Friday, February 8, 2008

LGBT Primetime Milestone Moments

I must admit I’m later than…something really late, but I’ve just gotten into friends. And by getting into I mean if it’s on I won’t immediately turn it off. I used to think it was so shallow and dumb and white but now I don’t care as much. With that background established and after seeing a few episodes with Ross’ ex I’ve just started to wonder if Friends was like the same show to regularly feature a same sex couple, and not only that but same sex parents? Especially in such a huge show. Which was so so popular with people of my generation, that would be such an influential step and something that I should laud Friends for and maybe give the show more respect than I did.
I’m not old enough, or bored enough to care about like the “thirtysomething” shows from the eighties so I legitimately don’t know but watching it maybe last night made me actually wonder
[According to the episode “The One With the Lesbian Wedding” in 1996 was a milestone episode so I’m guessing the whole same sex parenting thing must have been really radical.]

But that got me thinking, kind of, about other queer milestones in prime time and I found this article from CampKC to be invaluable (to the fleshing out of this post.) I tried to find relevant clips to jazz things up

In 1981, ABC’s popular Dynasty introduced Steven Carrington, the first openly bisexual regular character in a dramatic series. The network’s daytime soap opera All My Children featured its first gay storyline in 1983, when erstwhile heterosexual Devon McFadden declared her love for her lesbian psychiatrist. Five years later, ABC presented the first recurring out lesbian character in prime time (?) nurse Marilyn McGrath on the short-lived medical drama Heartbeat.

During these decades, television increasingly addressed issues of concern to the LGBT community. The 1985 made-for-TV movie An Early Frost offered one of the first portrayals of people with AIDS. MTV’s The Real World also dealt with AIDS, featuring HIV-positive Pedro Zamora during its 1994 season.
That same year saw the first televised gay male wedding, on the CBS series Northern Exposure, set in a small Alaska town founded by a lesbian couple
. The first same-sex wedding between two women - with activist Candace Gingrich serving as the minister - came on Friends in 1996. NBC’s TV movie Serving in Silence (1995) related the story of Lt. Margarethe Cammermeyer, who was ousted from the military after acknowledging that she was a lesbian. But not until 2006 did The L Word introduce Moira/Max, the first female-to-male character to transition on the small screen,followed later that year by Zarf/Zoe’s male-to-female transition on All My Children.

Over the years, expressions of same-sex affection between women were more accepted than those between men. In November 1989, the sitcom thirtysomething lost more than $1 million in ad revenue when it showed two men in bed together, even though a preceding kiss was axed. In February 1991, C.J. Lamb and Abby Perkins, two attorneys on NBC’s L.A. Law, shared the first lesbian kiss on network TV. In 1994, over the objections of network executives, Roseanne kissed a lesbian character played by Mariel Hemingway, and the following year on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the character Jadzia Dax kissed a woman who was the re-embodiment of her dead husband. A January 1997 episode of Relativity showed a passionate, close-up lesbian lip-lock (featuring Lisa Edelstein-Cutty from House), and two years later, TV lawyer Ally McBeal shared a prolonged smooch with a female office rival. Fox’s Melrose Place deleted a planned prime-time gay male kiss due to boycott threats in 1994, leaving Jack and Ethan on WB Network’s Dawson’s Creek to break that barrier in 2000 (in Spanish)

The late 1990s saw the first shows with prominent LGBT lead characters. On April 30, 1997 - after months of innuendo - Ellen DeGeneres had the most famous small-screen coming-out, in a star-studded episode of her ABC sitcom Ellen that attracted some 35 million viewers. But not long thereafter, her same-sex kiss on the show prompted a parental advisory warning, and the program’s ratings dropped as it began to focus more on gay issues. NBC’s Will and Grace also broke new ground, though some viewers were disappointed that the gay male lead never had an ongoing romantic relationship.

Cable television offered the most daring series featuring primarily queer casts, beginning with Showtime’s Queer as Folk in 2000 and The L Word in 2004. In a reflection of growing LGBT economic clout, Canada’s PrideVision (later renamed OutTV) became the world’s first channel offering full-time programming for a queer audience in 1991. The U.S. cable channels Here! TV, Q Television Network, and MTV/Viacom’s Logo followed suit, producing original programs such as Noah’s Arc - described by The Economist as a takeoff on Sex and the City from an African-American gay male perspective - and the supernatural gay drama Dante’s Cove.

and in an awkward segue to something else that is kind of related I guess, but you know how when on Law and Order Serena asked if she was being fired because she was a lesbian and it was like the first mention of it and seemed to come out of nowhere? (if you don't watch it here- it is like one of my fave moments

I remember thinking at the time that that was just so bizarre, and even Kathy Griffin in like her stand up mentioned how she was going through old tapes looking for clues, well a few days ago on TNT they showed the L&O episode "Gov Love" which is based on the Jim McGreevy thing where in order for Jack to get the murderer he attempts to invalidate gay marriages in the state. Watching that episode now Serena is really just pissed the whole time and offended and refuses to help Jack go along with branding people second class citizens, which you could've attributed to her just being a liberal or someone with a conscience but now, knowing that she's a lesbian you can tell that it was an attempt to show that it was a very personal issue for her. Oh Serena, I really wish I had enjoyed her as much when she was still on the show as I do now in retrospect.

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