After airing only half of its first season (the second half premieres Friday, January 13, 2006), South of Nowhere has become a hit for The N network. Heroine Spencer Carlin is questioning both her sexuality and her conventional upbringing as her relationship with her rebellious best friend Ashley intensifies. Spencer’s brother Clay is learning the hard way what it means to be black in Los Angeles, and her popular brother Glen is not pleased with her choice of friends and how it could reflect on him at King High School.
And now that the show has been picked up for a second season, the show’s producers can delve even more deeply into the lives of these engrossing characters that we are just beginning to know.
The success of the show doesn’t come as a big surprise to Executive Producer Nancylee Myatt. She predicted that the heart and quality of the show would prevail and connect with viewers despite whatever initial concerns network executives might have had about presenting a gay storyline on a predominantly teen network.
She recently told AfterEllen, “Early on The N asked us to share focus and develop storylines which highlighted the other characters and aspects of the ‘Identity Journey.’ But I knew that if we could just get the show on the air–and tell stories that all teenagers can relate to, straight or gay, that the audience would find us and tell us what they want.”
Myatt has always taken risks. Mentored by TV innovator Norman Lear (All in the Family, Good Times), she once wrote an episode for his show The Powers That Be, which landed her on a “dangerous” list from the Christian Right. She told AfterEllen, “Norman just laughed and welcomed me to the club. And he said, ‘If they’re hating you, they’re watching you.’ Or at least letting the rest of the country know that you’re making some noise that’s worth checking out.”
Myatt aims to make a difference with South of Nowhere. She told us, “My experience with prime time shows on broadcast versus cable is that broadcast only uses gay storylines for sweeps and numbers. A girl-kiss here and there, a two-episode arc just to titillate but never to create characters or share gay stories of substance. Unless of course, it’s a comedy, then the gay folks are welcome in our living rooms. I guess funny gay people are less threatening than dramatic gay people…I would encourage other creators to continue to factor in gay characters just as they consider the multi-ethnic mix on a show.” Perhaps the growing popularity and success of SON will provide the incentive.
While AfterEllen has lauded SON from its debut–even awarding the show an AfterEllen.com visibility award for Best Scripted TV Series in 2005–the mainstream press hasn’t yet caught on. Considering the high quality and interesting (some would say “controversial”) content of the show, the show has not yet received a great deal of publicity. And initial mainstream press reviews have focused more on SON ‘s style than its considerable substance.