What do we want?
When do we want them?
Picture this: Shows created with you in mind. Shows like Vervegirl TV’s Carmilla or like Orange is the New Black, in that they tell original stories often not told enough–stories about lesbian/queer women. That’s Tello.
But before I get into that, I think we need to talk briefly about why a site like Tello is a much-needed godsend. Let’s take a look at how lesbians and queer women get treated on TV (and I mean just TV, because if I also focused on other forms of media we’d be here ALL DAY).
To point to the most recent examples (that I can think of, at least) there’s Orphan Black’s Delphine Cormier (played by
my goddess Evelyn Brochu) who got shot in a parking garage and is presumed dead.
I’m usually one to say, “If you don’t show the character’s on-screen death then there’s a good chance they’ll come back!”
But given the way the actresses are tweeting their goodbyes, and what co-creator John Fawcett had to say about it: “For us, I believe this is a horrible thing that had to happen. And I know that it’s hard and I know that it’s emotional and I know there are going to be a lot of people out there going ‘WHY?!?’ But trust me, this was a necessary move to make.”
Well, let’s just say I’m not super optimistic about it.
Another recent example of lesbian characters getting shafted would be The 100’s Commander Lexa (played by
my girlfriend Alycia Debnam-Carey). Technically her character isn’t the one that gets shafted, but because she does the shafting, the lesbian romance comes to an abrupt halt. The CW can get to say that they’re “progressive”, because their main character, Clarke, is bisexual and kissed a girl (Lexa) once. (Technically, the Lexa/the lesbian initiated the “surprise” kiss, absolving Clarke of responsibility so that people could easily say she wasn’t super into it, but let’s not get into that.)
But… wait… what about all the straight boys that want to fantasize about dating Clarke? And all the straight girls who want to be Clarke?
Not to worry. The CW doesn’t alienate their main, straight audience, because surprise! Lexa betrays Clarke, therefore ending that romance before it even gets to develop into something real. We wouldn’t want a lesbian relationship that could possibly be off-putting to their heterosexual viewers! If you want to read my thoughts on The 100 (and my prediction for ‘Clexa’ development in Season 3, check out this recent blog post.)
Yes, Clarke, we DO deserve better than this constant, lesbian-relationship-ruining bullshit.
One more example then I promise I will get to the point. Lauren German’s lesbian character on Chicago Fire, Leslie Shay, gets hit by some beam or some shit, and dies in a burning building. In an interview with TVLife, Executive Producer Matt Olmstead ends up saying that all the writers sat in a room deciding which character should be killed to cause a ‘big impact.’ They wanted to choose a character that would affect ‘the most people’. So naturally, they chose the lesbian character, because that makes sense. Basically, it’s the opposite of what they’re saying. They wanted to make the least impact, so they killed off a character they considered less important the the other (straight) central characters. These are just three examples, but other recent examples include Isabelle Hartley (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D), and Sarah Lance (Arrow.)
The point is, most of the time, it feels like the writers for mainstream TV shows include a secondary LGBT character just to say that they did, for brownie points. If they include a main character as LGBT, that character gets killed off, or their relationship ruined. I’m not here to rant and rave and list about a dozen other examples of lesbian/bisexual/queer female characters who are poorly handled/treated by show’s writers, because there’s literally an entire list on AfterEllen.com of 35 examples (which can be found here). It’s literally so common that there’s a Trope called “Bury Your Gays.” Tropes become tropes because they’re so common they’re essentially cliches.
Basically, lesbian characters are very clearly living in a straight person’s TV show, and they end up getting pushed out, murdered, or killed, while their straight buddies live on to see another season.
Lesbian? No happy ending for you, sorry.
But this finally brings me to the point of this post: tello Films. What is tello?
tello is a subscription web-series site dedicated to producing quality lesbian series. Every series on our site is made by, for, and about lesbians and lesbian-friendly allies.
Every show on tello has lesbian lead characters, a lesbian storyline, and have at least one lesbian producer. Our mission is to support the creation of lesbian entertainment and encourage lesbian creators whose ideas aren’t often welcomed in mainstream media.
Pretty sexy, right? There’s finally a place to watch shows written for and by lesbians, a place where lesbian characters aren’t in a straight person’s show, they’re in their own show, and they’re not going to be minimized or pushed out to make room for straight characters.
The mission of Tello really jived with me because it was so similar to how I started writing. I noticed that there just isn’t enough LGBTQ media out there. I couldn’t find stories where I felt I was being represented. I wanted stories that didn’t have to revolve around lesbianism or sexual orientation, but that had three-dimensional, important, lesbian characters and protagonists. The book could be about aliens and there didn’t have to be any romance in it at all, I didn’t care, I just wanted a protagonist who I could relate to.
This is why I started writing in the first place. I wanted something, couldn’t find it, and decided to take it upon myself to create it instead.
That seems to be what the CEO & Founder of Tello, Christin Baker, also did. Christin Baker founded Tello Films in order to provide modern and relevant lesbian-focused stories for the under-served lesbian community. Like me, she saw that the lesbian community craved stories with characters they could relate to, took it upon herself to create said stories, and now provides them to said starved community via the website, http://www.onemorelesbian.com/tello/
I’ll be honest. I had never heard of Tello until they reached out to me and offered me a year-long subscription in exchange for writing this post. Once I had looked into it I was eager to accept the proposal. If it turned out that this site was awesome then HELL YEAH I would want to share it with you guys! Also, for the record, I’m not making a dime from writing this review, so you can rest easy knowing that this post is 100% honest and 0% bullshit.
I decided to watch a few shows and review them for you guys.
Some things to keep in mind:
- These shows are all web series. Each episode ranges from 5-15 minutes long. It’s short, but at least they usually all end in a way that makes you want to click onto the next one.
- The web design is terrible. If I were tello I would hire a new web designer, a good one, and drop some serious bucks on making their website pretty and optimized. Maybe it’s just the digital marketer in me speaking but UX/UI design shouldn’t be overlooked. Update the comment section as well. God. Update everything. Anyway, try not to let the poor design distract you, there’s some great content on the Tello site!
- In some of their older shows, the low budget production quality is almost distracting (looking at you, Cowgirl Up.) The newer shows, however, look/feel/sound/play great!
So without further ado, here’s what I thought of the shows:
The Show: #Hashtag
Current Seasons: Two, on-going
So there are a lot of series to choose from on Tello. In fact there is drop-down menu of 18 series to choose from. For writing this review I wanted to watch a few, but where to start?
The first show I watched was #Hashtag.
Official Synopsis: #Hashtag follows the love lives of two technology-obsessed best friends in Chicago. From Instagram seduction to inappropriate selfies, Twitter oversharing to OKCupid dating, Liv and Skylar are about to learn the real-life consequences of over-indulgence in the virtual world.
I already felt like this would be the show for me. Firstly, it’s a comedy, which I dig because lesbian shows are hard enough to find as it is but when you do find them, they’re usually super dramatic and depressing. Also, it’s about tech-obsessed twenty-somethings? I can relate to that!
I’ve got to admit, the first episode had me wondering if I’d continue. It starts off awkwardly, with one of the main characters, Skylar (played by Caitline Bergh) giving herself a pep-talk in the mirror. It was supposed to be funny, I think, but the scene itself came off as cringey.
THAT BEING SAID, the show quickly picked up, which is saying something, because if my super early opinion of you is that you’re going to suck, it’s really hard to change my mind afterwards.
The truth is, #Hashtag is awesome. It somewhat reminded me of HBO Girls except, you know, the Girls in question are either lesbian or bisexual. Hallelujah!
The show is definitely funny, with wacky (kind of dumb) Skylar and the more serious (but also hilarious because she’s more serious) Liv played by Lauren Zak. Skylar continues to be annoying throughout the show as she is an aspiring stand-up comedian (and is not funny AT ALL during her comedy acts) BUT it becomes an amusing kind of annoying. Her naiveté becomes endearing. You like watching her in scenes because you know she’s going to do something ridiculous or inappropriate, which is made all the funnier when her best friend, Liv, has to witness it with that ‘ugh not again’ look on her face, as Skylar’s dumb moves usually somehow make Liv’s life harder.
One of Skylar’s on-going storylines is trying to become a famous comedian, like I mentioned. But what makes it even more interesting is that she has a rival comedian named Rose who is Liv’s evil ex girlfriend. Rose is an awesome character. You begin to notice her flirting with Skylar, and if you love the enemies-with-sexual-tension trope as much as I do you’ll enjoy this weird “I hate you but wait… are we flirting?” kind of thing going on in season one between Skylar and Rose. Did I mention Skylar has a long-term girlfriend? Well she does. Drama~
Liv is my favorite character, possibly because I can relate to her the most. You first see her in the park with her dog, trying to read a book on a comically windy day. A man hits on her. Random girls come up to pet her dog. You can see her trying to be polite, but really, she’s just annoyed at these people bothering her. I feel you girl.
Then she’s also a commitment-phobe. She starts off dating one girl, Heather, then meets a total babe named Tasha (played by Marnie Alton.) What’s funny (and extremely relatable) about Liv is how she is afraid of commitment, yet does things that are seen as moving too fast. For example, in Season 1, during one of her first dates with Tasha, she invites Tasha to a wedding where Tasha would meet Liv’s parents. Then later, in season 2, Liv freaks out when Tasha offers her a key to her apartment even though she has practically been living there.
A mystery that starts in episode 1 is the mysterious Instagram stalker Liv seems to have. This woman, who goes by ‘MarleesMom’, is described as an “older woman, a nice looking Jewish mother” in her 40s. And she’s flirting with Liv non-stop. Liv is definitely into it, as this woman is apparently gorgeous and “Liv’s type” according to Skylar. Without giving anything away, let’s just say finding out who this mysterious woman is is SO SO WORTH IT (and you have to watch season 2 to finally meet her.) If you dig HOT older women and realistic (hilarious) lesbian drama that you can relate to then you will enjoy this show.
OH! And before I forget to mention it, yes there are making out/non-graphic sex scenes and yes some of them are hot (not all, but some.) There’s especially a lot of hot girl on girl action in season 2, which you’ll want to start watching right away because season 1 ends with a cliff-hanger.
Here is the trailer for Season 1:
Anyway, just go and watch the show now! Episode 1 is a bit boring and frankly, kind of weird, but after that it gets much better. Once you make it to episode 3/4 you’ll be hooked on this great series, I promise.
The Show: Cowgirl Up
Current Seasons: Two
If you were a South of Nowhere fan then this show is probably gonna be your first stop. Why?
Mandy Musgrave, AKA the ‘Ashley’ in ‘Splashley’ is in it! AND…wait for it…
It was created by Nancylee Myatt… also of South of Nowhere fame.
Unfortunately, Mandy’s appearance wasn’t enough to keep me watching. This show was way too goofy/corny for me, which is a shame because Mandy Musgrave is so great and her talents could be better utilized in a better show. I couldn’t get through season 1 and stopped watching after forcing myself to watch episode 3 (which I only did because it did seem to be one of Tello’s more popular shows, and I wanted to give it a shot.) I’m considering trying it again at a later time. Maybe it’s just another slow start that needs patience before it hooks you? There has to be a reason so many people like it!
That being said, if you’re into western-style comedies featuring cowgirl lesbians then Cowgirl Up is right up your alley. It did have some funny moments (AND MANDY MUSGRAVE), but with the poor streaming quality, terrible fake accents, general lack of realism, and odd special effect usage it just wasn’t my thing.
Here’s the teaser:
The Show: Kiss Her I’m Famous
Current Seasons: Two, with a third on the way.
Official Synopsis:Kiss Her I’m Famous follows two down-and-out best friends as they look for fame in all the wrong places. Their plan? A celebrity sex tape to catapult the into the limelight. What could go wrong?
Kiss Her I’m Famous, created by Rolla Selbak, has an extremely strong start, which is more than I can say for the previous two shows.
It starts with a news station reporting on a sex scandal between a senator using taxpayer money to fund his hookers/escorts while on “business” trips to France. After this scandal, the escort in question gets a $20 million dollar reality TV show deal.
Then, we’re introduced to the leads.
One is a tech-savvy (super hot) lesbian named Mandy Diaz (played by Tracy Ryerson of The Real L Word fame) who we learn has just been broken up with for “not being adventurous enough in bed.”
The other friend, Jen (played by Ilea Matthews), is suspicious that her boyfriend is cheating on her while away at Cannes Film Festival. It turns out he is (with the same French escort that was caught with the senator!), and, somehow already packed, she promptly moves in with Mandy.
The charm of this show is the dynamic between these two characters. Mandy is the more serious one, who is now dealing with insecurities about not feeling sexy thanks to what her ex, Hannah, had to say about her lack of sexual adventurousness. Jen is the more excitable, free-spirited one that concocts the crazy plan of making a sex tape in order to get back at their respective former partners. She’s certain that making a sex tape (featuring Mandy and someone else) will be their ticket to ‘fame.’ Their friendship is believable and hilarious, and somewhat reminiscent of Don’t Trust The B**** In Apartment 23 (with Jen being the Chloe to Mandy’s June… except Mandy is a way better character than June so that parallel is a little eh)
But what’s great about this show is that these two characters are so much more than their sexuality. Sure, the show itself is based around a sex tape, and the character’s sexualities are important to the plot (Mandy doesn’t want her sex tape partner to be a male, as she is a lesbian) but the show itself is really about two women, who are fantastic friends, with a crazy idea, and who get closer and closer as the series continues.
What do I mean by closer? I wasn’t sure whether there was any romantic possibility between Mandy and Jen. After all, Mandy we know identifies as a lesbian, but Jen has so far only mentioned her ex boyfriend. However, by episode 3, during a more serious, heartfelt moment between the two friends, Jen tells Mandy, “You know I had a crush on you in high school, right?”
The build up, the tension, is perfect. Mandy, seemingly flustered by her friend’s confession, merely smiles, shakes her head, and changes the topic. Adorable.
YES! This is what we live for, guys. That romantic/sexual tension between two old friends, who maybe previously had never seen each other as romantic options, but who slowly become maybe more-than-friends as they go on this “sex tape” adventure together. Will they end up together? Do they have feelings for each other? How will their relationship continue to develop? I had to keep watching to find out!
I don’t want to give away too much (spoiler alert!), but basically the sex tape doesn’t exactly go as planned, as the guy that would’ve been playing opposite Mandy ends up eating a pot brownie and can’t, uh, perform. So of course, Jen replaces him as the other actress and Season 1 ends with the two friends/roommates filming a sex tape together.
Personally, I would’ve preferred more of a, “Uh, are you sure you want to do this?” or “Is this a good idea?” from either Mandy or Jen, but apparently they both were 100% fine with the sudden change in plans. If they were so fine with the new arrangement it sort of begs the question as to why they wouldn’t have considered it before. That was my only gripe with this scene.
I haven’t watched Season 2 yet, but here is the synopsis: Jen and Mandy deal with their feelings after shooting their fake celebrity sex tape. And trust us…there are A LOT of feelings.
I’m definitely excited to see how filming the sex tape has affected their friendship, if at all, and how they deal with their newly found fame after their video leaks! Not to mention, I see an episode titled “The Ex” and I can only assume Mandy’s ex, Hannah, is back in town. Yesss!
Here’s the trailer for Season 1:
The best part? You can watch all of season 1 for free. And you definitely should, because it’s my favorite Tello show so far (followed closely by #Hashtag).
The Show: Nikki & Norra
Seasons: Only one, but they tried crowdfunding season 2.
Official Synopsis: Nikki & Nora follows New Orleans locals Nikki Beaumont (Liz Vassey) and Nora Delaney (Christina Cox), former NOPD cops turned private investigators. They navigate the channels of their personal life together alongside their dedication to uncovering the truth in the one city that really likes to keep its secrets, NOLA.
Nikki & Nora is one of Tello’s most popular series. If you’ve ever wanted Rizzoli & Isles to just give in to their temptations and finally be together then this show would be for you. It’s about two former cops (played by the super hot Liz Vassey and Christina Cox) turned private eyes who live together and are partners. Partners. Like. Romantically and professionally.
Oh and yes, they’re already together at the beginning of the show. Personally, I like a build up of tensions between two characters, the will they won’t they, but the fact that their relationship is already established is definitely a nice change from the norm!
The two have great chemistry on-screen and to be honest, I didn’t care that much about whatever mystery they were solving because I was just waiting for them to have a super hot make out scene (which was super hot, by the way.) If you love detective/crime shows and lesbians then look no further.
As a bonus, Janina Gavankar (Papi) from The L Word is also a cast member, and she’s definitely hotter in this show now that she’s gotten rid of the cornrows.
I didn’t want to go too much into this because a quick Google search will show you that a ton of other people have already written about this series, AfterEllen.com included. Like I said, this show is one of Tello’s most popular.
Here’s the teaser for season 1:
Honorable Mention: AKA I only watched one episode of this show
The Show: The Throwaways
Official Synopsis: When newly out teen Olivia loses her family, her home, and her future in one fell swoop, she’s taken in by a resilient group of lesbian misfits. Things can only get better. Right?
The Throwaways, written by Julie Keck and Jessica King, is definitely the most ‘serious’ show I’ve watched while bouncing around the available shows on Tello. Well, I’ve only watched one episode, but already the content is darker than the previous shows.
This show is about Olivia, played by Ashley Andersen, a straight-A student with dreams of going to Brown University. In episode one she is trying (valiantly) to get her (very annoying and possibly dumb?) girlfriend, Andrea, to study so that she too can get into Brown. Olivia says “You need at LEAST a B” hahahaha no, you need at least an A+/4.0 GPA to get into Brown, but I digress.
So anyway, said annoying girlfriend would rather make out with Olivia than study, which of course is all fine and dandy until Olivia’s homophobic mother comes home, kicks annoying girlfriend out (the one thing she does that I agree with), and tells Olivia that she’s being sent to what Olivia calls a “De-Gaying Camp.”
Naturally, Olivia is like ‘fuck that noise’ and makes a run for it in the middle of the night. She waits in her car outside of Andrea’s house, texting her to come outside and run away with her. Andrea of course is like “umm no just because your life is fucked because I threw myself at you despite you being worried that your mom might walk in on us, doesn’t mean I’m going to fuck mine up and run away with you.” Okay she doesn’t say that. She basically avoids responding all together and says things like, “My ‘rentz would be mad.” Remind me to rant about how annoying it is when show writers have their teenage characters use terrible chat-speak riddled with typos in some weird attempt to make the characters more relatable.
Episode one ends with Olivia driving off into the night, destination unknown (but based on the synopsis, we can assume she somehow finds her way to a band of lesbian ‘misfits.’)
I’m definitely going to keep watching this one. I think it’s an important story to tell. As much as I love the fun, light-hearted lesbian series that Tello has thus far provided me with, I do think having stories that are focused on the darker issues LGBT youth face are still stories that need to be told.
Watch the trailer here:
Upcoming Tello Shows:
Also, I know you guys love Carmilla. We all love Carmilla. If you don’t love Carmilla, it’s because you don’t know what Carmilla is, and I advise you to click here so you can get up to speed.
Why am I mentioning Carmilla? Because one of Tello’s upcoming shows features Carmilla’s Kaitlyn Alexander!
The show, called Full Out, just wrapped up filming three weeks ago, and takes place in Chicago.
I literally don’t know anything else about it, but based on the above picture I can only assume it has to do with dancing? Ballet? Whatever. KAITLYN ALEXANDER IS IN IT. And if that’s not enough of a big name, another confirmed cast member is Nana Visitor of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fame.
Awesome cast. Chicago. Dancing. I think we’re in for a good one, guys.
Anyway, I know by now you’re all probably wondering how you can watch these awesome shows (or the other ones I didn’t get a chance to get to yet.)
You can get access to all 18 shows and premium content as well as trailers/teasers/extras for just $4.99 a month by becoming a Tello subscriber.
You can subscribe by CLICKING HERE.
Tello is pretty generous, and is offering my readers (you guys!) an exclusive two-week free trial to their site, giving you access to everything–including their exclusive, premium content!
So, interested in checking out what Tello has to offer, for two weeks, for FREE? You can take advantage of this awesome free-trial by CLICKING HERE.
Thanks for reading guys. And if you end up using that sweet 2-week free trial deal, let me know what you think, alright?