Did you finish marathon-viewing Tiger King and wonder, “will any show ever be as queer and entertaining as this one?” Well, the answer to that question is yes.
OutSmart took a deep dive into LGBTQ television history and hand-picked some of the best shows you’ve probably never heard of. Whether you like realistic gritty dramas, over the top comedies, or something unique and fantastical, we guarantee there’s something in this list for you.
Los Espookys (2019)
This Latin American surrealist quasi-horror comedy might not be what you expect to see when looking for queer representation, but rest assured—this show does not disappoint. Written by and starring out comedian Julio Torres, it follows a group of friends who take on strange jobs while trying to fulfill their dreams of working as a professional special effects crew in Hollywood.
Perfect for fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Please Like Me.
Originally filmed in Catalan, this Spanish series is reminiscent of the classic film Dead Poets Society, but with a modern twist. Centered around the titular Merlí, a high school philosophy professor who wishes to empower his students (including his gay son, Bruno) despite the roadblocks and personal issues they face. The show also has a sequel spin-off series called Merlí: Sapere Aude, which follows Pol and Bruno, two queer students, during their university years.
Perfect for fans of How To Get Away With Murder and One Day at a Time.
Despite minimal advertising and its regional language, this Norweigan teen drama took the internet by storm when it first released. With each season following a different protagonist, the series has risen to cult status thanks to its superb writing and discussion of sensitive topics, such as eating disorders, sexual assault, LGBTQ issues, and mental illness. The third season follows a gay teen as he comes out to friends and family after beginning his first same-gender relationship. The show got so popular it was remade for nine different countries, including France, Germany, Italy, and in America as Skam Austin.
Perfect for fans of Sex Education and The Fosters.
A hidden gem unlike any other, this British mini-series commemorates 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 (a law which decriminalized homosexuality in the United Kingdom) by bringing together the country’s finest LGBTQ writers and actors for a hit show. Much like a stage play, this series consists entirely of stand-alone monologues, and queer characters recount their lives and experiences at different periods of time in British history. Emotionally driven and historically accurate, this show will tug at your heartstrings and make you appreciate our queer predecessors all the more.
Perfect for fans of Tales of The City and Gentleman Jack.
This Netflix original anthology series follows a variety of couples at different stages of their relationships—each dealing with unique, yet relatable issues. Using Chicago as the unifying backdrop to all of the love stories, this show proves that relationships might be many things, but never easy. Out actresses Kiersey Clemmons and Jaqueline Toboni (also known for her starring role as Finley in The L Word: Generation Q) play the charming young lovers first introduced in the episode “Vegan Cinderella.”
Perfect for fans of The L Word and Broad City.
Cucumber & Banana (2015)
Created by the talented Russel T. Davies (writer for Queer as Folk, Doctor Who, A Very English Scandal), these two hilariously realistic series cannot be recommended without the other. Technically a three parter (with the third, Tofu, being a non-fiction work mainly consisting of interviews with cast and crew), Cucumber recounts the midlife crisis of Henry, a middle-aged gay man who makes a string of rash decisions, while Banana focuses on different queer characters who encounter Henry at some point in their lives. Best seen one after the other, each episode is riveting as well as supremely honest.They do not shy away from the ugly truth of modern society, but still celebrate the small moments of happiness we find in unlikely places.
Perfect for fans of Queer as Folk and Shameless.
High Fidelity (2020)
Based on the same book that inspired John Cusack’s homonymous film, this show reimagines its original straight male protagonist Rob Brooks as a bisexual woman. Played by Zoë Kravitz, Robyn “Rob” Brooks owns a vinyl records store, is obsessed with music and Top 5 lists, and just had her heart shattered. Overlayed with a top-notch soundtrack, the show sees Rob recount her biggest heartbreaks, while learning a little more about love and growing up in the process.
Perfect for fans of Euphoria and The Bold Type.
When We Rise (2017)
Focused on the accomplishments of real-life heros, this docu-drama depicts the early struggles of LGBTQ civil rights activists post-the Stonewall Riots and through the ‘80s and ‘90s AIDS crisis. Informative and entertaining, this show reminds us that sometimes we need to slow down and appreciate how far we’ve come thanks to these 20th century icons.
Perfect for fans of Pose and Gaycation.
Hit & Miss (2012)
While this pick that hasn’t aged as well as others, it was one of the first drama series to feature a transgender protagonist. Unfortunately, however, a cisgender actress was cast in that role.
Still, this show is an unexpectedly thrilling watch for anyone looking for something out of the ordinary. Centered around an assassin named Mia, the woman lives a lonely life until she’s notified that her ex-girlfriend has passed away and named her the legal guardian of her four children—one of which is Mia’s son. Each character has their own distinct personality, and Mia’s gender identity isn’t a gimmick for the show or her defining characteristic. Instead, it’s a real part of her story.
Perfect for fans of Killing Eve and Orange is the New Black.
In this British sitcom, Ian McKellen stars as one-half of an aging gay couple that has been together for 48 years. After falling into bad habits and becoming disconnected from modernity, a young new neighbor disrupts their routine. With quick-witted banter at every turn—along with genuinely heartwarming moments‚—there’s never a dull moment. Although not everything in this show has aged as gracefully as its actors, its hilarity and entertainment value has not been diminished.
Perfect for fans of Will & Grace and Grace and Frankie.
In The Flesh (2017)
This one might seem like a hard sell at first glance, as it tells the story of a post-zombie apocalypse world that figures out how to make the undead creatures regain their human consciousness and proceeds to integrate them into surviving human societies. But, once you get past its sci-fi/horror exterior, you come to find that the show uses the wild concept as an extended allegory for xenophobia, ableism, PTSD, and more. Although this show will hook you with a great cast of characters and gripping mystery, at its core, it’s simply about a queer young man looking for love and acceptance. And, I must admit, this pick is my personal favorite; I cannot recommend it enough.
Perfect for fans of Sense8 and Orphan Black.
Doom Patrol (2019)
As a severely underappreciated addition to the superhero boom of the 2010s, this zany and quirky show follows a group of misfits as they’re forced to step into the spotlight—despite their best attempts to hide away from society. The Addams Family meets Suicide Squad with this close-knit team as they try to rescue the doctor who saved their lives and brought them together from different places and eras in time. Out actor Matt Bomer plays the melancholic, yet powerful Negative Man, a closeted former Air Force pilot who in the 1960s had a family and a lover.
Perfect for fans of Legends of Tomorrow and Modern Family.