    • Liz

      I agree. I alway feel a bit chuffed when some bint “comes out” and then says, “Oh just kidding.” I hope this is done well. I will watch it and fondly remember my own bloody coming out.

    • come again?

      coming out addiction? wtf?

  • Monty

    Jodie Foster, Kevin Spacey, and Ellen Paige come to mind, though those would be HUGE stories. And of course those are all rumored.

    Funny opposite idea: lets say theres a celebrity who has been pretending for years to be gay, or they thought they were, and they come out as straight! Dun Dun DUN! Then again, Anne Heche is back in…

    • Mandy

      I don’t think people care that much on who is gay and who isn’t. Some you can tell and, like Monty said, laugh because that person is trying so hard to pretend to be straight.

      But if they are good actors, who cares if they are gay, ie Neil Patrick Harris. You forget that he is gay because he is so good at his character. Also, don’t remember his name but the guy who played the sportscaster on “Frasier”. he played straight very well! On the other hand and same show – David Hyde Pierce was so totally gay on that show as “Niles” it was almost pathetic to watch him fawn over “Daphne”.

      Bottom line: Who cares who is gay.

    • Catherine

      I thought Jodie Foster was out? She’s had a long-term relationship with a woman and acknowledged her publically.

    • JDub

      Kevin Spacey is not a rumor. He came out.

      • zach

        that’s not true. do you mean Sean Hayes?

      • GGG

        What right do people have to publicize who they think is gay and who isn’t? Just because they’re celebrities, doesn’t mean you get to badger them into coming out, if they’re even gay.

      • Em

        To GGG: most people on this board don’t consider being gay as anything negative. “who they think is gay” doesn’t have much more weight than “who they think is a natural blonde” or “who they think is a Red Sox fan.” It’s not a witch hunt; it’s not negative. It’s just

      • reason

        I don’t think this is true, and I don’t think Spacey is gay…

    • Xena W. Princess

      Jodie came out a couple of years ago…

      • Ana170

        No she didn’t. She thanked a woman during an acceptance speech that some people assumed was her girlfriend/partner but it was never confirmed or denied. Besides, it would have been really huge news if an A-list actor or actress came out. It hasn’t happened yet.

  • Mariah

    Not a chance. A celebrity’s sexuality is none of my business and the obsession we as a society have with who’s gay/straight/bi and who’s not pretty much sickens me. I appreciate everything you said about the challenges and pressure of coming out and in no way do I mean to belittle that. I just have no interest whatsoever in celebrity sex lives.

    • Glory

      Is it ALL celebrity “sex lives” you’re not interested in? Or would you be interested to know if, say, Jennifer Aniston were dating Leonardo DiCaprio.

      And it actually is somewhat beneficial when celebrities come out. There are thousands of people who are gay but afraid to tell anyone. When you see that “you’re not the only one” who’s scared, doesn’t know how to start the process of coming out, is afraid of how people will react…it gives you strength when you see someone else’s journey. There are plenty of young adults who commit suicide because of the fear. When a celebrity (or anyone, really) is able to overcome their fear on a large scope (such as on tv, so millions can witness) it gives hope to those people.

      • Mandy

        You’re also not going to get any A List celebs on this show coming out. It is a known fact, most stay in the closet because they are afraid they will never get a job again in Hollywood. That’s why unless these celebs are ready to face the possibility of never working again – it won’t even be worth watching.

      • Liz

        This right hear is why I am supportive of this show in either a celebrity incarnation or a “regular” people version. I think that the ‘coming out’ process is unique to each person and a very emotionally trying but also rewarding experience.

      • Mariah

        Yeah, it’s ALL celebrity sex lives. Hence why I specified gay/straight/bi in my original post. It’s none of my damn business and the reason I avoid shows like tmz, the insider, access hollywood, etc. and magazines like US, People and OK. I care about celebrities insofar as their work, nothing more.

      • Mariah

        @Liz, I would be all for a show focusing on “real” people coming out rather than celebrities. Because Mandy is absolutely right. This show will end up comprised of B, C, and D list celebrities who will be using this as a platform to boost a lagging career. And that, btw, is in no way meant to insult the coming out process or it’s huge challenges, that is meant as a commentary on my opinion of celebrities in general.

      • Joseph Hill

        Let’s all just pray that Bill O’Reilly doesn’t “come out”!

    • hmm

      Are you A-sexual, by any chance?

  • Steven

    I’m going to be crying and shoving my mouth with popcorn. It will be good fun. I know from experience that coming out is not fun.

  • Karate Pants

    I just cannot fathom why any notable celebrity who has chosen to keep their orientation under wraps would suddenly agree to out themselves on a reality show with other “celebrities”?? Might be a few d-listers desperate for the media attention willing to throw themselves out there, but is that really watchable?
    Makes me think of that country singer, Chely Wright. She wasn’t really on anyone’s radar, then announced she was gay, and publicly made the assertion that people wouldn’t buy her new album (released in conjunction with her announcement) because…she’s gay. Not because she’s obscure and unpopular. It was like a guilt trip sales ploy that reeked of desperation. Manipulation. Wouldn’t this show leave people feeling the same way (assuming it’s not full of the A-list celebrities we’ve speculated about for years – which it just won’t be)?

    • Karate Pants

      I guess the answer really just lies in whether it will be exploitative or supportive, which is pretty impossible to tell right now. But if there’s any possiblity that there would be some positive impact from the show – someone watching and going through the same thing that feels a connection with someone on the show, for instance – then it’s a good thing. But I’m not gay and haven’t been through it. I’d be more interested in what those of you who are/have think of this.

    • Fatima

      I think Chely Wright was more so saying that country radio wasn’t going to play her anymore, which from her experiences in the country music biz and seeing how many in it treat gays, was totally fair for her to say.

    • Jam

      why would they, $$$$$$$$

  • Lesley

    I really hope it won’t be lame non-celebrrities, like the ones in celebrity rehab and shit. Real people would be good or real celebrities but no has been fame whores.

  • Bobby’s Robot

    We’re not “living in a post-gay world” if “we still live in a world where people lose their jobs for being openly gay or lesbian”, or are denied the same basic civil rights as every other tax-paying American.

    • Matt

      Well, not every country is Canada.

      • Nicole

        Though I’m sure coming out if more than difficult to anyone anywhere… I’m so proud to be a Canadian for it’s compassion on almost every realm.

      • JDub

        Nicole, you’re implying that good ol’ America isn’t compassionate, yet I believe this will be an American production, shot in the US, bankrolled by Americans — much like this site on which you’re posting.

      • Ana170

        I keep hearing all this boasting about how wonderful Canadians are but in my experience they can be just as bad as Americans.

      • Matt

        @ JDub and Ana, we aren’t naive. No doubt everything, including this site, is American. But the law is on books: we have far more rights than you do in America. It’s just that simple. You are behind the times. And while no place is perfect (i.e. the whole coming out ordeal shouldn’t be an ordeal at all), Canada certainly has a leg up on America. And I’m talking about the laws, not the individuals, Ana.

      • Nicole

        JDub and Ana170… I was in no way implying the American’s are any more or less compassionate than Canadians or anyone else. I was merely stating that I am proud of the compassion that many (and obviously not all) Canadians have. Obviously the US has a large portion of the media of the world (this included), but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t Canadian’s and other non-Canadians making a contribution to the American media market. My overall point is that anytime positive attention can be brought to a diffuclt process… that’s a good thing… American or the rest of us still as important non-Americans.

    • nodnarb

      Thank you! I honestly can’t believe someone wrote that we live in a post-gay world. I guess when the greatest concern in your life is who wins American Idol, you can make lunatic statements like that.

    • Sara

      Exactly. When you’re living in a time where some people still believe in “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, it’s hardly a post-gay world.

  • cameobrooch

    Does this sort of thing really help gay people? Shouldn’t we be moving toward the mindset that a person’s sexual orientation isn’t a big deal except to that person and his or her partner? I can’t help thinking that turning the coming out process into a media circus sensationalizes homosexuality. As long as we continue to think of being something other than heterosexual as “news,” many gays (famous or otherwise) will never feel comfortable coming out.

    • Lisa Simpson

      I get what you’re saying. It’s just part of who they/we are and it shouldn’t be any big deal. It’s not like someone is going to come out and say “Yep, I’m black” or “Yep, I’m female”. It’s an intrisic part of who they are and ultimately doesn’t have any bearing on who they are as a person. On the other hand, we really don’t live in a “post-gay world”, so maybe it will have a positive effect if done right.

      • Daxx

        Yes, but when your black or female, there are fewer people who vilify those groups. Also, you don’t have to tell your parents.

      • Lisa Simpson

        I’m not sure that I’d agree that there are fewer people wo villif blacks or denegrate women, but my point is that being gay is part of who someone is and that it shouldn’t have to be such a big deal. But it still is.

      • Get real

        the FBI says according to hate crimes records that yes gays are denegrated more. I don’t know how anyone can claim just from reading comments often on this site that women are denerated anyway near as much a gay men. Simply not so yes does society have issues with females yes but women don’t face half the hate or anything near it as gay men do or can you show me where someone has marched outside a funeral saying your son will burn in hell cause God hates f-gs.

  • Brent

    I think perhaps the line “keep living a public lie” is a little harsh. I would think that “living in a post-gay world” wouldn’t exactly take the shape of a TV show dedicated to coming out. In a post-gay world, that wouldn’t be news and no one would watch. I guess we will see if we live in a post-gay world when the ratings are released.

  • Sophie Ann

    The entertainment at some point during teh show MUST be Barry Manilow!

  • Ferniesfreckles

    It would be very interesting to watch.

    But “coming out” to your parents, relatives and friends on camera? As if they wouldn’t already know your orientation? That would be the unbelievable part.

    • Liz

      You would be surprised how many people ignore the glaringly obvious signs that their loved one is gay.


      When my younger sister came out forty years ago at the age of 20, we were totally taken by surprise. She wasn’t a “tomboy” and there were none of the usual clues.

  • Fatima

    I am so confused by EW’s continued insistence that we’re post-gay just because Adam Lambert got runner up on a talent show.

    • Kiki

      I’m more confused by the fact that Slezak thinks we are post gay when Adam Lambert no doubt lost Idol because of his orientation and has taken all sorts of flak from networks to crazy protestors because of his orientation. Yes, he’s had some success (and certainly more success in cd and ticket sales than the guy who beat him), but has been more successful in other countries — like Canada — than in his own country. The fact that his music zooms up the charts in countries from Canada to New Zealand to Finland to Singapore to Germany but faces an uphill battle in the US shows that gays in this country face an uneven playing field. So to call it post-gay is so utterly ridiculous, one wonders under what size rock EW resides.

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