Looking for a “Will & Grace” replacement on television this fall?
Well, keep looking.
Broadcast network’s 2006-2007 line-up will be shorter on queers and heavier on heteros, according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
“‘Will & Grace’ showed that a series with gay characters can be popular and successful, yet the networks have not developed any series to capitalize on this success,” said Damon Romine, entertainment media director for GLAAD.
The number of LGBT scripted representations on the six major broadcast networks will comprise 1.3 percent of all series regular characters on the networks’ 2006-07 schedule.
“While the year-to-year numbers of gay characters on the broadcast networks are relatively the same, the quality of the images is greatly reduced,” Romine said.
Networks ignore LGBTs
The lack of LGBT characters on broadcast networks has increased this year with the loss of NBC’s “Will & Grace,” CBS’s “Out of Practice” and ABC’s “Crumbs.” “Television is a reflection of society, but the broadcast networks are not doing enough to fairly represent the diversity of their audience,” Romine said.
GLAAD analyzed the 95 announced primetime comedies and dramas on broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, The CW and MyNetworkTV. Of the 679 series’ regular lead or supporting characters, nine gay or lesbian characters appear on eight different scripted shows, with five semi-regular recurring characters and no bisexual or transgender representations on broadcast networks. Last year there were 10 gay or lesbian characters and six lesbian, gay and bisexual recurring ones.
“In my discussions with network executives, I’m left with the impression that individual producers are not doing what they can to consciously portray LGBT characters and weave them into the fabric of their shows,” Romine said.
Of the nine current LGBT characters, seven are gay white men. The findings show that ABC ranks highest in overall diversity while Fox ranks lowest.
“There is no legitimate reason why the casts of any of the ‘Law & Orders’ or ‘CSIs’ or a ‘Boston Legal’ doesn’t include a gay lawyer, cop, detective or forensic investigator,” he said.
Gay fall line-up
Gay columnist Daniel R. Coleridge, the senior editor for TVGuide.com and author of “The Q Guide to Soap Operas,” believes actors are craving roles, but networks aren’t making them available.
“If there are roles to be played, actors will come and play them,” Coleridge said. “Actors are just pawns on a chess board.”
With the new season of “Desperate Housewives” debuting Sept. 24, Shawn Pyfrom will return as the troublesome gay teen Andrew, who was abandoned by his disapproving mother (Marcia Cross) in season two. Coleridge calls Andrew a “morally ambiguous character,” and said it’s refreshing a television show features someone who’s not a “helpless victim-y person or a bizarre predator.”
“While the character may not be a role model, the show has been pretty progressive in showing Andrew having a relationship with his boyfriend,” Romine said, referring to several intimate scenes Pyfrom has with actor Ryan Carnes.
Coleridge mentions that ABC hasn’t pushed the same-sex kiss episodes in promos for the show like networks have in the past. “They’re not like, ‘Tonight: a same-sex kiss you will never be able to forget because it will scar your mind and your children.’ It’s not being made a big deal,” he said.
Even without Andrew, Coleridge said the hit soap opera’s “powerful divas in outrageously campy, sexy situations” lends itself to a gay audience.
“That right there is going to draw in the gays,” he said.
CBS’s “The Class,” which airs on Mondays, features Sean Maguire as Kyle – the only primetime gay lead on broadcast networks. Kyle is an openly gay guy who reunites with his former third-grade classmates and, although a chic magnet in school, now loves his live-in boyfriend. “That could be very interesting,” Coleridge said.
New gay TV wave
The storyline of a closeted married man attending group therapy sessions in “Help Me Help You” concerns Coleridge.
“The fact that I’m uncomfortable with the idea of that character suggests that he may have something to offer to the colors of the rainbow here on American television,” he said.
Romine’s upset that many LGBT characters are stereotypes and sidekicks, and “now we’re seeing a wave of gay characters who are living in the closet, pretending to be straight or married.”
Despite broadcast networks’ neglect of LGBT characters, cable still boosts 25 LGBT people, down by one from last season.
Both FX and Bravo haven’t been shy about being inclusive to diverse groups of television viewers. “That network’s (Bravo) most successful shows are inclusive of LGBT people, which should definitely send a message to other producers about showing the diversity of the television audience,” Romine said.
With “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and more notably “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List,” Coleridge recognizes Bravo’s emphasis on straight allies. “They’re reflecting a real truth that straight and gay people know each other,” he said.
Coleridge favors lesbian student Thelma (Jemima Rooper), who helps her best friend Cassie unleash her magic powers on BBC America’s “Hex.”
“She’s heroic,” he said. “She’s expressing her sexual orientation in, what I think, is a very positive and healthy way. I’d like to see more characters like Thelma on American television.”
Even with less LGBT people on television this year, we’re still further ahead than we were 10 years ago, Coleridge noted. He remembers when “Melrose Place” had a same-sex smooch, but the camera cut away to show Andrew Shue as Billy Campbell watching as if there was a train wreck.
“I think that we’re better off than 10 years ago,” Coleridge said. “I see more positive here than negative.”