Some Fox-y ladies

Two new shows on Fox, one reality and one scripted, hop on the gay television band-wagon, both with surprisingly good results.

By Brian Moylan
Friday, March 05, 2004

CIARA BYRNE ONCE LIVED in D.C.’s Dupont Circle and learned the hard way how embarrassing it can be for a straight woman to hit on a hot gay man.

“How do you figure out when you’re eyeing this guy and he’s not interested in you at all?” she asks. “I have had a few dating experiences in the past where the guy has been absolutely gorgeous and nice and funny, and later on I discover that he’s gay. I found I wasn’t the only person that happened to.”

Byrne, one of the co-executive producers on Fox’s new reality show “Playing It Straight,” is using her lack of gaydar to her advantage. Beginning next Friday, March 12, at 8 p.m., the show puts Jackie, a Wisconsin college student, on a ranch in Nevada where she must pick a potential mate from 14 suitors.

But some of Jackie’s suitors are gay. If she picks a straight man, the happy couple splits $1 million. If, however, she picks a gay man, he gets the money, and she goes home empty-handed.

The eight-episode series reeks a bit of “Boy Meets Boy,” Bravo’s hit where a gay man had to pick a boyfriend from a pool of bachelors that were gay and straight. What made the show slightly offensive was that James, the bachelor doing the choosing, and the other gay men on the show had no idea they were infiltrated by straight men.

That’s not true on “Straight.”

“Personally, I like ‘Boy Meets Boy,’ but I didn’t like the fact they didn’t tell them [ there were straight men on the show ]. That’s not fair,” Byrne says.

She also says that on “Straight,” all contestants were told there would be a twist before being cast on the show — and all were told what the twist was before filming started. Jackie was told after her initial meeting with the men.

After the announcement, everyone, including Jackie, had the chance not to appear on the show if they were uncomfortable. With full disclosure and the chance not to participate, no one is being duped.

Byrne says doing the show this way makes for a more interesting analysis of gaydar and of stereotypes about gay and straight men.

“It was harder for the straight guys because a lot of them are metrosexuals, and they’re trying to prove they’re straight,” she says. “They have some of those stereotypical qualities of gay men, and it was harder for them to prove it.”