Popular premiered in 1999 and was cancelled in 2001, after two seasons on The WB. The teen comedy-drama features popular cheerleader Brooke McQueen (Leslie Bibb) and nerdy high school journalist Sam McPherson (Carly Pope). The two are forced to live together, when Sam’s mom, Jane (Lisa Darr) gets engaged to Brooke’s dad, Mike (Scott Bryce). The cast also included: Tamara Mello, Christopher Gorham, Sara Rue, Bryce Johnson, Tammy Lynn Michaels, Leslie Grossman, and the late Ron Lester.
Popular was successful writer-producer Ryan Murphy’s first foray into TV. The American Horror Story and American Crime Story created, co-created Popular with Lisa Matthews. Murphy tells EW that during the show’s run, The WB was “relentlessly homophobic,” toward the TV series.
According to the report, Murphy says making the show became a “miserable experience,” because of network interference over “content.” Here is more from EW:
The series, which became a cult hit after only two seasons from 1999 to 2001, became a battle point between Murphy and the network. He admits: “They never got me and they kept trying to turn me into something else. And they were very homophobic even though they would have gay characters on the air.”
Murphy adds: “They would give me notes, like, ‘The Mary Cherry character, like, could she be less gay?’ Like, it was very relentlessly homophobic.’ It was rough and I didn’t have a good experience with the studio and everybody.”
But he admits, like many things in his career, Popular was another lesson. “You know in the first year they really left me alone and they hadn’t meddled with me yet,” he remembers. “And in the second year it was like us and Roswell and they thought it could be a hit. So I remember getting notes, like, ‘Can this character get cancer?’ I’m like, ‘OK.’ But I wanted it to work so I did the notes and thus I ended up jeopardizing my own sensibility and it got cancelled after year two. But it was a really important experience for me because what I learned is follow your gut, listen to your voice, and if they don’t want your voice, they don’t want you.”
EW followed up with a unnamed source who worked at The WB while Popular was in production, who was “surprised” by the creator’s comments.
“I don’t recall that being our POV towards the series,” the source said. “We absolutely loved Ryan personally and were bewitched by his incredibly unique voice. I am crestfallen to learn that he wasn’t comfortable during that time and worst of all that he considered us homophobic. We took great pride in the groundbreaking portrayal of gay characters on our network as it represented the lives of so many writers, directors, actors and executives working at the WB who were gay themselves along with members of our audience. While I thought our relationship with Ryan was strong both during and well after Popular, nobody should feel the way he felt and if we were unwittingly responsible for that to any degree I’m deeply saddened. We’ve been so proud of what Ryan has gone on to accomplish and have always been rooting for him to fulfill his creative ambitions.”
After Popular was cancelled, Murphy would go on to create shows including Nip/Tuck and Glee, as well as American Horror Story and American Crime Story. His newest series, Feud is currently in pre-production at FX.
The drama, featuring the Bette Davis/Joan Crawford feud, is expected to premiere in 2017. Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lang star.
What do you think? Did you watch the Popular TV series on The WB? Do you think Popular was cancelled at the right time, or should it have been renewed for a third season? Did you noticed a marked different between the first and second seasons?