2017 started with concern for the LGBT+ community as some of the earliest series cancellations of the year came from LGBT series such as CBS’s Doubt and USA Network’s Eyewitness.
Unprecedented in the US television history, Eyewitness came out as a LGBT crime thriller series that spun its thick, dark, character driven plot around the turbulent and captivating relationship between two boys that witness a triple murder while hooking up at a secluded cabin in the woods for the first time. Lukas Waldenbeck (played by late Bill Paxton’s son James Paxton), terrified of being outed, pleads with his friend and now helpless romantic interest Philip Shea (Tyler Young from the youth series the Avatars) to keep what they have seen a secret. As the killer goes on a ruthless killing spree that slowly spins out of control to find and eliminate the witnesses to his crime, the consequences of Lukas and Philip’s silence grows to devastating levels that weigh on both their consciences.
The series stars Julianne Nicholson (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, The Others, August: Osage County) with a jarringly honest performance as the small town Sheriff Helen Torrance and foster mother of Philip, carrying the backbreaking weight of a past trauma that slowly breaks through the surface as she races against time to find and catch the killer whose identity is known only to the audience from episode one. On her shoulders and co-star Gil Bellows’ portrayal of Gabe Caldwell’s heartbreaking gentleness, Eyewitness upends the dynamics of the traditional depictions of marriage and gender stereotypes. Apart from this fresh narration of gender roles and the series’ confidence in its headstrong, wild, complex women that each give stunning, thought-provoking performances, Paxton and Young’s palpable chemistry on screen makes Eyewitness a series that never has to sell its story but instead one that makes the consumer believe it from the moment the pair’s eyes fall on one another.
Despite the show’s more than satisfying critical acclaim and winning Outstanding TV Movie or Limited Series Award given by the prestigious GLAAD organization, USA Network’s reluctance in promoting the show seems to be the largest reason the show didn’t manage to reach a wider audience. The Deadline article announcing the cancellation of the series received hundreds of comments within 24 hours it was posted and a shockingly large number of the series’ fans expressed that they’d only found out about Eyewitness through word of mouth, weeks into its air time and voiced their protests for the way they believe Eyewitness was never given a fair chance to grow its audience.
At a time when the LGBT community is under attack and rightfully afraid of losing the hard-earned progress made in the last decade in their fight for equality, networks are expected to include more inclusive stories into their programming to shift the trends in mainstream media. Lukas Waldenbeck and Philip Shea’s story; one dealing with monumental internal homophobia, the other with the fear and hopelessness of knowing he might never belong or be loved, resonated with so many viewers across the world and accumulated such a passionate fan-base that strongly related with them, the show trended nearly every Sunday it was aired on social media platforms Twitter and Tumblr. Dubbed ‘Eyewitness Nation’ by the series’ creator Adi Hasak (Shades of Blue, From Paris with Love), the fandom has now taken to all major social media outlets using #SaveEyewitness hashtag to campaign for their much beloved series’ return with another network, preferably on an international platform that will allow the series to show its true numbers, like Netflix, Hulu or AmazonVideo, each known for pitching canceled series that show promise.
Here Media Inc. recently joined forced with Adi Hasak’s production company Adi TV Studios to help find the series a new home among their affiliated networks and its fandom is now trying harder than ever to be heard. What they lack in visibility due to poor promotion, they are hoping to compensate with their passion and creativity in coming up with fandom-wide projects to spread word about the series, hoping to reach out to a much wider audience and show just how rare, how unique, how gorgeous the series is and how its message is crucially important, especially these days.
Relatable, accurate LGBT representation in the heart of an intense thriller brought to near tangible reality through the singularly authentic performances of its cast. A story critically acclaimed for its fresh, Noir atmosphere and reverse mystery premise. An international, fervently expressive fan-base ready to follow it to the ends of the world.
Eyewitness has everything it takes to plant its roots into the genre it flagships and become one of the cult series of the LGBT community, if only given a fair chance.