Arts & EntertainmentTelevision

As Promised, the Revolution Is Being Televised

LGBT characters continue to move TV closer to reality

by Nancy Ford

Ever heard of "Glee"? Photo by Miranda Penn Turin/FOX

Who else misses the big deal? The hoopla that preceded Ellen’s coming out? The tease of Roseanne Conner and Mariel Hemingway’s kiss? The outrage of the moral right at the airing of Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer’s Serving in Silence? The simple act of watching any of these shows in the 1990s was by itself a fabulous act of revolution—without having to leave the comfort of one’s own La-Z-Boy.

It begs another question: is contemporary, 21st-century, post-Queer Eye for the Straight Guy television programming newsworthy, or even noteworthy, simply because it features an LGBT character that is portrayed in a positive light?

The short answer is yes, of course. It’s all about role models and visibility and pissing off the Phelps family.

With the obvious exception of Pat Robertson’s CBN, literally all television networks currently spotlight queer characters in debut and returning series in some form or fashion, some shows going beyond mere tokenism by offering multiple LGBT characters. Whip out those poster boards and magic markers, Rev. Phelps: your work is cut out for you this season.

As many as three roommates might or might not be gay or lesbian—the producers are being a bit cagey with the details—in MTV’s The Real World: San Diego 2011 (La Jolla), MTV’s 26-year-old venerable granddaddy of the reality show genre. September 28.

ABC knows a good gay thing when it sees one. Along with its Emmy-spawning, heavily gay-influenced hits, Grey’s Anatomy (September 22), Modern Family (September 21), and Desperate Housewives (September 25), the network returns with Happy Endings (September 28) with its hysterically fresh Max (Adam Pally), the gay antigay. • In hoofer news, Chaz Bono and Carson Kressley have signed on as contestants in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars (September 22).

Over on the NBC lot, The Office’s big story is that token gay guy, Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nunez), may find love this season with ultra-vanilla warehouse guy, Matt (Sam Daly). And that’s really big. That’s what Michael said. September 22. • Law & Order: SVU comes back for a 13th season, thanks to yummy non-lesbian lesbian heartthrob, Mariska Hargitay. The essential lesbian film Desert Hearts’ director and star, Donna Deitch and Helen Shaver, both directed two episodes for the crime drama’s 12th season; let’s hope they repeat that task, and more, this year. September 21.

The Good Wife returns to CBS with no less than three LGBT characters of note: one gay (Owen, played by Dallas Roberts), one lesbian (Lana Delaney played by Jill Flint), and one bisexual (Kalinda Sharma played by Archie Panjabi). Openly bisexual actor Alan Cumming even plays a straight man in the series, making the show just one letter shy of a complete set. September 25.

FOX has this hit show about singing high schoolers, called Glee. It’s won some awards. Ever hear of it? September 20. • Long before it gave us Kurt and Coach Sue Sylvester, FOX gave us The Simpsons’ Patti Bouvier, matriarch Marge’s tennis-loving lesbian sister, and Waylon Smithers, the decades-loyal sub to Montgomery Burns. September 25. • FOX’s House also features a bisexual character, Remy Hadley, played by The Daily Show alum Olivia Wilde. October 3. • Later on FOX’s Sunday animation line-up, Mike Barker and Seth MacFarlane voice American Dad neighborhood gay couple, Terry Bates and Greg Corbin. September 25.

The CW’s America’s Next Top Model finds trans model Isis King on the runway, along with out lesbian Kayla Ferrel. September 14. • CW stays trendy with 90210’s two gays and a bi (“Ian”/Kyle Riabka; “Teddy Montgomery”/Trevor Donovan; and “Adrianna Tate-Duncan”/Jessica Lowndes), with Gossip Girl introducing Serena’s younger gay brother, Eric Van der Woodsen (Conor Paolo). September 13 and September 26, respectively.

Pilots still waiting in the networks’ wings include ABC’s Marc Cherry project about gynecologist brothers, one of whom is gay; NBC is still considering I Hate That I Love You and A Lot Like Us, both—honest to God—concerning a lesbian couple and their sperm-donating friend.

No airdate has yet been floated, but Logo and BBC America have announced their agreement to cut three brand-new episodes reuniting Edie (Jennifer Saunders), Patsy (Joanna Lumley), and other original cast members of the comedic Brit masterpiece Absolutely Fabulous. And television absolutely doesn’t get any more fabulous than that. •


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