Noahlatimes

Source: Los Angeles Times

By Greg Braxton
Times Staff Writer

October 4, 2006

The cast and crew of TV’s "Noah’s Arc" are planning a raucous celebration tonight at a West Hollywood club to mark the series’ second-season finale. The party is also their way of highlighting their own arc — from low-budget DVD project to a slick-looking cable series that has not only landed on the pop culture "gay-dar" but has won a cult following on the mainstream radar.

One of the few series on broadcast television with an all-African American cast, "Noah’s Arc" in two seasons has emerged as one of the most high-profile series on Logo, the Viacom-owned, advertiser-supported cable network aimed at LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — audiences. The series is "Sex and the City" coupled with a "Gay Boyz N the Hood" remix — a struggling screenwriter and his three close friends experiencing life and love in Los Angeles.

Logo is so new — it bowed in 10 million homes little more than a year ago — that ratings for "Noah’s Arc" are not immediately available. But based on Internet feedback, executives say the series seems to have struck a definite chord.

While awaiting word that the series will be renewed for a third season — a prospect that insiders say is likely — Patrik-Ian Polk, the 32-year-old creator and lead producer, said the show’s reach has already far exceeded his initial vision of a direct-to-consumer entertainment project that would be marketed to gay viewers on DVD.

"It’s kind of crazy the way everything has worked out," said Polk, whose 6-foot-5 frame is the physical embodiment of the name of his production company — Tall Skinny Black Boy. "But we’re showing a very interesting look into this world and culture," he said, noting that the mix of comedy and drama gives the show an honesty that makes it more accessible to a wider audience.

The show is leading a kind of double life; the four photogenic stars of the series have been cover boys on the Advocate and other gay publications, and Jet magazine last month published an article on the series. Its loyal target audience has been joined by "straight" fans — particularly women, say cast members.

Gay activists, meanwhile, are praising "Noah’s Arc" as a series that casts an insightful spotlight on the lifestyle of black gay men — a way of life that has been a largely taboo subject in the black community.

"We see this show as a groundbreaking, landmark series that really shows the diversity of the LGBT community," said Monica Taher, People of Color media director for GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).

Added Keith Boykin, a host of BET’s "My Two Cents" and editor and publisher of a black gay and lesbian website: " ‘Noah’s Arc’ is both a burden and a blessing. It’s a burden because it’s the first black gay TV show, and it’s carrying all the weight. But it’s a blessing because it’s showing the world that … not all gays are white."

With "Noah’s Arc," Polk, a former executive for MTV who also developed projects for the production arm of Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Tracey Edmonds, says he hopes he has torn down the extreme stereotypes that taint the portrayals of gay black men — either flamboyant "queens" or super-macho types — while providing a vehicle that can educate mainstream audiences about their lifestyle.

"For years, I heard that black people are more homophobic," he said. "I don’t think that’s necessarily true, but there seems to be a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach toward this."

Polk said he sees his role not only as a show producer but as a cultural anthropologist.

"When you grow up and there’s a lack of representation, it can be difficult to develop a sense of values," Polk said. "With the high suicide rate and the high HIV rate, there are not a lot of examples of depictions of healthy, happy guys. Parents of these men can look at our show and say, ‘Oh, I get it.’ "

The series stars Darryl Stephens as Noah, who struggles not only with his screenwriter aspirations but also with his love life, particularly with Wade (Jensen Atwood), a more successful screenwriter who is questioning his sexuality. Noah’s friends include Alex (Rodney Chester), an HIV counselor; Ricky (Christian Vincent), the sexually insatiable owner of a Melrose clothing store; and Chance (Doug Spearman), who is trying to maintain a steady relationship with his boyfriend, Eddie, and Eddie’s young daughter. (The first letters of Noah’s friends spell out the "arc" of the title.)

Although "Noah’s Arc" has the look and feel of a single-camera comedy, particularly when the four friends are bantering about men and fashion, the tone often turns serious. In this season, Noah was the victim of gay-bashing. Ricky wonders whether he can become involved with a man who has HIV.

Brian Graden, the president of MTV Networks Music Group Entertainment and of Logo, said he was proud that the network’s first scripted series seems to be catching on.

"I get incredible feedback on ‘Noah’s Arc,’ " he said. "The No. 1 compliment is how likable the show is. It’s our first breakout hit."