HBO orders “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” documentary

U.S. pay-TV net HBO is lining up The Strange History of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, a documentary looking at the controversial compromise legislation which allowed gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they didn't disclose their sexual orientation.
August 25, 2011

U.S. pay-TV net HBO is lining up The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a documentary looking at the controversial compromise legislation which allowed gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they didn’t disclose their sexual orientation.

HBO will air the doc, which is directed and produced by Emmy winners Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato of World of Wonder Productions, to tie in with the forthcoming repeal of the law, after which service members will be allowed to serve in the military while being open about their sexual orientation.

The doc will have a sneak preview on September 19 at midnight EST, the exact moment that the law’s repeal goes into effect, followed by its first primetime airing on September 20 at 8 p.m. EST.

The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law was introduced during the Clinton presidency in 1993. President Clinton had originally promised to lift a 50-year ban on gays in the military, but found strong opposition from Congress while trying to introduce a law.

As a compromise, legislation created banning anyone in the military from asking about a person’s sexual orientation, but also compelling servicemen and women not to openly reveal their sexuality if they were gay.

The doc examines the consequences of the policy and the fight to overturn it – a battle “that would last 17 years, span three presidencies and result in the discharge of 13,368 active service members,” according to the network.

Filmed during the final 15 months of the law, the doc interweaves archival news footage and interviews with policy experts and Pentagon personnel, as well as personal accounts by a number of actively serving gay soldiers.

Bailey and Barbato have produced a variety of non-fiction programming, including the Emmy-nominated Becoming Chaz, which premiered at Sundance and aired as part of OWN’s Documentary Club, and 24 documentaries for HBO and Cinemax, including Heidi Fleiss: The Would-Be Madam of Crystal, Monica in Black and White and, most recently, the Emmy-nominated Wishful Drinking.

The doc’s supervising producer is Jacqueline Glover, the exec producer Sheila Nevins, and the producers are Gabriel Rotello and Mona Card.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.