Look, 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?