Over the past few years, the LGBT community have had their voices and stories shared a bit more within entertainment media. Of course, there are still major tweaks to be made for those voices and stories to have a fuller and more respectable scope, but the expressions have been a lot more varied. Shows like Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, The Fosters and The L Word helped to open up a world that many were not privy to and sometimes, it was a world that many were too prejudiced to experience. While those series were admirable in their own ways and would gain notoriety for all of the right (and sometimes wrong) reasons, a somewhat lesser known television show called Noah’s Arc is almost never given a similar mention.
Originally conceived as a DVD subscription series entitled Hot Chocolate, Noah’s Arc centered on the lives of four close friends living in Los Angeles. It was usually considered a gay retelling of the HBO hit show Sex and The City and admittedly, the comparisons are highly evident within the four main characters.
Noah Nicholson, played by Darryl Stephens, was a screenwriter who was on a quest to find true love. The mother hen of the gang, Alex Kirby (Rodney Chester), worked at an HIV/AIDS testing center. The flirtatious Ricky Davis (Christian Vincent) often used his sexual prowess to his advantage while running a popular clothing boutique. Rounding out the pack was the intelligent professor, Chance Counter (Doug Spearman), who had recently moved in with his boyfriend and young daughter.
Although the character traits may have been somewhat similar to an already recognizable series, things were different from the very beginning. Unlike the American take of Queer as Folk, which ended production around the same time Noah’s Arc began theirs, the main cast was all African-American. Patrik-Ian Polk, the creator of Noah’s Arc, did this purposefully to showcase another side of the gay spectrum that was rarely seen publicly at that time.
“Queer as Folk rarely, if ever, presented gay people of color,” he stated in 2008. “I felt that Noah’s Arc was an opportunity to show the dynamic of our relationships.”
After gaining traction through word of mouth and favorable critiques at film festivals and private screenings, the show caught the attention of LOGO TV, an LGBT-lifestyle channel. They picked up Noah’s Arc and re-molded it for a full series run, beginning in 2005.
Audiences followed the four friends as they navigated through the trials and tribulations of life, love and the curve balls that were always thrown their way. Special guest stars, such as Wilson Cruz, best known as the openly gay Ricky from the 90’s sleeper hit, My So-Called Life, and The Young and the Restless actress Victoria Rowell, were also featured throughout its run. LOGO would often re-air the episodes and eventually, the show that once used a truck owned by Chester for a makeshift dressing room, would become the highest rated series in the channel’s then-short history.
However, this is where the tale of Noah’s Arc begins to get a bit confusing. The second season ended on a major cliffhanger: Noah’s former love, Wade (Jensen Atwood), ended up in a horrible car accident and the situation seemed dire. Without giving too much away, if Noah’s Arc was meant to be a “gay Sex and the City“, then Wade should be taken as Noah’s version of “Mr. Big.” He was, undoubtedly, the love of his life.
Fans were glued to their screens, waiting to see just what would happen in season three… except it never happened. For reasons that are still unclear to this day, LOGO decided to cease production of Noah’s Arc at the end of its second season.
There have been rumors that the channel decided to head in a “new direction” and that the show was costing too much. There was also talk that Polk had become almost intolerable to work with, but those claims were never fully substantiated. Even cast members are unsure of what actually took place. Actor Darryl Stephens admitted his confusion about the decision eventually made by LOGO.
“We were given a lot of information [that was] useful in trying to comfort us when we found out that we weren’t going into a third season,” he said. “Nothing made me understand why one of the network’s biggest shows wasn’t coming back to television.”
Jensen Atwood would mirror those thoughts, adding that he believed that someone did have answers about what truly happened to Noah’s Arc.
“I would like to have someone sit down whoever that person is and genuinely ask them the reasoning behind it,” he expressed. “It just makes no sense not only to me, but to a lot of our fans as well.”
If the cancellation news was not baffling enough, the supposed remedy for ending the show abruptly made things worse. In an effort to appease an outcry from fans, LOGO decided to help fund a follow-up movie, Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom. The film, which would pick up some time following the events of the season two finale, followed the friendly foursome as they prepared for the nuptials of Noah and Wade.
Although the movie felt slightly rushed in certain spots, especially when it came to closing certain chapters of other characters’ stories (and in one circumstance, recycling it altogether), it managed to work well. There was even the introduction of a new character, a young gay man coming into his own named Brandon (Gary LeRoi Gray). LOGO promised that if the movie did well, they would consider bringing the series back for a heavily requested third season.
The movie broke expectations, making over half of a million dollars throughout its entire theatrical run, which was only seven weeks long. It also came in at the top of the independent box office chart during its opening weekend.
Jumping the Broom never received any many major marketing support and still, it managed to sell out showings on a repeated basis. Obviously, there was an audience still very much interested in the story. However, in spite of the success it achieved, LOGO would eventually renege on its decision and no third season would ever be produced. Noah’s Arc held up their end of the bargain, but no one else seemed to.
Noah’s Arc filled a section of television that was greatly needed. For once, many young gay black men got to see themselves as part of the world and not just seen as “the sassy friend” (although the characters had more than enough sass to pass around). The show was truly groundbreaking, even more so than Queer as Folk in some aspects.
It changed the view of America, if only for a short moment. Six years later, it has become more of a whisper than a shout. The show was not perfect, by any means. However, that is what made Noah’s Arc work so well.
“We bear an unfair burden by being the only show of its kind, so folks want the show to be all things to all people,” Polk once admitted. “However, I can’t imagine there being a black gay show on television and me not watching it because the show doesn’t reflect every nuance of my life.”
It may have not meant to “reflect every nuance” but for a short while, it did help many realize that they were not alone. Noah’s Arc, at its core, was about family, friendship, growth and love from a perspective that was rarely seen, but was greatly necessary.
Opinion by Jonathan Brown
New York Cool