January 27, 2006
Its cold outside
Make some popcorn, stay in and snuggle by the TV's warm blue glow
There is a debate in some parts of the country--driven mainly by the extreme right wing and religious zealots--about the “homosexualization” of America. They claim this is foisted upon them by the so-called liberal media and degenerate Hollywood machinery, and point to critical acclaim of films like Brokeback Mountain, Capote and Transamerica.
What they omit is that these films only reflect life as it is--yes, there really are gay cowboys--and that the popularity of these films means that they are well made and obviously striking a chord.
The same could be said about a lot of television these days. As the “midseason” starts this month, culminating in May with sweeps, GLBT-related television seems to be in relatively good shape, even though hot shows like HBO’s Six Feet Under and NBC’s path-breaking Will and Grace are leaving the screen.
Nevertheless, here is a smattering of shows worth watching that also happen to have GLBT-related characters and stories, or out writers, actors, directors and creators.
Crumbs (ABC, Thursday 9:30 pm) There is no one quite as quirky or talented as Jane Curtain (Third Rock From the Sun) when she gets to do her shtick well. Here she plays a drug-addled, slightly psychotic mother of two, including one son who is gay and can’t quite find his way out of the closet. He is played by none other than the cute kid from The Wonder Years, Fred Savage. Although relatively new, the show has some sharp writing and a cast that is funny.
Out of Practice (CBS, Monday 9:30 pm) An entire family of physicians is the center of this funny show starring the gay fave Stockard Channing (West Wing, Grease, Six Degrees of Separation) as the matriarch. Paula Marshall (Spin City) plays her very out and very free-spirited lesbian daughter. The cast is top-notch and the new show has oodles of promise.
The show is from the fertile mind of out writer Joe Keenan (Frasier).
Love Monkey (CBS, Tuesday 10 pm) This new show starring Tom Cavanaugh as a music industry whiz kid, features one of his close friends as gay. Jake (Christopher Wiehl) is a sportscaster who dates men, but isn’t out to his friends. The show features some good writing and is hip in its style and content.
Will & Grace (NBC, Thursday 8 pm) After eight seasons, Will & Grace is scheduled to end in May. It may not be going out in top form, but it cannot be denied that the show has been revolutionary and still remains relevant. Even though the storylines have been uneven and the writing somewhat stale in recent seasons, Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullaly) have been inimitably funny every single moment they have been on the screen. There’s a spin-off that could be pure gold.
Four Kings (NBC, Thursday 8:30 pm) From Will and Grace creators David Kohan and out Max Mutchnick, we have a comedy about four friends, one of who is in denial about being gay. But his friends are not so certain. The jury is out on whether this show will even have half the success of Will and Grace.
Desperate Housewives (ABC, Sunday 9 pm) After losing some steam in its second season, Desperate Housewives just got a shot in the arm with a Golden Globe for Best Comedy Series. The gay son of Bree (Marcia Cross) is being given greater prominence on the show, which is already a hot fave with queer audiences--something out creator Mark Cherry knows how to use to his advantage.
Hot Properties (ABC, Friday 9:30 pm) This show, capitalizing on the Sex and the City infamy, features four real estate mavens dealing with love and lust in the Big Apple. Lola, one of the foursome, seems to have a penchant for being attracted to gay men--including her husband. While her gaydar may be awful, the show seems to have gay appeal all over it.
Two and a Half Men (CBS, Monday 9 pm) This hilarious show, in a frat-boy sort of way, features Alan Harper (Jon Cryer) who must struggle with his sometime-lesbian ex-wife Judith (Marin Hinkle) as they parent their son.
Charlie Sheen has come into his own as a comic star on this show.
Emily’s Reasons Why Not (ABC) After only one airing, this comedy was canceled. Starring Heather Graham in the title role, it featured her gay best friend Josh (Khary Payton) who was the only African American LGBT character in a leading TV role this season. Perhaps a write-in campaign could resuscitate it.
The Book of Daniel. NBC has just dropped this controversial show from its Friday-night lineup. It had been rejected by eight affiliates because of loud religious-right objections to its pill-popping Episcopal priest with a gay son, who also talks to Jesus. Out creator and producer Jack Kenny tried to create a human side to the struggles of this priest, played by the always impeccable Aidan Quinn. Christian Campbell of the indie hit Trick was the conflicted gay son. The network stopped short of saying the show is canceled in its January 24 announcement. Wouldn’t it be nice if the progressive minds of this country were as organized in creating a counter-attack to the bigotry and inanity of the show’s detractors?
ER (NBC, Thursday 10 pm) The one recurring lesbian character, Dr. Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes), has gained a lot of critical acclaim in this medical drama now in its 13th season. Other gay plots and characters have been promised in future episodes.
Commander in Chief (ABC, Tuesday 9 pm) In its debut season, this West Wing clone, featuring a female president (the amazing Geena Davis of Thelma and Louise fame) is unabashedly proud of its progressive agenda. In its first season, the show has tackled the delicate issues of HIV and AIDS and personal privacy. One of the president’s chief aides is gay (Anthony Azzizi) and of Middle Eastern origins to boot. Look for the show to tackle other GLBT-related subject matter as it progresses into future seasons.
Nip/Tuck (FX, Tuesday 10 pm, alternating with The Shield) This savvy, sexy and surreal show--unlike any other on TV--features a doozy of a guy Matt McNamara (John Hensley) who in past seasons has fallen for his transgender life coach (Famke Janssen). In the current season he seems to be exploring male-on-male attractions. Roma Maffia also returns as the lesbian anesthesiologist Liz Cruz on this soap. The show should be commended for its edginess and it desire to take on the taboo.
The L Word (Showtime, Sunday 10 pm) Even though Showtime’s other gay fave Queer as Folk is gone, The L Word returns for another season, making its hard-core fans exceptionally happy. It is the only show on television right now centered almost entirely on lesbian and bisexual women, and for that it needs to be saluted. The show, sexy and sultry as it is, also humanizes the lesbian experience in America and that is its truly revolutionary aspect. Out actor Alan Cumming (Broadway’s Cabaret) has a recurring role and this season will also include Moira (Daniela Sea), a female-to-male transgender character. (On the January 29 episode, look for gay icon Billie Jean King to guest star.)
Weeds (Showtime, Monday 10 pm) From out creator and director Brian Dannelly (Saved!) we have a unique show about a mother who takes to selling marijuana to keep up her style of living.
Nancy Botwin (played by gay fave Mary Louise Parker) is probably more desperate than any of the housewives on the ABC hit. There are many gay and lesbian characters and plots on this one-of-a-kind series.
Justin Kirk of Angels in America fame has a recurring role on the series as Nancy’s brother-on-law.
The Shield (FX, Tuesday 10 pm) This critical hit takes on the nexus of sexuality and race in a provocative way. Julien Lowe (Michael Jace) is a deeply religious, African-American policeman repressing his gayness. His squad members know that he is gay. He even completes a church program promising to “cure” homosexuality. Julien marries a woman and adopts her son. The show continues to grapple with the sham of his “cure.”
Rome (HBO) This lush drama series from the very gay friendly HBO is stunning in its opulent view of the ancient empire, and its awesome ensemble.
Featuring several gay sub-plots, including a very well done one about a lesbian affair between an older matriarch and a younger girl, Rome has already gathered a huge gay following in its first season.
Although new episodes have all aired, the show is worth catching in reruns as we await the next season coming late in 2007.
Thankfully, the above aren’t the entire picture. There are many other network and cable shows with GLBT characters and content like WB’s Reba, Fox’s Bones, and HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. Don’t forget to check local listings for reruns of shows like Sex and the City or the gay-friendly West Wing, which is still airing new episodes in its final season on Sundays at 8 pm.
Reality television has oodles of queer people from Queer Eye to The Amazing Race. ABC is currently seeking same sex families for its hit show Super Nanny. Soap operas like Passions and General Hospital have entered the new millennium (finally) with gay characters and story-lines that are integral to the overall drama.
And if you are in a market that features gay networks like Here, Logo and Q, you have even more options at the touch of your remote.
As the controversy around The Book of Daniel proves to us again, GLBT-haters would love to see the community become invisible once again. Thus, watching TV is not simply an act of entertainment, it is a political maneuver. Greater ratings means the shows will stay on.
More importantly, the GLBT community needs to organize in the same was as its opponents and demand that shows stay on, that the community is more accurately represented and portrayed and that they too have the power of protesting and boycotting networks and shows that succumb to the blackmail and insidious protests of the homophobes and gay-bashers.
Who knew that being a couch potato was a political act?