It’s an exciting time for LGBTQ content, as there have never been more television shows and characters that center on our stories. This year, we say goodbye to many favorites: Transparent is bowing out with a musical grand finale; Modern Family ends its over decade-long historic run bringing gay love to network TV; and How to Get Away With Murder, starring Viola Davis as a bisexual law professor of color, is also tackling its last case.
However, there are many exciting new additions. Batwoman — starring a lesbian superhero played by Ruby Rose — is arriving to save Gotham City. The L Word: Generation Q is reviving an iconic series for a new era of viewers. The Politician — one of Ryan Murphy’s latest — is campaigning with the newly out Ben Platt as its lead.
Below, here are some of the LGBTQ highlights from the fall 2019 season.
No soggy bottoms! The Great British Baking Show — America's favorite series about amateur British bakers — returns to Netflix. Along with it come generous servings of biscuits, cakes, gingerbread barns, and whatever other surprise recipes judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leigh throw at the contestants. The show has featured many LGBTQ bakers in the past, and cohosts Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding delight viewers weekly with queer comedy and cross-dressing. New episodes drop weekly on Netflix.
A recent recipient of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Kirsten Dunst has proven her Hollywood staying power as well as her ability to excavate deep emotion from the campiest of setups, including beauty pageants (Drop Dead Gorgeous) and bachelorette parties (Bachelorette). Now she’s playing a widowed mother taking on the greedy purveyors of an Amway-esque cult in On Becoming a God in Central Florida. And it’s delicious. Set near Orlando circa 1992, the show, which stars Ted Levine (The Silence of the Lambs) as the organization's messianic founder, excoriates the intersections of faith and capitalism like nothing that’s come before. It’s not overtly queer, but with Dunst as Krystal Stubbs, the whiskey-drinking, chain-smoking, gun-wielding steel magnolia at its core, the series about the resilience of women offers plenty of camp and pathos.
There’s something about beautiful teens misbehaving while clad in academy blazers that viewers just devour. That said, the second season of the soapy teen mystery Elite just dropped on Netflix. The Spanish series, about students in a posh school forced to welcome three students from another social class when their school collapses due to the shoddy building materials the town’s wealthiest industrialist used, is not coy about sex and sexuality. The first season featured a rarely told storyline about a 16-year-old girl who contracts HIV from her young male partner. And the second season delves deeper into the romance between upper-crust Ander (Arón Piper) and Omar (Omar Ayuso), a young Muslim man from a humble background whose parents own a small market.
Trans and deaf artist of color Chella Man makes LGBTQ history by starring in season 2 of Titans, a superhero series from DC Universe — this one centers on teens with powers who join forces to fight evil. This is not the first time the network has marked a milestone in representation. Matt Bomer stars as a gay superhero, Larry Trainor, in Doom Patrol.
Kelly Clarkson’s a talk show host, y’all! A longtime LGBTQ ally with a massive queer fan base, Clarkson is expanding her résumé to include daytime host. In the past year alone, the indefatigable performer embarked on a massive tour to support her Meaning of Life album and returned as a coach on The Voice. Now she’s kicked off a variety show of sorts where she’ll interview celebrities, perform skits, and sing a cover song chosen by an audience member. Also, expect some tearjerking moments. For her premiere show, in a segment called "Rad Human," Clarkson welcomed the founder of a food pantry in Oregon. She was in tears before the segment was over.
HBO’s gritty drama revisits New York City’s sex trade of the ’70s, when peep shows and porn theaters lit up 42nd Street. Starring James Franco as twin brothers Vinnie (a bartender trying to make good) and Frankie (a no-good gambler with mob ties) and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Candy, a seasoned sex worker who dreams of becoming an auteur of sorts of adult films, the series could have easily veer into misogynist territory. But the show's creators, David Simon and George Pelecanos, have delivered nuanced television before with The Wire and Treme. The show's third and final season, which jumps to the mid-'80s, tackles the AIDS epidemic. While sex workers and adult film stars grapple with working around HIV and AIDS, gay bartender Paul (Chris Coy) copes with the devastation of the disease on the LGBTQ community. Aside from its queer storylines, the show costars queer actresses Roberta Colindrez (Vida) and Kat Cunning (Trinkets). If that's not enough, Grace Jones's classic sex anthem "Pull Up to the Bumper" plays over the season 3 trailer.
If you're a fan of Stephen King, don't miss Mr. Mercedes, the chilling adaptation of the trilogy authored by the King of Horror. The Audience Network series, now in its third season, follows retired detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) in his search for a "Mr. Mercedes" (Harry Treadaway) who killed a group of people in a ghastly hit-and-run. The show boasts a queer character (Breeda Wool) as well as roles for Holland Taylor and Mary-Louise Parker, making this case worth pursuing for LGBTQ viewers.
Based on a true story from reporting by ProPublica and the Marshall Project Unbelievable tracks a serial rapist and the women whose lives he upends. The gritty crime drama stars Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie, Godless) and Toni Colette (Hereditary) as the detectives on the case in the Pacific Northwest. Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever plays Marie, one of the survivors. Dumplin’s Danielle Macdonald plays another survivor. Susannah Grant, Michael Chabon, and Ayelet Waldman created the series, on which Grant (who wrote Erin Brockovich) is the showrunner. Lisa Cholodenko (High Art, The Kids Are All Right) is one of the directors on the series.
Ryan Murphy's long-running anthology series returns for its ninth installment, American Horror Story: 1984. Despite its title, the show is not an Orwellian fantasy. Rather, it is an homage to the slasher films of the 1980s. Gay Olympian Gus Kenworthy is perhaps the most surprising addition to AHS, but 1984 will also see the return of fan favorites Emma Roberts, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cody Fern, Leslie Grossman, and John Carroll Lynch. Angelica Ross and Matthew Morrison will join as well, marking their AHS debuts.
From YouTube star to game-changing late-night host, Lilly Singh is calling the shots. Not only is she among only a handful of women to host their own late-night show, but she’s also the first out bisexual woman of color to break into what has traditionally been a boys' club stronghold. A Little Late With Lilly Singh will fill NBC’s 1:35 a.m. slot formerly held by Last Call With Carson Daly. When Singh, 30, announced on Jimmy Fallon’s show that she would be hosting, she said, “I’m excited because I truly get to create a show from scratch. I get to make it inclusive. I get to create comedy segments and interview people and really create something that I believe in."
The presence of Roseanne Barr on the Roseanne reboot, from which she was eventually fired due to racist tweets, left a bad taste in the mouth of many LGBTQ viewers. The second season of The Conners, the ABC spinoff of Roseanne that is unaffiliated with the disgraced comedian, still has much to offer — especially in the form of its out lead, Sara Gilbert (Darlene Conner), and Ames McNamara as Darlene's gender-nonconforming son, Mark. Fans of the '80s and '90s original will also be pleased by the continuing screen time of John Goodman as Dan Conner and the incomparable Laurie Metcalf as Jackie Harris.
It’s about time Cobie Smulders (The Avengers, How I Met Your Mother) headed her own series. Not only is she the star of Stumptown, based on the series of graphic novels about an Army veteran turned private investigator in Portland, Ore., her character Dex Parios is bisexual. That’s right! She’s playing one of only a handful of bisexual lead characters on TV (How to Get Away with Murder and The 100 come to mind). A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Dex suffers from PTSD and also struggles with gambling debt, her love life, and caring for her brother.
“She’s definitely attracted to women and men,” Smulders said of her character. “She tries to recover through her PTSD through sex. She’s up for anything — it’s one of the things that drew me to this character.”
Jake Johnson, Michael Ealy, Camryn Manheim, Tantoo Cardinal, Cole Sibus and Adrian Martinez costar in the series, which also offers representation for indigenous women through Cardinal’s character Sue Lynn Blackbird.
It's the final season (the 11th!) of Modern Family, ABC's long-running paean to what a diverse family looks like in 21st-century America. Though the mockumentary style has worn thin for many viewers (tropes and stereotypes abound), let's not forget how groundbreaking the critically acclaimed show was when it premiered in September 2009 — a male couple raising a child were two of the main characters. Cam and Mitchell got knocked for their sexless existence, but many think their portrayal of loving dads to little Lily helped soften gay folks to America.
All of the characters in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are terrible and corrupt, which is precisely why this FX comedy has survived and been beloved by fans for over a decade. The show has been an unlikely vehicle for LGBTQ representation. Although some of the early episodes — particularly those involving trans characters — are crude in retrospect, the evolution of Mac into an out gay man (through an interpretive dance to his father at the end of season 13, nonetheless) has been one of the highlights of its run. Now in its 14th season, Sunny also makes history as the longest-running live-action sitcom in U.S. TV history (tying with The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet).
Fork! The Good Place, NBC's beloved fantasy comedy about philosophy and the afterlife, is returning for its fourth and final season. Created by Michael Schur, the series has explored complex ideas about morality and ethics while also remaining hilariously funny through the antics of deceased characters striving to be heaven-worthy played by Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Manny Jacinto. Ted Danson, as their guardian demon Michael, and D'Arcy Carden, as the omniscient Janet, are the divine cherries on top — as is the revelation that Bell's character, Eleanor, is bi.
It is time for the sixth and final season of How to Get Away With Murder. The ABC legal drama has seen many notable LGBTQ milestones in its run, including a rimming scene, the marriage of a serodiscordant couple, and a bisexual lead character of color, portrayed by Viola Davis. The show's twists and turns — and its mounting pile of bodies — have been dizzying for some. But for those along for the ride who want to see how it all ties together, don't miss class!
Unbridled ambition collides with social liberalism behind the manicured hedges of Saint Sebastian High School in mega-producer Ryan Murphy’s take on the political process in the satirical The Politician. Tony-winner Ben Platt is Payton Hobart, an upper-crust Santa Barbara teen who forged his plan to become president of the United States when he was a child. Of course, he must first win the class presidency and gain entrance to Harvard on his way to the White House. He’s a Tracy Flick for this generation if only Reese Witherspoon’s character from 1999’s Election had been surrounded by a super-queer student body concerned less with bake sales and football games than with social justice.
The Politician costars Bohemian Rhapsody’s Lucy Boynton as Saint Sebastian’s nihilistic mean girl and Payton’s political rival, Gwyneth Paltrow as his well-heeled mother who’ll go to just about any lengths for him, Zoey Deutch as his classmate and a pawn in the politics of the day, and Jessica Lange as her grifter of a grandmother.
A dark comedy with some weighted themes and morally dubious characters, The Politician is nearly utopian in its depiction of the full spectrum of gender and sexual identities.
“To do [this project] with Ryan, who always makes sexuality and gender fluidity a part of the backdrop and the tapestry of the piece but never the subject matter or the narrative — it’s just an assumed part of reality, particularly in this show," Platt tells The Advocate. "Everyone is kind of all of the map in a really beautiful way, which is where everything is headed anyway, and he’s always very much ahead of the curve.”
Fans of Transparent were sideswiped when allegations of sexual misconduct came out against star Jeffrey Tambor, putting the future of the pioneering Amazon Prime series by Jill Soloway into limbo. But it will have a musicale finale: a showstopping musical movie that features the return of nearly every cast member (except Tambor) in the wake of the death of the character he portrayed, trans matriarch Maura. Work out those jazz hands and sing goodbye to the Pfeffermans in style.
When it was announced that Ruby Rose would be donning the cape of Batwoman for the CW, many fans on Twitter revolted, claiming the Orange Is the New Black actress wasn't "gay enough" for the part, among other grievances. Rose still hasn't returned to social media — but she wasn't deterred by the trolls. She will be the first person to bring the beloved lesbian heroine out of animation and into the (set) streets of Gotham City.
Super-producer Greg Berlanti and the CW continue to provide some of the most forward-thinking queer representation in television with the ever-growing list of LGBTQ characters on the superhero-themed shows. Supergirl Kara Danvers’s sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) came out and fell in love with a woman in season 2. Last season, the show introduced TV's first transgender superhero with Nia Nal, or Dreamer (played by trans actress Nicole Maines).
Last season, the CW’s outstanding Black Lightning introduced a lesbian superhero of color in Anissa Pierce (Nafessa Williams), whose superhero name is Thunder. But even before Supergirl and Black Lightning, Berlanti’s shows with masked and/or caped characters already featured plenty of LGBTQ characters, including Legends of Tomorrow’s Sarah Lance (Caity Lotz), who began her stint on Arrow, which now features a married gay superhero with Mister Terrific (Echo Kellum). The Flash’s queer characters have included Wentworth Miller’s Citizen Cold, who appeared on Legends for a time. But he hasn't been the only queer character on the show, considering Police Captain David Singh (Patrick Sabongui) is gay and married. Last season, it was revealed that the Arrow's son William has an ex-boyfriend while the Flash's daughter Nora has been seen to flirt with women.
Supergirl premieres October 6, Black Lighting premieres October 7, The Flash premieres October 8, and Arrow premieres October 15 on the CW.
The CW’s deliciously noir reimagining of the Archie comics returns for its fourth season, in which the redheaded hero (K.J. Apa) is in jail, and the gang is trying to free him. The series kicked off three seasons ago with unabashed gay character Kevin Keller (Casey Cott). And it amped up its queer quotient with the introduction of bisexual woman of color and all-around badass Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan). It's not long before Toni romances the most wonderfully bitchy resident of Riverdale, Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), who gets a moving coming-out arc. Add to all of that Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica's (Camila Mendes) close friendship, which has launched a few internet "ships" of its own. If that's not enough, Vida's Mishel Prada has just been cast as a private investigator in a recurring role.
At first glance, the CW’s All American may look like a show about high school football, but what makes it particularly appealing to queer audiences is Tamia “Coop” Cooper (Bre-Z). A charmer for days, Coop is not only best friends with lead character Spencer James (Daniel Ezra), she’s one of TV’s only butch queer women of color. And she gets a love interest! Beyond the rarity in seeing butch queer women on TV, friendships between lesbians and jocks have rarely, if ever, been depicted on TV.
A scene-stealer in everything from Bad Moms to Transparent, Kathryn Hahn takes center stage as Eve in the new HBO series based on Tom Perotta's novel about a single mom whose empty nest syndrome sends her on a path of self-discovery — sexual and otherwise. And at least some of her sexual dalliances — whether actual or fantasy — include women. Mrs. Fletcher costars Jackson White as Eve's son Brendan, Josh Hamilton as the absentee father, Jen Richards (Tales of the City), Casey Wilson, and Owen Teague. Writer-director Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, Lovely & Amazing) directed the pilot episode.
The classic fairy tale of a mermaid who strikes a bargain with a sea witch to join the man she loves on land finds new life in an upcoming live musical on ABC. Moana’s Auliʻi Cravalho gives life to Ariel, while the search for Prince Eric is ongoing. The Little Mermaid Live should delight fans of both the 1989 Disney classic and the 2008 musical, as songs from both will be included in this staging. Regardless, the story of yearning for love and acceptance has long resonated with LGBTQ viewers — and undoubtedly will sing to our hearts again in this iteration.
There’s no confirmation of overtly queer content yet in Dollface, which stars Kat Dennings (Two Broke Girls) as Jules, a young woman who begins to reinvest in her friendships with women after her boyfriend dumps her. The series about female friendships costars Shay Mitchell, who's played queer women to great success on Pretty Little Liars and You, as Jules’s friend Stella. Brenda Song as Madison and Esther Povitsky (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) as Izzy round out Jules’s core friend group. The series from a female creator, Jordan Weiss, is coproduced by Margot Robbie’s LuckyChap Entertainment.
Claire Foy was resplendent in the first two seasons of The Crown — Netflix’s acclaimed period drama centering on the young adulthood of Queen Elizabeth II. Olivia Colman — she of Fleabag and Oscar-winning The Favourite fame — assumes the throne in the next iteration of the British monarch’s life. Our only question is, will Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone appear as her doting handmaids/lovers?
An Emmy and a Golden Globe winner for her titular role, Rachel Brosnahan is an absolute delight as Midge Maisel, the ’50s-era Upper East Side Jewish housewife who, after her husband leaves her, tries her luck at stand-up comedy and crushes it in the seedy clubs of the Village.
Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s quick-witted, lush rendering of Manhattan on the brink of social change is impeccably cast, written, shot, costumed, and designed, down to its lively soundtrack. Scratch the surface of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's cotton candy-colored production and viewers will discover Midge's burgeoning feminism and her blossoming friendship with her manager, Susie (Alex Borstein), a gruff butch whose sexuality the show has yet to fully explore. At its core thus far, the show is about women’s friendship and platonic love depicted in an entirely fresh way. The entire second season is also a love letter to the American musical films of the '40s and '50s.
Last season, Midge summered in the Catskills while moonlighting when she could as a comic. She and Susie hit the road together for a time. But the upcoming season will see Midge more actively take it on the road, including some USO gigs.
If that’s not enough to get viewers to tune in, Marin Hinkle, as Midge’s tight-lipped, neurotic mother, Rose, is a bona fide gay icon.
Reprisal stars Abigail Spencer (Timeless, Rectify) as a woman who seeks revenge on her brother and his gang of toxic men after she’s terrorized and left for dead. The Hulu series billed as “hyper-noir” could have been just another revenge tale. But it was announced in July that Orange Is the New Black’s Lea DeLaria, one of the few butches working on TV, would recur as Queenie, the leader of a gang called the Banished Brawlers. The series from The Handmaid Tale's executive producer Warren Littlefield and created and written by Josh Corbin costars Rodrigo Santoro, Mena Massoud, and Madison Davenport.
The first teaser trailer for The L Word: Generation Q dropped a few weeks ago, and it kicks off with Jennifer Beals’s iconic Bette Porter running to be the mayor of Los Angeles. In addition to original character Bette, Leisha Hailey returns as Alice, and Kate Moennig is back as the lovable lothario Shane, who, from the trailer, appears to remain the queen of hookups.
The high-energy trailer doesn’t give much away except Bette’s political aspirations, the fact that Alice appears to have her own talk show (and is as witty as ever), and Shane has moved back from somewhere else. The other noticeable plot point is that the new series appears primarily set in Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighborhood as opposed to West Hollywood, where the original series, which ran for six seasons from 2004 to 2009, was set. The new eight-episode season drops December 8.
Screenwriter and playwright Marja-Lewis Ryan (The Four-Faced Liar) is the showrunner who's shepherding a new generation of LGBTQ people into the world of characters who once congregated at the fictional café the Planet.
The show’s other new cast members include Arienne Mandi as Dani Nùñez, a public relations executive who is “powerful and calculating; Leo Sheng as Micah Lee, “a soft-spoken adjunct professor forced to confront his fear of vulnerability”; Jacqueline Toboni as Sarah Finley, an assistant reconciling her sexual identity with her religious background; and Rosanny Zayas as Sophie Suarez, a TV producer who subverts her own needs to those of others. Olivia Thirlby, Fortune Feimster, and Stephanie Allyne will also appear.