Here’s a sight not often seen on television: two gender-nonconforming married lesbians navigating their careers, relationship, and other assorted hurdles. But that’s exactly the premise of Take My Wife, a show starring comedians Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher, both 35, who also serve as showrunners and writers. The show, which premiered shortly after the election of President Donald Trump, has served as a critically-acclaimed bright spot of diversity in a world that typically centers cisgender straight white men. But now it could be coming to an end—leaving fans without one of the most diverse shows currently airing.
Since its premiere, Take My Wife has been airing on Seeso, a subscription service owned by Comcast and launched in 2016. All was going smoothly for the show until a few weeks ago, when Seeso announced it would be shuttering—leaving Take My Wife without a home. That news prompted Esposito to take to Twitter, where she recounted all the show had been able to accomplish during its short run.
“Changing the power dynamics in television can be done,” Esposito wrote, as she laid out the diverse numbers powering Take My Wife, which features women, people of color, and queer people throughout every level of production. “With Seeso’s help, strong guidance from Comedy Bang Bang (our production company) and a mandate between Rhea & I as showrunners that we came here to claim our space and make room for others, we did it. You can too.”
— Cameron Esposito (@cameronesposito) August 9, 2017
Esposito’s tweet resonated with fans, who took to social media in a frantic effort to find Take My Wife a new platform and keep the show in production. Fans begged media giants like Hulu and Netflix to “please give a home to a historic, inclusive show!” while others spoke to the impact the series has had on their own lives. “#TakeMyWife is all I want to watch, and the second season is stacked with talented queer women – please help find it a new home,” one user wrote on Twitter.
That outpouring of support has meant a lot, but Esposito and Butcher say it also just speaks to the void their show has filled, especially when it comes to LGBTQ characters on television.
“One thing people really responded to about season one of the show was the honesty. We’ve just heard the words, “it’s honest” again and again,” Esposito told ThinkProgress. “Queer characters are saddled so often with moving the story along in television. They’re sidelined, or dying so someone else can be sad that they’ve died. [With Take My Wife] our life looks like our show. That’s why we made it that way. We wanted to serve our community.”
Queer characters, as Esposito noted, are not known for playing central roles, on television or in any other medium. Female queer characters in particular are also not known for surviving—in 2016, Autostraddle compiled a staggering list of the lesbian and bisexual characters who had been killed off to date on television, a phenomenon so widespread that it birthed its own hashtag, #BuryYourGays. By contrast, Take My Wife stars two very much alive comedians, neither of whom serves to prop up their heterosexual counterparts. There is also a pointed shift away from male fantasy, something unusual for content featuring lesbian characters.
“There’s never a question about whether we stay together [on the show],” Butcher said. “That’s why the first episode begins with us getting married. Our story is, we’re two people who found each other, moved to Los Angeles, we’re doing comedy, and we’re in a relationship. There hasn’t been something like that for LGBTQ people before.”
Much of the premise of Take My Wife follows Butcher and Esposito balancing their relationship with their careers, tackling a number of nuanced topics along the way. The show’s first season addressed class issues, along with the stark racism, misogyny, and homophobia that permeate the world of comedy. One episode pointedly addresses the jokes about rape and sexual violence male comics in particular are known for, while others acknowledge the challenges Butcher and Esposito face as gender non-conforming queer people, deviating from the feminine lesbian stereotype preferred on many shows.
That fact has resonated with fans. With states across the country targeting transgender and gender non-conforming people through anti-queer legislation and the Trump administration walking back protections for the LGBTQ community more broadly, Take My Wife has provided a realistic (and positive) portrayal of female masculinity, as well as non-binary gender more broadly. In the time since Seeso announced its closure, Esposito and Butcher said viewers have thanked them for that representation.
“I know Rhea got a tweet specifically saying she was the reason [the person] felt comfortable with their masculinity,” said Esposito. “We’ve been hearing that kind of thing a lot. That’s what I got into comedy, to be the person I never got to see.”
Butcher also said responses from fans more broadly have spoken to the “safe space” the show has provided.
“I think the show can be a place for people to go, to feel good,” Butcher said. “It’s a place to go for 20 minutes where people look like you and act like you do. It’s a space to re-charge.”
While Take My Wife‘s fate is still up in the air, the fan push to save the show has been helping a lot. For now the show is still without a platform, but Esposito and Butcher pointed to the efforts that have already played out and encouraged the show’s supporters to keep speaking up.
“We’ve seen signs of hope for the show,” said Butcher. “Keep tweeting.”
Regardless of their show’s fate, both comics emphasized that Take My Wife is proof that diverse television is possible—and that the show’s fanbase is proof that similar offerings have a market.
“We’ve loved seeing the hashtag,” said Esposito. “Fans don’t realize how much they’ve done for the show. Tweeting, posting on social, all of that; it helps everyone know that there is a market for these types of shows. That’s how you get more of it. If you support queer shows…that’s how other queer shows get made. Entertainment does listen.”
While only time will tell if Take My Wife‘s second season makes it to a new home, Esposito and Butcher said they were both proud of the work they’ve done. Above all, they’re glad to have given queer fans a chance to see themselves on television—and to offer viewers of all identities a look at life through their eyes.
“There is no reason that I shouldn’t get to watch a show that feels like my life,” said Esposito. “Straight, white cis dudes… they aren’t the only perspective.”