While summer 2014 is cooling down, the fall TV season is just starting to heat up. Bittersweet, ain’t it? At least there’s a silver lining to trading in lazing in the sand for lounging on the sofa: There are plenty of programs with LGBT characters to tune into right now. Which returning shows and series premieres should be on your gaydar? Peep this shortlist of inclusive shows that run the gamut of genres to make your picks.
1. The Walking Dead
There were no LGBT characters among the central group of survivors in AMC’s post-apocalyptic horror drama until midway through season four until Tara Chambler was introduced (although, recent online chatter suggests that fan favorite and original character Daryl Dixon may, in fact, be gay). However, as is common in the world of the “The Walking Dead,” the romantic relationship between her and former Army Reservist Alisha is shot down – quite literally – before it has a chance to fully bloom. Perhaps Tara will get another stab at love in season five now that she’s been promoted to main-character status.
2. The McCarthys
Recently out Ronny McCarthy is about to accept a teaching job in Rhode Island when his basketball-coach father asks him to stay in Boston to be his new assistant. The rest of his tight-knit, sports-loving siblings cry foul over the decision, and hilarity is expected to ensue. Early reviews for this freshman series are mixed, but at least we get to watch Laurie Metcalf and Joey McIntyre for a half hour.
3. Teen Wolf
This small-screen reboot of the iconic 1985 Michael J. Fox film of the same name (which has nothing in common with its predecessor besides title and a few characters) has been a gay boy’s wet dream since day one – what with all that blatant homoeroticism and gratuitous shirtlessness going around. But it’s recurring gay character Danny (and his paramours) that gives the MTV series its real Castro street cred. Here’s hoping that season five brings even more man-on-wolf lovin’.
A charming and surprisingly funny midseason replacement, this NBC comedy provides eye candy in Chris D’Elia’s Danny Burton, and ample gay jokes from David Fynn’s Brett, the refreshingly very-average-Joe resident bartender. “Undateable” was renewed for a second season, but no premiere date has been released.
5. The Vampire Diaries
Gay fans of CW centerpiece “The Vampire Diaries” were more than eager to sink their teeth into news that a recurring gay character was coming to Mystic Falls toward the end of last season. Tune in Oct. 2 to unravel more of Luke Parker’s mystery when the series returns for its sixth season.
If you can get past Olivia Pope’s annoying, incessant bawling, you might find solace in the ruthless-but-fragile Cyrus Beene, this fictional White House’s first gay Chief of Staff. Brush up on the previous WTF seasons online and on demand before season four bows Sept. 25 on ABC.
7. Orange Is the New Black
This much-buzzed-about Netflix original series revolves around Piper Chapman, a bisexual woman sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for transporting drug money for her former girlfriend. Given the nature of the mostly-female atmosphere, there are plenty of other LGBT characters behind bars, including pre-op transgender woman Sophia Burset, played by actress Laverne Cox, who recently made history by becoming the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting category.
This Americanized version of a British comedy series follows three Chicago EMTs – one of whom is openly gay – as they navigate the daily highs and lows of first responders. “Sirens” airs on the USA network.
9. Modern Family
LGBT fans of this consistently hilarious and award-winning ABC comedy are finally satisfied that Cam and Mitchell tied the knot (it wasn’t long ago that the Internet was making a big deal about why the couple never kissed on camera – until they did), so it’ll be interesting to see how they manage married life, for better or worse.
Ian Gallagher gets around. In season one of Showtime’s dramedy “Shameless,” the fire-haired high school student was schtupping Kash, the owner of the convenience store at which Ian works – until juvenile delinquent Mickey Milkovich comes along. Ian cools things off with Kash as his relationship with Mickey heats up. Then Ian starts fucking Lloyd and Maxine and – oh, who cares, the kid’s adorable and the show is awesome.
11. One Big Happy
From executive producer Ellen DeGeneres comes this hopeful comedy about two tired-of-being-lonely-and-single best friends – one a straight guy, the other a gay girl – who decide to have a baby together. Of course, this new relationship gets trickier when the straight guy unexpectedly falls in love and marries a straight girl – just when his gay best friend announces she’s pregnant with his child. This NBC comedy is “coming soon,” but no premiere date is scheduled.
12. Penny Dreadful
A slew of 19th-century characters – like Dorian Gray and Abraham Van Helsing – populate this British-American thriller-drama that airs on Showtime. While there are no full-time LGBT characters in the main cast (yet), the on-screen alter egos of series stars Reeve Carney and Josh Harnett shared a passionate sexual encounter just four episodes in. Not enough reason to order a subscription, but just enough to YouTube that scene right now.
13. Downton Abbey
As if there isn’t enough to love about PBS’s breakout original drama series “Downton Abbey” (much of which is owed to the incredible Maggie Smith’s Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham), there’s also the sexy-but-scheming Thomas Barrow who, in time, you’ll fantasize about taking you out back and treating you like a servant.
14. Parks & Recreation
Openly gay comedian Billy Eichner’s Craig Middlebrooks didn’t get major screen time after he was introduced in season six of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” but his penchant for blowing things out of proportion and waaaay-over-the-top delivery should be put to better use as the mocku-comedy enters its seventh and final season starting in early 2015.
15. Red Band Society
There’s not much information on character backgrounds for the upcoming Fox dark dramedy “Red Band Society,” but keep your fingers crossed that this ensemble cast includes at least one LGBT teen among its patients. If not, at least we have Wilson Cruz’s Kenji Gomez-Rejon, an openly gay nurse. Series premieres Sept. 17.