‘Take My Wife’ Employs More LGBTQs and POCs Than Any Other TV Show, But Now It Needs a Home
The same-sex dramedy Take My Wife premiered on NBC’s comedy-centric Seeso app last August. Unfortunately, after Seeso announced the service’s closure last week, the series is currently without a home for its completed second season. This current limbo is even more frustrating considering that its cast, crew and writing staff all heavily featured queer people and people of color (POC), far more than other better-known broadcast shows.
Why is Take My Wife one of the most diverse shows on television?
A semi-autobiographical series created by the queer comedy couple Cameron Esposito and her wife Rhea Butcher, Take My Wife follows a stand-up comedian couple as they navigate homophobic society, climb the showbiz ladder and try to keep each other’s career competitiveness in check.
The show covered both everyday topics — soul-crushing day jobs, eccentric neighbors — and weighty ones — whether or not to have children — depicting both with a deft, empathetic hand.
Esposito, Take My Wife’s co-creator, said the show sought writers and actors who needed credits to enter their professional guilds, and these people were primarily queers or POC.
As a result, the Season 2 cast is 54% LGBTQ actors and 33% actors of color. The show’s Season 2 writing room is 43% women of color and even its soundtrack involves queer people: Each episode in Season 2 licenses a different song from a different LGBT musician.
Take My Wife’s diversity helped it avoid tired tropes about gays
But the series’ diversity isn’t just craven tokenism; it also informs the show’s nuanced point of view, particularly when it comes to presenting queer situations in a predominantly straight world.
For example, in the pilot, Esposito appears as a guest on a bro-dude’s comedy podcast, and the host wonders why Cameron would even get into stand-up if not to attract “that sweet D” (meaning “dick”).
Cameron refutes the heteronormative question with a hilariously deadpan rebuttal: “[I got into stand-up comedy] for the same reason as a lot of people — I didn’t feel heard as a kid and I have weird issues about my body.”
Since the show is drawn from real-life experience, its witty writing provides vital takes on actual queer lives rather than a straight person’s take on how “the gays” act, avoiding common tropes of lovers’ betrayals and “gayngels” saving the day.
In an Entertainment Weekly interview promoting Season 1, Esposito promised that “no lesbians die” in the series. That’s right — no tragic deaths, backstabbing drama or any of the mean-spirited caricatures so prevalent in media about LGBTQs or POCs. Just authentic queer people, facing life issues both mundane and profound.
Take My Wife champions inclusivity nearly non-existent in Hollywood
Unfortunately, this inclusive atmosphere is far from the industry norm. And even though the number of LGBTQ characters on TV has risen over the past decade, the hiring of openly LGBTQ actors has not kept up with the trend.
According to GLAAD’s report on the 2016-2017 TV season, 4.8% of series regular characters on broadcast, cable and streaming networks identify as LGBT. This is the highest percentage GLAAD has recorded to date, up from only 1.3% in the 2006-2007 season.
However, TV is still a hostile business for LGBT actors vying for those roles. In a 2013 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) survey of 5,700 LGBT-identified members, 53% believed that writers and producers are biased against hiring any LGBT actors.
Similarly, LGBT writers and producers often get shut out of the writing room.
Neither the Directors Guild (DGA) nor the Writers Guild of America (WGA) currently keep statistics on the amount of LGBT-identified writers working in TV, but their underrepresentation can be implied from other current disparities. A WGA 2016 diversity report showed that only 29% of TV writers are women, and only 13% are POC.
The persistent queerphobia in Hollywood and broadcast TV highlights why shows like Take My Wife are so important. Take My Wife‘s unaired second season features 22 openly LGBT actors out of its 47 total roles — that’s 46% of the entire cast that gets to act outside of the closet and use their experience to potentially find work afterwards.
By bucking the dispiriting trend of excluding women, queer people and other POCs from the writers’ room and editing bay, Take My Wife not only created a diverse crew, but also helped lay the groundwork for a diverse work force that’ll go on to create other shows down the line.
Various fans and comedians — such as Rachel Bloom, lesbian rockers Tegan & Sara and comedian Paul F. Tompkins — have rallied around Take My Wife on Twitter, in the hopes that a network like Hulu and Netflix will pick up the cult-favorite series. Their tweets included hashtags like #RepresentationMatters, reflecting audiences’ desire for “peak TV” that’s as diverse as the society it’s made in.