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All in the family: NBC surrogacy drama Inconceivable and ABC mid-season comedy Crumbs acknowledge that, for many gays and lesbians in 2005, it's all about families.

Just when you thought the broadcast networks would be too skittish to foist queer characters and themes on the red states, along come Inconceivable and Crumbs, two new shows from gay writer-producers about gay men and their families. Oliver Goldstick and Marco Pennette had an idea for a show they thought would be a perfect fit for cable: a series centering on a fertility clinic and several couples trying to have children, with one of those couples being gay. Since both Goldstick and Pennette are in long-term relationships and had both recently become parents through surrogacy, they had plenty of material--both dramatic and comedic--from which to generate interesting story lines.

"My deal was at Disney, so I had to at least take it to the major networks first," says Goldstick, whose credits include Desperate Housewives, Popular, and Everwood. "We went to NBC thinking we'd just walk through the paces. We thought, Who would dare touch this as a series?"

As it turns out, this particular major network dared to place Inconceivable on its fall schedule. "Two guys with children through surrogacy sold the series to NBC!" exclaims Pennette. Inconceivable, set to debut September 23, stars Angie Harmon, Jonathan Cake, and Ming-Na as partners in a fertility clinic; David Norona portrays the clinic's attorney, who has a child with his partner (Jonathan Slavin). "There's so much evolving for domestic partnerships and gay families, I thought it would be great if a lawyer was gay and having a child," says Goldstick. "We just feel that this is another family that needs to be seen on television. These are our lives, and we want something that reflects the lives we are living."

Norona, who is currently expecting his second child with his wife in real life, was immediately drawn to the part. "I knew [Goldstick] was basically writing about himself, a gay man, in a committed relationship, with two babies," the actor says. "I knew he'd write a real human being and not just the comedic sidekick to a straight male lead."

Many of the show's lighter moments, at least initially, will be provided by Slavin's character, who is so afraid the surrogate mother isn't watching her health that he essentially begins stalking her in order to monitor her every move. "He digs through her garbage, spies on her in swim class, and causes her to go into premature labor in the grocery store," Slavin says.

Goldstick says this obsession is loosely based on real-life experience. "The neurosis is so common, a common link to all of us who have surrogates. Are they eating pork rinds? Are they drinking? Are they hanging out at an Irish pub where everyone is smoking? This is what you lie in bed at night worrying about, and that will be reflected in the show."

As a gay actor, Slavin says he is particularly gratified to be a part of the show's ensemble. "We don't have two gay dads having a surrogate on television anywhere," he says. "They talked about it on Six Feet Under, but usually it's a case of, suddenly the nephews arrive and they have to raise them. To have a show where a committed gay couple makes a decision to reproduce, I think, is huge."

In addition to surrogacy, the gay couple will also deal with such issues as facing homophobia while interviewing for a nanny and coming completely out of the closet. Explains Pennette: "They have their baby in their arms with their surrogate, and one of them says, 'Now you have to tell your family about me.'"

That coming-out element will also be a big part of Crumbs--created by Pennette--which makes the orientation of Fred Savage's lead character quite clear. "In the first scene of Crumbs he wakes up in bed next to a guy, and ABC didn't blink," Pennette says. "We can show this on TV in 2005. The world will keep spinning."

Savage's character returns home after his parents split up, and he comes out during the course of the first season. "I think everyone can't be Will from Will & Grace," Pennette said. "I wanted to show the flip side. He leads an out life 3,000 miles away. This is about a guy going home to put his family back together, and I wanted to show how detached he was from those people."

Crumbs will be the first regular series for Savage--best known as the lead on The Wonder Years--since his short-lived sitcom Working. "This script that Marco wrote, and the way the comedy unfolded, was very natural and honest and dared to take some chances," Savage says. "We're not setting out to be shocking or to capitalize on preconceived notions the audience may have about me or anyone else. We just want to tell an honest story."

Hernandez covers the entertainment industry for the Los Angeles Daily News.
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Author:Hernandez, Greg
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 27, 2005
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