Set in Northern Ireland amid the sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants known as the Troubles in the ’90s, Derry Girls follows a friend group of parochial school students as they navigate coming of age in trying political times. And the series, which has two seasons, the first of which dropped in 2018, manages to be both laugh-until-you-cry hilarious and deeply heartfelt.
The ensemble of teens includes the romanticist Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson); her wacky cousin who lives with her, Orla (Louisa Harland); the brash Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell); Michelle’s sensitive English cousin, James (Dylan Llewellyn); and the fretful “wee lesbian” Clare (Nicola Coughlan). Siobhán McSweeney as Sister Michael, the headmistress of Our Lady Immaculate who rules alternately with a firm hand, ennui, and sarcasm, and the cast of characters who make up Erin and Orla’s live-in family are all crackerjack comedians.
Schitt’s Creek is a bright spot on the comedy landscape. Created by Eugene Levy (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) and his son Daniel Levy, who is gay, Schitt’s Creek brims with absurdist humor that’s (mostly) sadly missing from pop culture these days. The series, about a wealthy family who lose it all and have to rebuild in the podunk town they happen to own, stars Eugene Levy as the patriarch of the family opposite his frequent on-screen partner Catherine O’Hara, who plays his kooky, over-the-top wife, Moira. Daniel Levy plays the family's pansexual son, David, while the wonderful Annie Murphy stars as their bizarrely worldly daughter, Alexis. Over the seasons, David has engaged in relationships with men and women on the show, including the town’s motel owner Stevie, played by out actress Emily Hampshire. Loaded with camp and a queer sensibility, Schitt’s Creek continues to be a panacea for the daily news cycle.
Netflix recently debuted an excellent revival of Tales of the City developed by Lauren Morelli. However, fans would be remiss to miss the original 1993 miniseries that sparked a breakthrough in LGBTQ visibility on television (and outrage among the right wing). The production was inspired by Armistead Maupin’s novel of the same name, which in turn were taken from his serial in the Pacific Sun and San Francisco Chronicle following the queer denizens of 1970s S.F. Tales of the City is also notable for being an early role for Laura Linney, who plays Mary Ann Singleton, one of the tenants of the mysterious Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis). Extra credit: Read the original novels by Maupin.
Ryan O’Connell won hearts, glowing reviews, and surprise Emmy nominations last year for Special, a show about a gay man living with mild cerebral palsy that was inspired by his memoir of the same name. Executive produced by Jim Parsons, the first season of the series was notable for being Netflix’s first 15-minute comedy; next season, it will be extended to a half hour. It can’t come soon enough. O’Connell’s writing and acting deliver a heartwarming and inspiring tale of living one’s life in the face of obstacles, in addition to breaking down stigmas related to gay sex and sex work.
No soggy bottoms! The Great British Baking Show — America's favorite series about amateur British bakers — is delicious escapist fare. 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 Netflix show has featured many LGBTQ bakers in the past, and cohosts Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding delight viewers each episode with queer comedy and cross-dressing.
Who says Americans won’t read subtitles? Less than a week into calls for self-isolation to quell COVID-19, the soapy Spanish thriller Elite was trending at number 7 in Netflix’s most viewed content for the day. Set in an upscale secondary school, the series begins with the arrival of new students who received a scholarship to attend the elite school after their school collapsed due to the shoddy construction done by a company owned by one of the town’s power players. The ultra-LGBTQ series includes queer characters Omar, Ander, and Malick, and a couple of throuples. And there’s an HIV storyline. The series, which premiered in 2018, is now in its third season.
Ryan Murphy’s musical dramedy Glee, which ran on Fox from 2009 to 2015, introduced numerous LGBTQ students and faculty members to the halls of William McKinley High School. The love stories of Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss), and Santana (Naya Rivera) and Brittany (Heather Morris), gave queer teens around the world romantic possibility models, while transgender characters like Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) and Unique Adams (Alex Newell) explored gender identity at different ages. The true delight of the show, however, was watching out actress Jane Lynch scheme to bring down the glee club as cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester as well as the various performances themselves, which recruited a new generation of viewers to the wonders of classic musicals and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” alike.
Created by out showrunner Justin Simien, Dear White People explores how issues related to race and sexuality operate on a college campus — and by extension, in America. The show also delves into how radio and social media influence these conversations and at times inflame them. Dear White People features a central gay character, Lionel (DeRon Horton), whose exploration of the different queer scenes on his college campus is a must-see lesson in intersectionality. As a bonus, Lena Waithe and Tessa Thompson have made fantastic cameos.
While teenagers generally have to navigate their burgeoning hormones and emerging sexual identity, small-town girl Syd (Sharp Objects’ Sophia Lillis) copes with developing feelings for her best friend Dina (Sofia Bryant) at the same time she learns she has telekinetic superpowers. An homage to teen classics including Carrie (yes, there is a prom scene, and it’s worth watching the entire show just for that) and The Breakfast Club, I Am Not Okay With This costars Wyatt Oleff as Syd’s best friend and confidant, Wyatt, who also happens to be in love with her. The series, which dropped in February, boasts a killer soundtrack composed primarily of ’80s favorites including Roxy Music, Echo and the Bunnymen, Prefab Sprout, Aztec Camera, and Bonnie Tyler. The soundtrack also includes songs written and performed by Blur’s Graham Coxon as from Bloodwitch, an ’80s-sounding band made up for the series.
One Day at a Time is the beloved reboot of the '70s series about the challenges of being a divorced mom raising kids in the city. In the series that updates the show with a Latinx family, Justina Machado stars as Penelope, the single mom raising son Alex (Marcel Ruiz) and daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez), who came out as a lesbian in the show's first season. Of course, the legendary Rita Moreno plays Penelope’s over-the-top mother, Lydia, who lends a classic air of camp to the entire show. Funny and heartfelt, the series has done a deep dive into intersectionality and highlighted various sexualities and genders at a teen level, including giving Elena a nonbinary partner. Stream the first few seasons on Netflix and watch new episodes on Pop TV, which picked up the show after its Netflix cancellation.
Once upon a time, L Word creator Ilene Chaiken gifted the world with the (mostly) lesbian denizens of West Hollywood’s The Planet, a pulchritudinous bunch who were “talking, laughing, loving, breathing, fighting, fucking, crying, drinking…,” as the theme song goes. The show's reboot, The L Word: Generation Q, premiered last December, but for those who want to relive or to discover the world of Bette Porter’s power suits, Shane’s vests, Alice’s haircuts, and all of the queer drama that came with it, all six seasons of the original series, which ran from 2004 to 2009, are available on Netflix, and all of the ships and the show’s groundbreaking sex scenes that depicted queer women as beings who craved sex and had lots of it are there for you to discover.
A sweet coming-of-age story set in the '90s, Everything Sucks only got a single season in 2018 before Netflix axed it. But the 10 half-hour episodes that exist on the streaming platform have practically risen to cult status. Set in Boring, Ore., the show tells the story of drama and A/V club geeks who band together to make a movie. Along the way, a sweet queer loves story develops between new student Kate (Peyton Kennedy) and one of the more popular girls at school. The series stars Jahi Di'Allo Winston, who plays Luke, a freshman A/V club member who becomes crushed out on Kate; Quinn Liebling as Luke’s best friend, Tyler,; and Euphoria’s Sydney Sweeney as Emaline, the queen of the drama club.
Sex Education’s freshman season took a frank look at actually discussing teen sexuality. That real talk was anchored by Gillian Anderson as lead character Otis’s (Asa Butterfield) sex therapist mother, renowned for her creative use of vegetables in her demonstrations. The show also featured a refreshing take on the gay best friend trope in the character of Eric (Ncuti Gatwa). But season 2 leans way into queer visibility with pan and bisexual representation and several queer couples to ship.
There aren’t many greater joys than watching Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play off of one another. The series follows Fonda's Grace and Tomlin's Frankie in the wake of their husbands leaving them — for each other. Afterward, they become late-in-life entrepreneurs who famously engineer sex toys designed for Baby Boomers.
Netflix’s sweet comedy Atypical, about Sam (Keir Gilchrist), a teen boy on the autism spectrum seeking some independence from his overprotective family, has garnered many LGBTQ fans for its storyline about his sister, Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine, who recently came out as nonbinary), a teen going through a journey of queer self-discovery as well as romantic feelings for a classmate. The show has a lot of heart in its portrait of how members of families and communities look out for one another in times of distress — a much-needed message in these troubling times.
Eastsiders — the Netflix series about queer couples navigating life and love around the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles — recently came to a close with its fourth and final season. It’s the perfect show to binge in the current moment. The scrappy show began as a YouTube production in 2012 and has since become a chronicle of a slice of queer life over the past decade. Marriage, finances, threesomes, open relationships, breakups, crazy parents — it’s all covered within the relationship of Cal (creator Kit Williamson) and Thom (Van Hansis), who travel the country and search their hearts for the answers. Quincy (Stephen Guarino) and Douglas (Drag Race's Willam) are also beloved scene-stealers as a pair juggling love and drag.
Even in the midst of mysteries regarding dead husbands and lovers, Dead to Me, starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini, is a love letter to female friendship. It's only gotten queerer in its second season, as Cardellini's Judy explores a romance with Michelle (Natalie Morales) — whose ex-girlfriend is a police officer hot on her trail as a possible murder suspect. As out creator Liz Feldman told The Advocate, “With this story, I was longing to reflect the story from my own life that I hadn't yet been able to explore. And that is my incredible friendships with women,” Feldman said. “I do think, and I have experienced, that there is a kind of romance in a close friendship.”
In Hollywood, Ryan Murphy creates an aspirational version of a bygone Tinseltown that flips the script on the straight white male studio stronghold that was considered its Golden Age and instead delivers a queer, intersectional world with women in power.
The seven-episode limited series, for which Janet Mock is a writer, producer, and director, stars Broadway actor Jeremy Pope as an aspiring writer with a fresh story to tell, Darren Criss as an up-and-coming director, David Corenswet (The Politician) as the new hunk in town, Laura Harrier as a rising star of an actress, and Patti LuPone as a studio bigwig who’s about to change the landscape.
At the center of the story that pays homage to Rock Hudson (Jake Picking), Anna May Wong (Michelle Krusiec), and Hattie McDaniel (Queen Latifah) is the gas station run by Dylan McDermott’s Ernie, where queer people and outsiders come to fill their tanks (as it were).
Jim Parsons, Joe Mantello, Holland Taylor, Samara Weaving, and Mira Sorvino costar.
The series from Lost Girl’s Emily Andras imagines Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano), a descendant of Wyatt Earp, as the heir who’s the only person who can put the supernatural revenants (the villains of the Old West that Wyatt killed) into their final resting place. There’s horror, humor, and heart in the series that has resonated with fans who saved it with a grassroots campaign when the studio had it on the chopping block. Among those on Wynonna’s team of scrappy demon hunters are her bisexual sister, Waverly Earp (Dominique Provost-Chalkley), and lesbian Sheriff Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell), who’ve become one of the most shipped couples in TV history. For four seasons, WayHaught has defied the tropes and pitfalls that have long defined lesbian and bisexual female characters in TV and film.
Also fighting demons with Wynonna and WayHaught are Schitt’s Creek’s Tim Rozon (Mutt) as an immortal Doc Holliday and Wynonna’s on-again/off-again love interest and Varun Saranga as Jeremy, a gay scientist loaded with one-liners and asides.
Among Netflix’s many treasures is the series Trinkets, about three teen girls who meet in a group for addiction to shoplifting. The show, now in its second season, tackles tough subjects including addiction, intimate partner abuse, and racial profiling as it also revels in the joy of friendship and finding one’s tribe. It’s also a rare series that features two leads who are under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, one who is queer and plays gay (Brianna Hildebrand as Elodie) and one who is nonbinary and plays cisgender (Quintessa Swindell as Tabitha). Kiana Madeira’s Moe rounds out the trio of unlikely best friends. Meanwhile, nonbinary actor Kat Cunning recurs as a rock star who steals Elodie’s heart.