Grading the TV Networks
GLAAD’s annual Network Responsibility Index is out and, as in years past, several networks — read carefully, CBS and TBS — need some major improvement. But other networks, both on cable (MTV, ABC Family) and broadcast (The CW is up 15% from last year) have made some major improvements. From Project Runway to Glee to Modern Family, see how your favorite shows have helped — or hurt — the 15 networks ranked.
207.5 Hours Original Prime-time Programming
87 LGBT-Inclusive Hours - 41%
Reality programming on MTV has long been LGBT-inclusive, but this last year, representation in its slate of reality programming soared. From politically-savvy Mike Manning (pictured) in The Real World: Washington, D.C. to cast members on America’s Best Dance Crew, True Life, and Making His Band, the network cast a wide net, and appealed to a diverse audience.
ABC Family - Good
98 Hours Original Prime-time Programming
36.5 LGBT-Inclusive Hours - 37%
ABC Family’s strong showing is largely thanks to Grant (Gregory Michael) and Calvin (Paul James), gay fraternity brothers (pictured) on Greek, ending its run this season. But the future of LGBT representation on the cable network looks strong, thanks to a newly out character on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and the premieres of two shows with LGBT characters, Pretty Little Liars and Huge.
The CW - Good
570 Total Hours Prime-time Programming
198.5 Hours LGBT-Inclusive Programming – 35%
Since launching in 2006, The CW has consistently improved on providing LGBT-inclusive characters, and this year hit an all-time high with the “highest percentage of LGBT-inclusive hours ever tracked by GLAAD for this report.” Shows including America’s Next Top Model (J. Alexander, pictured), Gossip Girl, 90210, and One Tree Hill provide strong representation, and next year 90210 promises to add a gay main character.
TNT - Good
108 Total Hours Original Prime-time Programming
37 LGBT Inclusive Hours – 34%
The most improved network in the past few years, TNT had just one hour of LGBT-inclusive content in 2008. The series Raising the Bar featuring a gay law clerk and Southland with gay cop John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz, pictured) helped to improve the network's numbers.
Showtime - Good
69.5 Hours Original Prime-time Programming
22.5 LGBT-Inclusive Hours – 32%
The cancellation of The L Word greatly reduced Showtime’s number of LGBT-inclusive hours, but the addition of shows including Nurse Jackie and The United States of Tara (Keir Gilchrist, pictured) helped soften the blow. Gay characters on the returning series Weeds and Californication help to make the network’s representation solid.
Lifetime - Good
102.5 Total Hours Original Prime-time Programming
32 LGBT-Inclusive Hours – 31%
For the past three years Lifetime has shown a steady increase in LGBT-inclusive programming — this year, with the acquisition of Project Runway, its numbers soared. Drop Dead Diva also features many gay characters in guest-starring roles, and the networks focus on new reality programming promises an increased number of LGBT characters down the road.
ABC - Good
1,147 Total Hours Prime-time Programming
297.5 LGBT Inclusive Hours - 26%
ABC has consistently been one of the most LGBT-inclusive networks with shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Bett, and Brothers & Sisters. This season, Modern Family (pictured) joined the line-up, adding couple Mitchell and Cameron to the landscape. Reality shows including Dancing With the Stars and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition also feature LGBT personalities.
HBO - Good
152 Total Hours Original Prime-time Programming
40.25 LGBT-inclusive Hours – 26%
With the help of quality LGBT content on shows True Blood, Hung, Entourage, and Big Love (Matt Ross, pictured) HBO maintained its “good” rating from GLAAD for another year. And while the network's total number of LGBT-inclusive hours went down, the quality remained intact.
Fox - Adequate
781.5 Total Hours Prime-time Programming
235.5 LGBT-Inclusive Hours - 30%
Fox beat out ABC in overall percentage of LGBT-inclusive hours, but as GLAAD notes, “despite the impressive numbers, Fox remains an example of how quality alone is simply not enough.” Though the network gets high marks for gay representation on Glee (Jane Lynch, pictured) and the addition of Ellen DeGeneres to the judge’s table on American Idol, shows including Family Guy and The Cleveland Show both aired “transphobic” episodes this season.
FX - Adequate
83 Total Hours Original Prime-time Programming
22.5 LGBT-Inclusive Hours – 27%
The bulk of FX’s LGBT-Inclusive hours come thanks to the final season of nip/tuck, but while Dr. Liz Cruz (Roma Maffia, pictured) is shown in a relationship with a woman, episodes including two about a trans woman who wants her operation reversed aren’t seen by GLAAD as quality representations of LGBT people.
NBC - Adequate
1142 Total Hours Prime-time Programming
151 LGBT-Inlcusive Hours - 13%
After receiving a failing grade from GLAAD last season, NBC works its way back up the charts this year on the strength of LGBT characters featured on the now-canceled shows Heroes, Mercy (Guillermo Diaz, pictured), Trauma, and Kings. Kathy Griffin’s appearance as a lesbian activist on Law & Order: SVU also received praise.
CBS - Failing
1,147 Total Hours Prime-time Programming
79.5 LGBT-Inclusive Hours - 7%
The Amazing Race and Big Brother regularly feature LGBT representation in their contestants, but on scripted shows, only The Good Wife’s Kalinda (Archie Panjabi, pictured) hints at being a bisexual character.
USA - Failing
110.5 Total Hours Original Prime-time Programming
4.5 LGBT-Inclusive Hours – 4%
USA’s rating went down significantly in 2009–2010 with the cancellation of The Starter Wife, the only show on the network to feature a gay character. A lesbian FBI agent was introduced in the series premiere of White Collar, but she disappeared after the first episode. She came back for the season finale, and now, Marsha Thomason (pictured) will be a series regular for the show’s second season.
A&E - Failing
240.5 Hours Original Prime-time Programming
8 LGBT-Inclusive Hours – 3%
With several original and reality series, only an episode of The Cleaner featuring a gay character and Kirstie Alley’s gay assistant, Kyle, on Kirstie Alley’s Big Life register on GLAAD’s radar. Upcoming episodes of Intervention and a new scripted show called Cooler Kings offer opportunity for increased visibility.
TBS - Failing
56 Total Hours Original Prime-time Programming
1 LGBT-Inclusive Hour - 2%
With no gay characters on any of the networks original series, TBS comes in last place for LGBT-inclusive content. Its one hour of inclusive programming comes from Ellen DeGeneres’s comedy special, Ellen’s Bigger, Wider & Longer Special.
Several cable networks with LGBT-inclusive programming that were not ranked get honorable mentions in the responsibility index, including gay networks Logo and here!, Syfy, Teen Nick, Bravo, and BBC America.