A classic game show from the 1950’s has recently received a big gay makeover care of GSN, the network for games. You may recall I’ve Got a Secret in one of its previous incarnations (1952-1967, 1972, 1976, 2000) when celebrity panelists included Jayne Meadows, Kitty Carlisle, Richard Dawson, Teri Garr, and even gay icon Jim J. Bullock. The original 1952 version was the longest running and most popular game show in the history of the genre.
The 2006 version of I’ve Got a Secret, which premieres April 17, just happens to boast an all-gay panel, consisting of comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer, Sirius Radio host and humorist Frank DeCaro (author of A Boy Named Phyllis: A Suburban Memoir), former Major League baseball player Billy Bean, and Broadway dancer and actor Jermaine Taylor.
Despite the make-up of the panel, this isn’t a gay show aimed at gay audiences. I’ve Got a Secret is a straight show (or a show for “everyone”) that just happens to have a gay cast–a quietly revolutionary concept.
The secret of each contestant is revealed to home and studio audiences as well as to host Bil Dwyer, who announces a vague description of the secret to the panel. Then each panelist is given 40 seconds to ask the contestants yes or no questions that will reveal the secret. If the panelists are stumped, the contestants win cash and prizes, as well as some additional ribbing at the hands of the panelists.
Promotional materials state that host Bil Dwyer is charged with “keeping the panelists in line” but the group is mostly well-behaved. In the first two episodes of the program, DeCaro and Taylor toss about some light sexual humor, but nothing that straight America hasn’t already heard and processed via Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Time will tell if the game show format offers an unexpected opportunity for the gay envelope to be pushed, or simply ripped open outright.
Westenhoefer and DeCaro keep the sharpest of the wisecracks coming at a good clip, and DeCaro’s clever flirtations with even the straightest male contestants provide a subversive edge. At one point in his line of questioning, DeCaro says to a male contestant, “You have ‘an extremely unique physical talent’? Is it of a sexual nature?
For queer viewers, watching presumably straight contestants react to the collective gay banter may be the best part of the show, particularly when some contestants are more game than others.
The schoolteacher from Texas (his secret: record number of self-inflicted kicks to the head in one minute) seems delighted to dish with the panel, while the identical twins married to identical twins look more than a little uncomfortable when Westenhoefer gleefully asks them the inevitable question regarding partner swapping.
The sight of an out lesbian comic suggesting that two heterosexual couples (decked out in traditional wedding attire) might be kinky is surprisingly thrilling at a time when anti-gay marriage initiatives are regularly passed in various states across the nation.