The Logo channel begins its run this week -- The MTV-owned gay network launches and competes with Q and Here!

MTV Entertainment president Brian Graden has an aversion to the word fabulous. So when MTV Networks began floating the idea of a gay network called, of all things, The Fabulous Channel, his brow began to sweat. ”I cringed every time I heard it,” he recalls. ”It’s an overplayed, clichéd word that took me back to the What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? era.”

To his delight, the name never took. But that awkward working title was just one indicator that getting this channel up and running wouldn’t be easy: After three years in development, Logo (as it’s now known) launched on June 30 as the first completely ad-supported gay cable network, and Graden, its president, hopes to prove that a new, ”post-Queer Eye age” has been born. ”The appeal of this programming has become undeniable,” says Graden, a long-time MTV Networks exec who helped develop series like South Park and Newlyweds. ”It’s impossible to overestimate the pent-up demand that is created when you haven’t been allowed to see yourself in the mainstream American media for most of your life.”

Logo isn’t the first network to target a strictly gay audience — just the biggest. For the past three years, the demand has been met — sort of — by Q Television Network and here! Networks, which air series such as Gay Rodeo and Third Man Out: A Donald Strachey Mystery (starring Chad Allen as a gay detective). But neither of them has the potential reach of Logo — or the deep pockets of media conglomerate Viacom, its parent company. ”I hope they succeed,” says Q TV president Frank Olsen, ”because if they don’t, it’s going to hurt us. People will say, ‘If Viacom can’t do it, how the hell can you?”’

That’s a heavy burden for any new channel to shoulder, which might explain why Graden has shied away from overtly political (or explicitly sexual) series. ”Logo is not a political entity,” he insists. ”We’re here to entertain.” But putting on a show is hard work — especially when you have to appeal to anyone from a 21-year-old gay man to a 60-year-old lesbian. Already, Graden postponed its launch by four months to ramp up distribution (it’s in the nether-region digital-cable tiers of 10 million homes) and to find more original programming, like a dramedy about African-American men in L.A. (Noah’s Arc), a reality show about lesbian surfers (Curl Girls), a stand-up comedy series (Wisecrack), and a TRL-like video countdown called 10 Count. (Think more Kylie and less Kanye.)

The current political climate may not be ideal for a gay network, but Graden says he ran into ”virtually no resistance” from the ad community. Orbitz, Subaru, and Paramount Pictures — a division of Viacom — have publicly committed to buy time. Says Laura Caraccioli-Davis, senior VP and director of media-buying agency Starcom Entertainment, ”[Logo’s] sensibility and tonality fit into everybody’s comfort zone.” Paul Colichman, founder and CEO of here!, says he had difficulty shopping it as an ad-supported network (it’s now an on-demand and premium channel) and suspects Logo had to neuter itself to make inroads. ”I think people interested in Bravo-style, gay-lite programming will tune in to Logo. Even gay people who worked in those agencies that I approached asked, ‘You’re not going to have a lot of men kissing, are you?”’ Graden, who’s openly gay, bristles at the notion that sexual content should even be an issue: ”I resent the assumption that it takes more sex to tell my story than it does to tell my brother’s or my mother’s. It’s based on an outdated notion of what it means to be gay.”