Netflix's high-cost, highly watched House of Cards blazed a new trail for mass-market, internet-based television, but Kevin Spacey's political blockbuster could have come from any of the traditional US networks. Not so far way on the web, a clutch of series aimed at the gay community – filmed for a sliver of the $100m House of Cards budget yet still attracting a respectable audience – are showing up the reluctance of mainstream broadcasters in the US to stray far from the middle of the road.
Where the Bears Are focuses on a group of husky, hairy sleuths living in Palm Springs; Husbands revolves around a newly out sports jock and a fey tabloid star who marry on a whim; Hunting Season is a sexually frank show about a 20-something gay man exploring the sexscape of New York; and The Outs is about two ex-boyfriends coming to terms with post-breakup life in Brooklyn.
On first glance, these gay-themed internet shows don't look so different from their network television counterparts. And of these are experiences not so far removed from those depicted in a more heterosexual context on network TV. Where the Bears Are even compares itself to two iconic television programs – Murder, She Wrote and Golden Girls – and the creators of Husbands liken their project to I Love Lucy. But in all of them, the differences are clear: the dialogue is more honest, the woes more authentic.