It’s poetic that TelloFilms’ new web series, Nikki & Nora, is set New Orleans. There’s no better place on earth to resurrect an urban legend. The story goes that in 2004, back when Bette Porter was barely a twinkle in Jennifer Beals‘ eye, Nancylee Myatt (of South of Nowhere fame) pitched a police procedural to the now-defunct UPN network. The series would revolve around two female partners who worked for the Special Crimes Unit of the New Orleans Police Department. But Nikki and Nora (played by Liz Vassey and Christina Cox) weren’t just professional partners; they were also romantic partners. UPN passed on the show, but the unaired pilot ultimately episode made its way to YouTube. Thousands of hours of organizing, hundred of fan fictions, nine years, and one crowd-funding campaign later, Nikki & Nora has been reborn as a web series.
Police procedurals are a dime a dozen, and locking the lead characters into a will-they/won’t-they situation has been the go-to formula for decades now, but Nikki & Nora busts open that trope in at least two ways: 1) These women aren’t police officers; they’re former cops turned private eyes. And 2) There’s no will-they/won’t they because they already are. Yep, Nikki and Nora are together before the opening credits roll. Partner-partners. Which means we get to see them kick ass and make out. (And navigate the tempestuous waters of who is the rightful owner of their favorite coat.)
The first of seven episodes landed in TelloFilms’ premium content section (along with AfterEllen favorites Cowgirl Up and Kiss Her I’m Famous) on Sunday, and as I was watching the premiere I was thinking, “This is everything we’ve been begging Rizzoli & Isles to be.” But not just Rizzoli & Isles. We’ve also been begging Once Upon a Time and Glee and Criminal Minds and Law & Order and (on and one and on) to make subtext into maintext. Because if a male and female lead had the kind of fandom following and on-screen chemistry as, say, Jane and Maura from Rizzoli & Isles, their writers would be brainstorming around the clock trying to figure out how to bring their romance to life in a dozen ways.
That’s the frustrating void into which Nikki & Nora steps. The landscape of lesbian and bisexual characters on television may have changed significantly since Myatt first pitched her show to UPN back in ’04, but so many TV writers these days spend a significant amount of time trying to placate queer women with subtext one minute and trying to convince us we’re nuts for seeing what we see the next minute. But Nikki & Nora gives it to us straight.
No, strike that. Reverse it. Nikki & Nora gives it to us gay.
Look, there’s no shame in being a subtext shipper, nothing wrong with playing in the sandbox of another writer’s world, no harm in exploring sapphic substance in the warm embrace of network TV fandoms. But it sure is nice when TV writers honor us with stories that ring true to our own gay lady experiences on-screen.
You can check out the teaser trailer for Nikki & Nora below. Then, let us know what you think of the series in the comments!