It’s officially December, meaning I have a tradition to uphold. Generally, around this time of year, I find a new show to binge on Netflix to get me through finals and winter break. In the past, I’ve filled this void with BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and GILMORE GIRLS. I had resolved myself to finishing CHARMED for the second time until I went against my better judgment on the recommendation of a friend and started EYEWITNESS on USA Network. Now, before I started watching, all I knew was that it was a rural crime drama and that it was very gay.

Apparently, this was enough to get me to watch a show-in-progress, which I normally wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Seven episodes and less than 48 hours later, I was knee deep in Philkas fanfiction and feelings. It wasn’t until I was already in too deep that I found out the show may not be picked up for a second season because it hasn’t been reaching the anticipated viewership. Aside from my own selfish self-interest, I truly believe this show deserves a second season, for a multitude of reasons.

USA Network and their sister studio Universal Cable Productions have teamed up to bring an adaption of a Norwegian crime drama, originally titled ØYEVITNE (EYEWITNESS) to the United States. This ten-episode anthology follows the lives of two innocent teenagers who witness a triple homicide during a clandestine romantic encounter. Philip, who is openly gay for the most part, gets involved with a closeted and quite violently homophobic classmate named Lukas. In an attempt to hide their blossoming relationship, they hide their involvement in the murders, despite the fact that the killer is still on the loose.

As the show and their relationship develop, Philip’s foster mother Helen, the town sheriff, gets even closer to the truth. From the first episode, the viewers know who the killer is and that propels the tension through the remaining six episodes. Out of fear that my new favorite show will be taken from me, I’ve compiled a list of my top five reasons why EYEWITNESS deserves a second season.

EYEWITNESS -- "Buffalo '07" Episode 101 -- Pictured: (l-r) James Paxton as Lukas Waldenbeck, Tyler Young as Philip Shea -- (Photo by: Christos Kalohoridis/USA Network)

1. Plot That Features Two Gay Characters

The entire plot centers around two gay teenagers who are both in different stages of accepting their sexuality. Despite what people may like to believe, this is a big deal for the LGBTQ+ community, who struggle to be represented in television as a whole, not to mention major network cable programs. The best part: this isn’t a fandom thing. It’s real. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t the reason I started watching the show intially. I’m a sucker for the angst of internalized homophobia and character development.

It’s no secret that the queer community needs more representation on prime-time television. It’s not enough to have a “gay best friend” anymore. Major cable networks have been steadfast in increasing their representation of women and spectrum of color, so why should the spectrum of sexuality be any different? In October of 2015, GLAAD, an independent non-profit dedicated to rewriting the script for LGBTQ+ acceptance, released a report titled the “Where We Are on Tv” report. As the title suggests, the report statistically outlines representation of the queer community on both primetime cable television and platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.

They reported that although the representation of people of color was expected to climb to 33%, six points higher than the prior year, representation of the queer community would rest at a mere 4%. According to the report, “of the 881 regular characters expected to appear on broadcast prime-time programming in the coming year, 35 (4%) were identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual”. For the transgender community, the statistics are even more pathetic. Out of those 881 prime-time characters, 0 were identified as trans. On cable networks, three recurring characters identified as trans.

When it comes to streaming programs like Netflix and Hulu, there seems to be more hope, with 4 transgender characters, two of which being series leads. GLAAD also found 43 series regulars and 16 recurring characters across 23 series who identify somewhere within the queer community. Needless to say, a prime-time television show starring two gay characters is a big deal.

READ: Interested in the lack of LGBT representation in comics? Check this out!


2. Genuine Representation of Aforementioned Gay Characters

It’s not enough to simply feature queer characters, though. I have often found that gay characters, whether intentionally or unintentionally, adhere to stereotypes. What sets Philip and Lukas’ relationship apart from other gay relationships I’ve seen on television is that it’s a very real picture of what two teenage guys, struggling with their sexuality as well as the after-effects of witnessing a triple homicide, might look like in rural New York.

Their relationship isn’t fetishized or a tool for comedy. It’s organic and paints the portrait of two guys who just happen to be falling for one another. The stereotype of flamboyance or an obsession with fashion and gossip is kept far away from this show, and I for one could not be more grateful. As much as I love shows like MODERN FAMILY, it seems to me that the only thing that makes Cam and Mitchell’s relationship funny is their over-the-top perpetuation of gay stereotypes.

On the other side, we have shows like ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK that do a fantastic job of portraying characters on the queer spectrum. The relationships between the characters aren’t sugarcoated and neither are their struggles as individuals, queer women, and inmates. Perhaps this is why Philip and Lukas’ relationship speaks to me in the way it does. Over the course of the first seven episodes, their relationship is an emotional roller-coaster in the way that all relationships are. I can’t speak to the experience of being a gay teenager in rural New York, but the show gives me the perspective to understand how that may be difficult, in addition to all the murder.

READ: Interested in ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK? Check out this article about labeling sexuality!


3. Intersection of Mental Health & Trauma

Another vital facet of the show is mental health, exclusive to the fragility of exploring sexuality. From as early as the first episode, Lukas exhibits signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to his involvement in the murders. As the name suggests, PTSD develops as a result of being exposed to trauma, such as witnessing a triple homicide. The most common cause of PTSD, according to PTSD Treatment Help, is war experience.

However, exposure to other forms of violence or crime such as homicide, sexual abuse, or armed robbery can also trigger the onset of PTSD. Though it manifests differently from person to person, those who suffer from PTSD usually suffer from nightmares, flashbacks, or hallucinations. In Lukas’ case, he experiences both nightmares and flashbacks.

The representation of PTSD in the media, whether it be film or television, is almost always in relation to military combat. Arguably, this creates a stigma surrounding non-military onsets of PTSD, leading to the question of: how traumatic does trauma need to be to onset PTSD? I anticipate that within the final three episodes of season one, we will continue to learn more about the state of Lukas’ mental health. This portrayal of PTSD is vital in challenging the media trend that PTSD evolves exclusively from military combat.


4. Positive Foster Family Image

Philip Shea is introduced in the show as the town sheriff’s foster son. The conditions of his arrival to Tivoli are still up for speculation but as it stands after episode seven, we know his mother is addicted to drugs and he’s living with Helen, the town sheriff, and her husband Gabe. Despite the fact that Philip escapes back to New York City more than once to visit his mother against the court order, his relationship with Helen and Gabe is far more positive than other portrayals of the foster system floating around the media.

In 2005, the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) conducted a study of media portrayals of foster parents. They surveyed newspapers, magazines, film, television, and popular novels to determine how popular media views foster parents and the foster care system. Television, film, and popular literature all held an overwhelming amount of malevolent portrayals of foster parents. The NCYL claims this is due in part to the fact that these portrayals are meant for audiences who know very little about the foster care system and why foster parents open their homes.

In television specifically, with shows such as LAW AND ORDER that highlight the worst case scenarios of foster care, there is no surprise that there is a societal stigma surrounding foster parents. This show does a fantastic job of showcasing a positive foster family image. Within the first seven episodes, Philip comes out to Helen and Gabe, prompting Gabe to feel close enough to him to offer him a permanent place in their home. While Philip’s relationship with Helen begins rather rocky, she seems to open up to him more as the season progresses, especially after he comes out to them. Their reaction to his admission is nothing short of spectacular, given the climate surrounding homosexuality in the town of Tivoli. It’s the coming-out experience everybody deserves, foster family or not.

READ: Interested in the intersection of foster parenting and comics? Check this out!


5. Kick-A Crime Drama

If the triple homicide within the first ten minutes isn’t a good indication of how fast-paced this show is, perhaps the fact that we know the killer from the first episode is. Independent of the angst between Philip and Lukas, the tension of the crime itself is enough to have me on the edge of my seat. Knowing who the killer is equally as frustrating as it is comforting. It’s frustrating to watch Helen run circles around the killer but there’s an odd sense of satisfaction that comes along with knowing who she’s looking for. This tension is what drives my anticipation through the week until Sunday evening hits and I’m graced with a new installment.

Needless to say, this show deserves a second season. According to the twitter accounts of the actors who play Philip and Lukas, talk of a second season is in jeopardy unless viewership increases over the course of the next few weeks. In an attempt to save the show, fans have been submitting requests to Netflix to pick it up, if USA decides against season two.

Viewership ratings are attained both by watching the show live on USA at 10PM EST on Sundays, or by streaming it directly from the USA website. It would be an absolute shame to see a show so dedicated to an organic portrayal of gay characters, a positive foster family image, and awareness for mental health as a result of trauma. Television needs shows and characters like these, that challenge popular media to diversify. It is my hope that USA will see the value in EYEWITNESS that I do, and pick up a second season.

One Comment

  1. Lea

    December 9, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    it deserves 100 seasons! Best show on air right now


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