LGBTQ people have been around forever, albeit not always identified as such.
When we began to declare ourselves, especially when the media went national and electronic and visual, we began our ongoing struggle for tolerance and, eventually, acceptance, in order to possess a sense of self-esteem that would be backed up by legal rights.
It's been messy, it's included some unfortunate missteps, and it's always been a mix of frustrating, exhilarating, contentious and — in the case of the arts — insulting, entertaining or both.
I decided, in early 2017, to compile a list of TV moments featuring real or fictional LGBTQ people, major and minor (aren't they all major when you're a closeted kid in the Dust Bowl?) appearances that demonstrate the trajectory from “the love that dare not speak its name” to “we're here, we're queer” to GBF to where we are now, when LGBTQ characters are often included on TV and are often multi-dimensional, and when real-life LGBTQ people are all over television.
In creating this list, which took the time it would take to write a book (something I'm doing next), I focused on 2000 and earlier. Of special interest are the firsts. There have been various important firsts on TV since Ellen's character came out as a lesbian in the '90s, but I believe that compiling a list of every gay reference on TV in the 2000s and 2010s would exponentially increase the size of this already unwieldy list, and — in my opinion — would be of marginal interest and import.
Notes: There are no known references in any way to homosexuality or to trans issues on TV from the advent of the first American TV station (1928) — although the first drama broadcast was called The Queen's Messenger — until 1954.
I am not counting appearances by real-life people who we now know were secretly gay, nor am I dwelling on the many instances of drag where they seem not to be about more than just getting a quick laugh.
People's birth and death dates are noted where possible, but only the first time I reference them, so if you see a name with no parenthetic birth/death date, it simply means he or she was on TV in a gay way earlier — just search the list.
I used many resources to compile this list, including several invaluable Wikipedia lists (which, oddly, have many airdates out of order), printed references such as The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV by Stephen Tropiano, as well as my own memories of times I spotted gayness on the telly. I watched as many episodes as I could to be sure that existing episode descriptions were accurate (some were not) and to pull helpful visuals and freshly documented quotes. (You may also be interested in Sage Anastasi's list of gay characters, which goes beyond 2000!)
All that said, it would be next to impossible to get everything — or to get it all right, so:
Check this out, please share it on social media, and I welcome suggested fixes and additions: firstname.lastname@example.org
NO KNOWN EXAMPLES
NO KNOWN EXAMPLES
NO KNOWN EXAMPLES
1950-early '60s Percy Dovetonsils character: Comic Ernie Kovacs (1919-1962) created a character called Percy Dovetonsils for his 1950 WPTZ series Three to Get Ready, a character he revisited over the years. Percy is effete, complete with spitcurls, a lisp, an ascot, loud clothing and racy comments that can only be seen as gay. “Are you really a gay ranchero?” he once asked, a clear allusion to homosexuality, and a very early — the first? — use of the word gay on TV in that context. He performed the character on his own shows and on other series, too.
1951 I Love Lucy: The iconic sitcom (October 15, 1951-May 6, 1957) may offer the first televised reference — inference? — regarding homosexuality. In the “Lucy Thinks Ricky Is Trying to Murder Her” episode (November 5, 1951), the fourth one aired, Lucy (Lucille Ball, 1911-1989) reads a mystery novel and decides her husband Ricky (Desi Arnaz, 1917-1986) is trying to kill her. Reading a list of women's names he wrote down while on the phone, Lucy convinces herself he's planning to have affairs with them after she's killed. The final name on the list (which in reality is a list of trained dogs for Ricky's act) is “Theodore,” leading Lucy to give the camera a pop-eyed reaction of shock that clearly conveys her confusion as to why her husband is planning to have an affair with a man.
1954 Confidential File: Syndicated, local TV show aired on L.A. station KTTV that aired the episode “Homosexuals and the Problem They Present” (April 1954), which treated gayness as a social problem like alcoholism. The program was hosted by tabloid journalist Paul Coates (1921-1968), who said he wanted to shed light on the problem, but that he did not have solutions. The episode included interviews with a cop and a shrink, footage of a Mattachine Society Meeting and a peek inside a gay bar. Coates also showed the cover of a beefcake magazine as an example of a publication targeted at homosexual men.
1954 Army-McCarthy hearings: Special Counsel for the Army Joseph N. Welch (1890-1960) used the terms “pixie” and “fairy” ... and his words were clearly a sly attack on Roy Cohn (1927-1986), the closeted gay aide to Sen. Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) who died of AIDS in the '80s since the topic of the hearings was Cohn's corrupt string-pulling to get special treatment in the army for his drafted BFF David Schine (1927-1996). As a sidenote: McCarthy was himself accused of being gay by columnist Hank Greenspun (1909-1989.) The hearings aired April 22-June 17, 1954. It's a shame that some of the first known explicit references to homosexuality on TV were derogatory, but it would be a long time before the tide turned.
1954 Max Liebman Presents aka Max Liebman Spectaculars: The September 25, 1954, “Lady in the Dark” episode of this anthology series was a TV production of the 1941 Broadway musical with music by Kurt Weill (1900-1950), lyrics by Ira Gershwin (1896-1983), and a book and direction by Moss Hart (1904-1961). Liebman (1902-1981) himself produced and directed each of his series' 90-minute episodes. His version stars Ann Sothern (1909-2001) as a discontented fashion-mag EIC deep in the throes of psychoanalysis. The musical includes the flamboyant character Russell Paxton, a staff photographer played by Carleton Carpenter (b. 1926) who openly ogles a sexy male movie star character (Robert Fortier, 1926-2005) along with his female co-workers. This moment is considered by many to prove that Paxton was TV's first-ever clearly gay character. Carpenter was one of the first celebrities to come out publicly as gay in a 1976 Advocate article (inset), though in his 2016 memoir The Absolute Joy of Work: From Vermont to Broadway, Hollywood, and Damn Near 'Round the World, he pegged himself as bisexual. The Paxton role had propelled rumored-to-be-bisexual Danny Kaye (1911-1987) to stardom when he performed it on Broadway, chiefly due to his mile-a-minute rendition of the song “Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians).”
James Daly (1918-1978), Ann Sothern and Robert Fortier in the Max Liebman version of Lady in the Dark. Fortier played the matinee idol Carleton Carpenter's photographer character swooned over. Daly was, in real life, gay. (Image via NBC)
1955 Confidential File: The syndicated show followed up its April 1954 episode on homosexuality with the episode “Homosexuals Who Stalk and Molest Our Children,” a more aggressive take on the issue than the previous installment. There is no record of when in 1955 this episode aired, but it was the sixth episode of the season out of 13, with the final episode airing October 9, 1955.
1956 The Open Mind: Syndicated, local TV show that aired on New York City station WRCA and was hosted by Richard Heffner (1925-2013), a university professor of communications and public policy at Rutgers. “Introduction to the Problem of Homosexuality” was the first of three episodes that addressed the topic, arguing that gayness could potentially be cured — like a disease. Florence Kelly (circa 1911-1997), a lawyer, argued that homosexuality should be legal if child molesters could be rehabilitated, while psychologist Dr. Robert Laidlaw (no info) spoke to the fact that homosexuals were more likely to be unhappy because of societal disapproval, yet also stressed that a stable home life would prevent homosexuality in children.
1956 The Open Mind: See above. Another 1956 episode was entitled “Homosexuality: A Psychological Approach.” A pediatrician and a psychologist spoke about how a boy's relationship with his father could spawn or spurn homosexual tendencies. Baseball was offered as a solution.
1957 The Open Mind: See above. A third and final '50s episode entitled “Male and Female in American Society” included comments from anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978) and Max Lerner (1902-1992), a controversial New York Post writer, about how gender is crafted by society via stereotypes, clothing and coded speech. The above three episodes were, by today's standards, anti-gay, but by the standards of the '50s, were considered far too sympathetic by Cardinal Francis Spellman (1889-1967), who warned he would try to have the station's license revoked if the host, Richard Heffner, did not avoid the topic of homosexuality going forward ... which he did.
1957 Confession: Syndicated, local TV show that aired on WFAA-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth and offered an episode that contained an interview with a person who, at the time, was described as a “transvestite.” First-ever TV appearance by an actual cross-dressing individual, not counting those doing it to get laughs.
1958 NO TITLE: In 1958, a Detroit episode (of an apparently unnamed program) entitled “Are Homosexuals Criminals?” aired on WTVS.
1958 Showcase: An untitled episode of this local, syndicated series airing on both WABD (New York City) and WNTA-TV (Newark, New Jersey) provided a discussion of the topic of homosexuality led by romance writer Fannie Hurst (1885-1968) that included sexologist Albert Ellis (1913-2007) and, more importantly, Cuban-born Mattachine Society co-founder Gonzalo “Tony” Segura Jr. (1919-1991) — who appeared in disguise. A 2016 Slate article describes Segura by noting:
... his organizational genius built the homophile infrastructure—without which, as he himself recognized, Stonewall “would not have occurred” to activists of the next generation.
This 1958 episode — which is not known to exist today — was praised by The Mattachine Society at the time. A sequel, to have aired the following day, would have been all about lesbians — but the station pulled the plug on Hurst's plans, leading Hurst to decry the censorship live on the air.
1961 The Asphalt Jungle: The April 30, 1961, episode of this 60-minute police show (which aired 13 episodes April 2-June 25, 1961) on ABC starred Virginia Christine (1920-1996) as a woman clearly implied to be a closeted lesbian who — get ready for this — grabs a gun and picks off girls on lovers' lane for being too slutty! The series starred Jack Warden (1920-2006), Arch Johnson (1922-1997) and Bill Smith (b. 1933).
Les Fisher: “Having been married myself, I would like to say that a good many homosexual people would not be homosexual had they have had a heterosexual experience early in life ... but I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a cure — in any way, shape or form — for homosexuality.” (Video still via KQED)
1961 The Rejected: The first full-length documentary on the subject of homosexuality to air on American TV. The positively received program originally aired on KQED on September 11, 1961, and was then syndicated on NET stations nationwide. Homosexuality was approached as a social problem, but the program included out gay Mattachine Society members Hal Call (1917-2000), Don Lucas (1926-2003) and Les Fisher (no info available), as well as commentary from anthropologist Margaret Mead.
1962 Argument: This sounds like a modern-day cable news program from the title. In the “Society and the Homosexual” episode of this talk show, homosexuality — including lesbianism, by a lesbian panelist — was discussed on L.A.'s KTTV. No air date is known.
1962 Confidential File: The syndicated, L.A.-based series offered an episode covering the Daughters of Bilitis convention, making this the first known episode of non-fiction TV covering lesbianism specifically. No title of the episode or air date is known.
1962 Jackie Gleason: American Scene Magazine: The October 22, 1962, episode of this CBS variety show (September 29, 1962-May 7, 1966) starring Jackie Gleason (1916-1987) — which was one incarnation of a selection of shows fronted by Gleason between 1952 and 1970 — featured an appearance by female impersonator T.C. Jones (1920-1971) as a washer woman; I am unsure if Jones was ever revealed to be a man in drag or if he, as it were, played it straight. (See The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1965, below, for more info on Jones.)
1962 Jackie Gleason: American Scene Magazine: The November 10, 1962, installment of the CBS show featured female impersonator T.C. Jones as a hostess; I am unsure if Jones's true gender was revealed on the show. (See The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1965, below, for more info on Jones.)
1963 Off the Cuff: According to a Variety review dated March 6, 1963, this Chicago-area talk show offered an episode called “Homosexuality and Lesbianism.”
1963 The Eleventh Hour: The “What Did She Mean by Good Luck?” episode (November 13, 1963) of this medical drama (October 2, 1962-September 9, 1964) starred Kathryn Hays (b. 1933) as Hallie Lambert, a mentally ill actress whose doctor (Ralph Bellamy, 1904-1991) diagnoses her as having repressed lesbian feelings toward her female director (Beverly Garland, 1926-2008) which are causing her to act out. The doc says it's the fault of her overbearing mom (Doris Dowling, 1923-2004), but to be fair, who on earth wouldn't be in love with Beverly Garland?!
1963 Channing aka The Young and the Bold: The December 18, 1963, episode of this short-lived, 60-minute drama series (September 18, 1963-April 8, 1964) sthat starred Jason Evers (1922-2005) as a professor and Henry Jones (1912-1999) as the school's dean was entitled “The Last Testament of Buddy Crown.” It dealt with the drowning of Buddy (Jim Barringer, 1943-2002), a young man his dad (David Wayne, 1914-1995) believed had been ostracized for being different. While the script did not explicitly ID Buddy as gay, the implication was clear.
1964 Kup's Show: Hosted by Irv Kupcinet (1912-2003), this current-events show aired on Chicago's WBKB (later WBBM). One episode was devoted to a conference being held by the Mattachine Society. According to legendary gay activist and journalist Randy Wicker (b. 1938), he had to travel from NYC to Chicago three times to be on Kup's Show (so there were at least two other gay mentions or episodes featuring an out gay man) because gay men in Chicago feared reprisals from the media — which publicized the names of people arrested in gay bars/for gay infractions — and refused to identify as gay on TV.
1965 The Les Craine Show: Radio announcer and TV host Les Craine (1933-2008) fronted this talk show (August 1964; November 1964-March 1965, June-November 1965 under ABC's Nightlife title) which, sometime during its run, hosted Randy Wicker. Wicker (who confirmed the date of 1965 on his YouTube channel) took questions from callers, a first for an openly gay person on TV. The series was meant to compete with The Tonight Show (1954-).
1965 Other Voices: This CBC Canadian show (October 6, 1964-June 29, 1965) was syndicated, and was known to have been seen in San Francisco, NYC, Philly, Boston and Denver. The “Every Tenth Man” episode was clearly about homosexuality (the title!), but Wikipedia only states that sexologist Albert Ellis appeared. (He also popped up on that 1958 ep of Showcase.) Tantalizing, and lost, like many of the other programs in the earlier part of this list.
1965: The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: This popular series (October 2, 1955-June 26, 1965), hosted by the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) presented on February 15, 1965 an episode entitled “An Unlocked Window” that features private nurses forced to look out for themselves and their half-dead employer (E.J. André, 1908-1984) during a storm in a creepy mansion with a killer of local nurses on the loose. Pretty Stella (Dana Wynter, 1931-2011) leans on stout Betty (T.C. Jones) for support when they realize they forgot to secure the basement window. Spoiler alert: Betty is actually a man in drag, and not just any man — he's the nurse-killing fiend. The episode completely fooled the public and was a sensation, though any schoolboy would clock T.C. Jones, who specialized in crossdressing roles, today. Jones, a Navy vet, did drag most of his career — but married a woman.
1966 FYI: Airing on Miami's WTVJ, this locally produced show hosted by pioneering TV journalist Ralph Renick (1928-1991) offered an episode called “The Homosexual” on April 19, 1966, sounding the alarm on the topic of homosexual child molesters. Richard Inman (1926-1985) of the Mattachine Society of Florida spoke, as did Det. Sgt. John Sorenson (no info available) of the Dade County Sheriff's Department of Morals, and Lt. Duane Barker (no info available), a onetime advisor of the Florida Legislative Committee. Inman's appearance was seen as lackluster at best (he said gay life was not desirable, laughed off the ideas of gay marriage and gay adoption, and outright lied, claiming he was what is now called ex-gay), but his résumé until then was impeccable — he is considered the first out gay activist from the South, and in 1963 had founded the Atheneum Society, the first gay org in the region; all the greater pity that his big moment on TV flopped so badly. Inman dropped out of public view within a few years.
1966 The Hollywood Squares: Though it was coded or laughed off in double-entendre form, Paul Lynde (1926-1982), who was not openly gay but whose gayness was detectable from a mile off, frequently made jokes with a decidedly gay twist on this long-running NBC game show, which featured nine stars rattling off funny answers to trivia questions while contestants tried to decide if the answers were just funny or also correct. I do not have exact dates of Lynde's most outrageous zingers, but he was on the show from October 24, 1966-August 20, 1979; I am guessing his more shocking lines appeared in the '70s.
1967 The David Susskind Show: Originally called Open End, this long-running syndicated series (1958-1986) was hosted by David Susskind (1920-1987). On February 12, 1967, Susskind devoted a show to the topic “Are Homosexuals Sick?” While not a helpful conclusion today, in 1967, Susskind's belief that gay people were sick and could be cured (but should be treated with compassion) passed for progressive. In the '70s, his show reportedly featured stronger advocacy for gay rights.
1967 CBS Reports: The Homosexuals (March 7, 1967), a part of this evergreen series (1959-1992) was the first network doc about gay people. Gay men were interviewed, albeit anonymously. It was a terribly negative portrayal, one that host Mike Wallace (1918-2012) himself later disavowed, and one that is generally considered to have been perhaps the most damaging thing to happen to the nascent gay movement.
1967 N.Y.P.D.: This ABC cop show (September 5, 1967-March 25, 1969) used its debut episode, “Shakedown,” to break ground, focusing an entire show on an explicitly gay plot — a blackmail ring extorting a gay man (James Broderick, 1927-1982). Charles Spad (played by John Harkins, 1932-1999), a leader of a gay group, is considered the first explicitly out gay character on TV.
1967 Kup's Show: Irv Kupcinet made more gay history on TV in September 1967 when he asked the legendary Judy Garland (1922-1969) about a nasty review in Time (August 18, 1967) that claimed her fans were disproportionately gay men. Garland defended her audience's virtue (not exactly a ringing endorsement of homosexuality, mind you), and claimed the female reviewer, mad Judy'd been a hit, was a “fella” herself.
1967 The Joe Pyne Show: Sometime in 1967, this talk show (1965-approx. 1968), aired on WDEL-TV and hosted by provocateur Joe Pyne (1924-1970), welcomed as guests gay-movement power couple Harry Hay (1912-2002) and John Burnside (1916-2008), who may well have been the first real-life, out gay romantic couple shown on TV. Pyne was anti-gay. Sometime in 1966 or 1967, Christine Jorgensen (), the world's most famous trans woman, made an early and rare TV appearance opposite a somewhat muted Pyne.
1967 The Wild Wild West: This CBS western action spoof (September 17, 1965-April 4, 1969) starred sexy Robert Conrad (b. 1935) and Ross Martin (1920-1981) as crime-solving cowboys in a fantasy-skewing Old West environment. In “The Night of the Running Death” (December 15, 1967), the men are on the lookout for Europe's deadliest assassin, Enzo. Traveling with a group of female dancers, they soon realize Enzo is already nearby, with deaths occurring routinely. Enzo is unmasked in the form of Miss Tyler — and the man in drag was famous female impersonator T.C. Jones (see The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1965 above for more info.) What gave the killer away? “Your hands — far too big to belong to any woman.” (Image via CBS)
1968 CBS Playhouse: The “Secrets” (May 5, 1968, according to IMDb, May 15, 1968 according to the above promotional photo) episode of this CBS dramatic series (January 29, 1967-February 10, 1970) starred the incomparable Eileen Heckart (1919-2001) as a woman being tried for killing her gay son, who is never depicted. One potential juror (Arthur Hill, 1922-2006) says he is unable to serve, but won't give a reason. (Guess!) Another character (Barry Nelson, 1917-2007) may also be gay. The show's director, Paul Bogart (1919-2012), was nominated for an Emmy.
1968 Judd for the Defense: The “Weep the Hunter Home” (November 8, 1968) episode of this ABC legal-oriented series (September 9, 1967-September 19, 1969) starring Carl Betz (1921-1978) as a defense attorney was about a father (Harold Gould, 1923-2010) who thinks his son (Richard Dreyfuss, b. 1947) has been kidnapped. It turns out to be a ruse crafted by the son and his best friend Don (Peter Jason, b. 1944), who the father suspects is gay and trying to recruit his son. The father ends up shot and accuses Don of doing it. Betz won the Emmy for his work on this season of the series, in 1969.
1969 N.Y.P.D.: The CBS series revisited a gay character with “Everybody Loved Him” (March 19, 1969), in which a gay movie producer (not depicted) is murdered. One prime suspect, also probably gay, is an effete actor (longtime D.C. stage actor Ted van Griethuysen, b. 1934) who bears a grudge against the producer for not having made him a star. In the end, it turns out the man was offed by a closet-case elevator operator (Walter McGinn, 1936-1977) who says he did it because the producer hit on him and homos have been after him since he was a kid. Jack Somack (1918-1983) — the actor who uttered the immortal line, “Mamma, mia! That's some spicy meatball!” in a popular ad the same year in which this episode aired — plays a P.I. looking into the killing, and into the producer's sordid life.
1969 The Bold Ones: The Lawyers: Another series about legal finagling allowed a gay angle when NBC's The Bold Ones: The Lawyers (December 10, 1968-February 13, 1972) aired “Shriek of Silence” (November 30, 1969, in which a gubernatorial candidate (Craig Stevens, 1918-2000) is framed for the murder of a campaign staffer (Carol Booth, b. 1941) by an ex-advisor (Morgan Sterne, 1926-2011) he fired for being gay. Interestingly, the episode was directed by MGM stud Fernando Lamas (1915-1982), who in the '70s had nude images of his son, Lorenzo Lamas (b. 1958) destroyed when he learned they were to be published in Playgirl, a magazine he perceived to be gay.
1970 Newsfront: This program, described as “America’s first daily, live and non-commercial news program” (1970-?) aired on WNET aka THIRTEEN, a public-broadcast station out of Newark, New Jersey. On June 24, 1970, it aired a now-rare episode featuring seven gay-lib activists.
1970 Medical Center: This CBS show about earnest doctors (September 24, 1969-September 6, 1976) starring Chad Everett (1937-2012) and James Daly aired the episode “Undercurrent” on September 23, 1970, in which a gay scientist (Paul Burke, 1926-2009) has to deal with a toxic, anonymous letter-writing campaign about his sexual orientation that is timed to coincide with his potentially life-saving work on a cure for a type of cancer. The stars accept that if the scientist really is gay, “If the wrong people buy this lie, he could concoct a single pill that cured cancer and grew hair on bald pates and there would still be committees out to crucify him instead of rewarding him.” The scientist urgies his defender (Everett), “You'd be safer attacking motherhood than defending me.” At the episode's climax, the scientist comes out, shouting, “What does it take to get through to you? Why don't you face it? It's a fact: I am a homosexual!”
He also confesses to a female doctor (Salome Jens, b. 1935) he's dating, “Abby, accept it — I have. I'm a homosexual. Oh, not one of the obvious kinds, and for that I'm thankful.” In a lighter moment, the scientist asks the doctor how he likes his coffee and is told “straight,” to which to responds, “That figures.” The episode is imperfect, but complex — Everett's character chastises a trustee (Andrew Duggan, 1923-1988) who is going along with the rumors by voting against the gay man's proposed treatment and cutting off his funding, referring to his reaction as “intolerance” but still says he's “not defending homosexuality ... I've seen it cause too much sadness.” It turns out the trustee's son-in-law was gay — he reveals, “My daughter's life was ruined because of one of those lousy deviants ... Because of my limp-wristed son-in-law, my daugther's been in analysis for over a year.” In the end, the gay scientist's treatment is approved as he win's the board's vote — but not the homophobe's. Interestingly, the letters' writer is never unmasked. Note: Daly, present in some of the tense scenes, was tortured over his own homosexuality in real life.
1970 The Dick Cavett Show: The November 27, 1970, episode (some sources say November 26) of this talk show (various incarnations, March 4, 1968-December 30, 1986) was devoted to gay issues. This particular episode aired on ABC, though the show appeared on other networks in other forms for decades.
1971 The David Susskind Show: The talk show featured the topic “Lesbians and Society” on an episode broadcast sometime in 1971.
1971 Dan August: The “Dead Witness to a Killing” (January 28, 1971) episode of this Burt Reynolds (b. 1936) series (September 23, 1970-April 8, 1971) focused on a gay Cabinet member (Laurence Luckinbill, b. 1934) who offs his own sister (Roberta Carol, no info) and his accomplice/lover (Martin Sheen, b. 1940) in order to stay closeted. Doesn't work. Luckinbill and Sheen are examples of actors who played gay more than once and never suffered for it, Luckinbill onstage (1968) and in the film version (1970) of The Boys in the Band, Sheen here, in That Certain Summer (keep reading) and, of course, on Grace and Frankie (2015-).
1971 All in the Family: One of the most beloved series of all time (January 12, 1971-April 8, 1979) aired several episodes with LGBTQ characters or themes, as you'll see further down the list. “Judging Books by Covers” (February 9, 1971) found Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor, 1924-2001) making fun of flamboyant-but-straight Roger (Anthony Geary, b. 1947), only to be gobsmacked when discovering his drinking buddy Steve (Philip Carey, 1925-2009) is macho ... but gay. President Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) watched this episode in the White House (the first time a work with an out gay character was screened there?) and was said to have found the subject matter “distasteful.”
1971 Vanished: This all-star, two-part miniseries (first part March 8, 1971) — the first-ever miniseries of any kind — was inspired by the scandal involving President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) aide Walter Jenkins (1918-1985), who was charged with disorderly conduct with another man in a public john in 1964. The project was about a presidential advisor (Arthur Hill, 1922-2006) who disappears, and the FBI has proof he was light in the loafers. The project was considered overlong, but was not lacking for star quality — Richard Widmark (1914-2008) makes his TV-acting debut as the POTUS, and there are roles for Tom Bosley (1927-2010), James Farentino (1938-2012), Larry Hagman (1931-2012), E.G. Marshall (1914-1998), Eleanor Parker (1922-2013), William Shatner (b. 1931), Robert Young (1907-1998) and Betty White (b. 1922), among others.
1971 Room 222: The “What Is a Man?” (December 3, 1971) episode of this school-based drama (September 11, 1969-January 11, 1974) shows the bullying of a presumed-to-gay high schooler named Howard (Frederick Herrick, no info, last worked 1986).
1972 The Bold Ones: The New Doctors: “Discovery at Fourteen,” the March 5, 1972, episode of this drama series (September 14, 1969-May 4, 1973), features a doctor (Jane Wyman, 1917-2007) treating a young man (Ron Howard, b. 1954) for an ulcer. She discovers his ulcer is tied to stress over his worry that he will turn out like his dad (Robert J. Hogan, b. 1933), who is gay.
1972 The Corner Bar: This regular series (June 21, 1972-September 7, 1973) featured the first-ever recurring gay TV character, Peter Panama (Vincent Schiavelli, 1948-2005). His performance was hated by gay orgs, which considered him to be an offensive stereotype. Due to his unpopularity with these groups, Peter Panama only appeared on nine episodes, from June 21-August 16, 1972. Still, it was an undeniable breakthrough.
1972 Are You Being Served?: This wildly popular British series (September 8, 1972-April 1, 1985) aired in the U.S. on PBS. It featured John Inman (1935-2007) as the over-the-top Mr. Humphries, whose, “I'm free!” catchphrase made, “Just Jack!” sound butch. The character was never identified as gay, but the double entendres were hard to miss. Co-creators John Jeremy Lloyd (1930-2014) and David Croft (1922-2011) were adamant that the character was merely a sissy/mama's boy, yet admitted the BBC had asked in advance that they drop the “poof” and had to tell their bosses, “Without [the poof], there's no show.” In real life, Inman was later a successful drag artist.
1972 Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law: This series (September 16, 1971-August 24, 1974) starred Arthur Hill as a big-hearted defense attorney. The “Words of Summer” episode (September 14, 1972) centers on a young woman (Meredith Baxter, b. 1947) falsely accused of molesting a teenage girl (Denise Nickerson, b. 1957). Her name is cleared by her old roommate (Kristina Holland, b. 1944) coming out as gay. Baxter came out as a lesbian in real life in 2009; Nickerson is best known as Violet in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971).
1972 The Bold Ones: The New Doctors: On October 31, 1972, just seven months after its last dip into the gay well, the series presented “A Very Strange Triangle,” in which a male doctor (Robert Walden, b. 1943) tries to get back with an ex (Donna Mills, b. 1940) ... who just so happens to be involved with another woman (Hildy Brooks, circa 1940). Early depiction of bisexuality on series TV.
1972 That Certain Summer: A divorcé dad (Hal Holbrook, b. 1925) and his boyfriend (Martin Sheen, b. 1940) do whatever they can to avoid his son (Scott Jacoby, b. 1956) finding out Dad's gay. This TV movie received raves, supporting actor Jacoby won the Emmy, and a novelization of the project was generated. It aired on ABC November 1, 1972.
1972 Hawaii Five-0: The popular crime drama (September 20, 1968-April 5, 1980) aired “'V' for Vashion: The Son” on November 14, 1972, an episode featuring a dastardly lawyer (John Stalker, b. 1939) whose plan to smear Steve McGarrett (star Jack Lord, 1920-1998) is foiled by a young hottie (Robert Drivas, 1935-1986) implied to be his secret male lover. In real life, Drivas was gay, dying of AIDS in 1986.
1972 Hotline: Ron Jaye (no info) hosted this talk show on WPXI in Pittsburgh in the '60s/early '70s. Sometime in 1972, activist Randy Wicker appeared on the hour-long program, speaking eloquently about the nature of homosexuality in a positive way. Writes Wicker on his YouTube upload of the rare footage:
In 1972, gays answering blunt questions on television was new territory. I was the first homosexual to appear on television, full-faced & undisguised, in NYC on the Les Crane Show in 1965. I went to Chicago to be on the Kupcinent Show in the 1960s because there was no homosexual willing to appear on TV in Chicago. I used the first money I made in the hippie-oriented anti-war slogan-button business to buy the first portable Sony CV video system. Using that equipment saved this one Pittsburgh appearance from the trash-bin of history. TV stations didn't save tapes of even nationally broadcast shows, so virtually none of the early appearances by LGBT activists even after Stonewall and into the 1970s have survived. I consider this my best appearance as an early activist--taking on all callers. I always could talk :-). Even the Hotline host made a joke about that.
1973 An American Family: PBS aired this 12-part series — a groundbreaker in reality programming — that followed a dysfunctional American family, the Louds. Son Lance (1951-2001) was flamboyantly gay and out to his family. His mom, Pat (b. 1926) attended an NYC drag show with him on one episode. The series ran from January 11-March 29, 1973. The family was covered again in An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later (1983). Lance's death from AIDS was covered in Lance Loud!: A Death in An American Family in 2003.
1973 Mary Tyler Moore: The classic sitcom's (September 19, 1970-March 19, 1977) “My Brother's Keeper” episode (January 13, 1973) was about Phyllis (Cloris Leachman, b. 1926) trying to fix up Mary (Mary Tyler Moore, 1936-2017) with her brother (Robert Moore,), not realizing that her brother is a confirmed bachelor.
1973 The Night Strangler: On January 16, 1973, ABC aired this second TV movie starring Darren McGavin (1922-2006) as Kolchak, an intrepid journalist investigating in this case an immortal Jack the Ripper (Richard Anderson, 1926-2017). Among the film's strippers who are prime targets to have their necks crushed and blood drained is Charisma Beauty aka Gladys Weams, played by Nina Wayne (b. 1943). Wayne, the younger sister of the late Carol Wayne (1942-1985), The Tonight Show's Matinee Lady, is a cooing sex kitten, and her guardian is Wanda Krankheimer (Virginia Peters, 1924-1998), a butch woman who Kolchak matter-of-factly IDs as Charisma's “husband.” Sadly, Wanda is a widower by show's end.
1973 The Streets of San Francisco: This cop series (September 16, 1972-June 9, 1977) aired the episode “A Collection of Eagles” (February 1, 1973), about a very serious coin collector (John Saxon, b. 1935) who is carrying on affairs with male (William Gray Espy, b. 1948) and female (Belinda Montgomery, 1950) accomplices, whom he directs to switch the valuable gold coins in another collector's (Joseph Cotten, 1905-1994) stash. He then murders his gay lover and tries to do the same to his female lover — but the show's good guys (Karl Malden, 1912-2009; Michael Douglas, b. 1944) save the day. If only they'd saved the gay; I mean, I'd have switched some coins if John Saxon asked me to ... wouldn't you?! (Image via ABC)
1973 Marcus Welby, M.D.: In one of the first TV shows ever to cause protests over its negative portrayal of LGBTQ issues, Marcus Welby, M.D. (September 23, 1969-July 29, 1976) on February 20, 1973, aired “The Other Martin Loring,” which treated a middle-aged man's [Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1965-1967) daddy Mark Miller, b. 1924] repressed homosexuality as a disease. In the episode, Welby (Robert Young, 1907-1998) diagnoses Loring as being preoccupied with a fear he will become gay because his father was, rather than as actually gay. He encourages the man to seek therapy in order to get past the tendencies and become ... normal. ABC, the show's network, was picketed by dozens of members of the Gay Activists Alliance.
1973 Match Game '73: This list is focused primarily on primetime LGBTQ occurrences, but this one is too infamous to ignore. The September 20, 1973, episode of this long-running (CBS iteration July 2, 1972-April 20, 1979) daytime game show featured the question, “The police commissioner said, 'I think that Batman and Robin are ______.'” The contestant filled in the blank with “queer.” She matched married panelists Bobby Van (1928-1980) and Elaine Joyce (b. 1945), as well as Nanette Fabray (b. 1920), who said “fairies.” Glass-closeted Charles Nelson Reilly (1931-2007) said “divine,” while clever Richard Dawson (1932-2012) said “married.” Brett Somers (1924-2007), masking her annoyance at the slur, scolded the other panelists jokingly and answered “lovers.”
1973 Medical Center: The October 1, 1973, episode, entitled “Impasse,” features a doctor (Lois Nettleton, 1927-2008) treating a young girl (Jamie Smith-Jackson, b. 1948) who has a fling with a female friend. The doctor is accused of trying to recruit the girl into a lesbian tryst. The show ends with the girl being told reassuringly that she isn't really a lesbian. Phew! More positively, Nettleton's psychiatrist character declares, “I am a person. I am a woman. I am a psychiatrist. And I am a homosexual. And we are not all the same any more than heterosexuals are the same.”
1973 Sanford and Son: This junkyard-based sitcom (January 14, 1972-March 25, 1977) offered an episide entitled “Lamont, Is That You?” (October 19, 1973), the title of which refers to the 1970 gay-themed play Norman, Is That You? about a Jewish couple coping with their son's homosexuality. In the Sanford and Son episode, Fred Sanford's (Redd Foxx, 1922-1991) son Lamont (Demond Wilson, b. 1946) and his buddy Rollo (Nathaniel Taylor, b. 1938) are spotted coming out of a gay bar, causing Fred to have his usual phony palpitations. It turns out to be a a mistake. Strangely, when Norman, Is That You? was made into a 1976 film, it was reimagined as a black couple whose son is gay, and the parents were played by Pearl Bailey (1918-1990) and ... Redd Foxx!
1974 Police Story: On the Police Story (September 25, 1973-December 3, 1978) episode entitled “The Ripper” (February 12, 1974), a serial killer (Peter Mark Richman, b. 1927) is stabbing gay men to death to clean up the planet. Members of the Gay Media Task Force consulted on the sensation-seeking episode, which had several fleetingly gruesome reaction shots and featured one victim's wife (Leslie Parrish, b. 1935) declaring, “I'm a woman — I would know!” when informed her late husband may have been homosexual. In a car scene, series star Darren McGavin's (1922-2006) Hallett has to reprimand fellow officer Baker (Matt Cole, b. 1945) who refers to a woman's (Pat Carroll, b. ) murdered son as “a dead fag.” Hallett patiently interjects, “A dead son,” and also later tries to dissuade Baker from believing that gay men are created by overbearing mothers. Hallett goes on to tell Cole the killer may not be gay, but instead, “a homophobe.” The word was only five years old at the time. Sadly, he also later in the episode tells his fiancée (Kathie Browne, 1930-2003) he's scared to have children because one could turn out gay. Bonus points: Marcia Strassman (1948-2014) plays a lesbian model, John Fiedler (1925-2005) plays a gay psychologist, Lew Horn (no info) plays a taciturn gay editor at a fashion magazine who insists he checks out all the models himself, and the episode goes inside a (tame) gay bar. Full episode here.
1974 M*A*S*H: In an acclaimed episode called “George” (February 16, 1974), M*A*S*H (September 17, 1972-February 28, 1983), explored the unfairness of gay people not being allowed to serve in the military. Young George (Richard Ely, no info) is fag-bashed by his own unit members, then spills his guts to Dr. Hawkeye (Alan Alda, b. 1936). When the dastardly Major Burns (Larry Linville, 1939-2000) overhears the confession, he threatens to have the man discharged for being gay ... until Hawkeye blackmails Burns with embarrassing info about how he made it through medical school. Full episode here.
1974 The Pat Collins Show: On February 19, 1974, this daily daytime talk show (1972-1977), which aired on WCBS-TV in NYC, devoted a full 30 minutes to exploring a gay bathhouse. “A Night at the Continental Baths” featured hostess Pat Collins (b. circa 1930s) profiling Baths performer Melba Moore (b. 1945), proprietor Stuart Ostrow (b. 1932) and three men on the premises looking for fun. The show featured very frank talk about gay sexuality, including the concept of married men getting off together at the baths.
1974 Born Innocent: This TV movie, aired September 10, 1974, starred Linda Blair (b. 1959) as a 14-year-old runaway. In one scene, she is raped with a plunger handle by a group of girls led by her primary tormentors (Nora Heflin, b. 1950; Janit Baldwin, b. 1953) in a juvenile detention center. The script was already so sleazy it had attracted the attention of lesbian groups and also a group for rape survivors, all of whom objected to elements of the story, especially the rape scene, which was eventually cut from re-airings. A court case alleged that the movie had encouraged a group of girls to rape another girl with a soda bottle (the court decided against the plaintiffs). P.S. Blair was just 15 when she shot the movie, including the rape scene, in which a lot of her naked body is seen.
1974 The Streets of San Francisco: The October 3, 1974, episode — “Mask of Death” — featured John Davidson (b. 1941) as a female impersonator who does a mean Carol Channing (b. 1921) and a much meaner Carol Marlowe — when in character as Marlowe, a fictional figure, he stabs people to death with a hatpin. The drag was definitely used as a freak-out mechanism. Female impersonator Jim Bailey (1938-2015) contributed Davidson's Channing voice. (Image via ABC)
1974 Marcus Welby, M.D.: Not having learned its lesson from past anger, the medical series came back with the presciently titled “The Outrage” (October 8, 1974), about a high school teacher (Edward Winter, 1937-2001) who rapes a male student (Sean Kelly, b. 1956). The student clams up, but was injured so badly he needs surgery. The good guys eventually catch the teacher just as he's about to strike again. The National Gay Task Force protested the episode for implying gay = pedophile, leading to 17 ABC affiliates refusing to air it.
1974 Harry O: In the “Coinage of the Realm” (October 10, 1974) episode of P.I. show Harry O (September 12, 1974-April 29, 1976), two hitmen (David Dukes, 1945-2000; Granville Van Dusen, b. 1944) who are partners are also ... partners.
1974 Columbo: On October 27, 1974, Columbo (February 20, 1968-January 30, 2003 noncontinuously) aired the episode “By Dawn's Early Light,” featuring a character (Patrick McGoohan, 1928-2009) who was heavily implied to be gay — and into SM.
1974 Police Woman: The jiggly cop show (September 13, 1974-March 29, 1978) starring Angie Dickinson (b. 1931) aired an episode entitled “Flowers of Evil” (November 8, 1974), on which three lesbians, headed up by a butch dyke (Fay Spain, 1932-1983), are killing old people in a nursing home after stealing their benefits. At one point, Dickinson's character refers to a lesbian college roommate and says to a femme lesbian (Lynn Loring, b. 1944), who has confessed in order to protect her butch lover (Laraine Stephens, b. 1941), “I know what a love like yours can do.” The character played by Earl Holliman (b. 1928) — thought to be gay in real life — says of the ringleader, “One of 'em looks like she oughtta be driving a diesel truck.” The negative portrayal led to a sit-in by the Lesbian Feminist Liberation Organization — and NBC promised not to rerun the episode. TV Guide called the episode “the single most homophobic show to date.” Full episode here. (Image via NBC)
1974 Maude: Maude (Bea Arthur, 1922-2009) gets friendly with a neighbor, an openly gay writer (Robert Mandan, b. 1932) on the “Maude's New Friend” (December 2, 1974) episode of Maude (September 2, 1972-April 22, 1978), a Norman Lear (b. 1922) production focusing on an overbearing liberal firebrand.
1974 The Lou Gordon Program: This syndicated series (1966-1977) hosted by (who else?) Lou Gordon (1917-1977) aired for 90 minutes twice a week on WKBD-TV out of Detroit. One episode that is confirmed to exist from 1974 (no exact date known) was called “Are Homosexuals Going to Hell?” The contents are unknown ... but an audio exists.
1974 This Is the Life: This long-running, syndicated, Christian-values program (approx. September 9, 1952-1988) aired an episode sometime in 1974 called “The Secret,” which dealt with a boys' school teacher coming out as gay.
1974 Tomorrow: Host Tom Snyder (1936-2007) presented an episode devoted to the issue of “Boy Prostitution” sometime in 1974. Series ran from October 15, 1973-January 28, 1982).
1975 Hot l Baltimore: This series (January 24, 1975-April 25, 1975), based on Lanford Wilson's (1937-2011) Off-Broadway play (the title indicates a burned-out letter E on a sign), featured the first gay couple as recurring characters on a series (Lee Bergere, 1918-2007 & Henry Calvert, (1920-1992). Gay dudes, immigrants and prostitutes proved to be an awful lot for the viewers — it became a rare bomb for Norman Lear, who speaks about the series above. Below, series star Charlotte Rae (b. 1926) raves about the show's approach to its gay characters, including depicting their 20th anniversary:
1975 Barney Miller: On the “Experience” (January 30, 1975) episode of this cop sitcom (January 23, 1975-May 20, 1982), an effeminate gay man (Jack DeLeon, 1924-2006) is arrested and becomes a recurring character who pops up a total of eight times from 1975-. It was only the second episode of the series.
1975 The Bob Crane Show: The “A Case of Misdiagnosis” episode (May 8, 1975) of this short-lived sitcom (March 6-June 12, 1975) that starred the ill-fated Bob Crane (1928-1978) features Bob worrying that praise in a newspaper article from a gay-libber (John Astin, b. 1930) might make people think he's gay.
1975 Cage Without a Key: This CBS movie (March 14, 1975) starred Susan Dey (b. 1952) as Valerie, a teen on a cross-country adventure with her friend (Anne Bloom, b. circa 1950s) who is forced to participate in a deadly armed robbery by a guy (Sam Bottoms, 1955-2008) they meet along the way. She is sentenced to the San Marcos School for Girls, where she must fight for survival as two rival gangs duke it out on a daily basis, and where the women in charge take sadistic pleasure in belittling and attacking their wards. In a noteworthy first, Jonelle Allen (b. 1944) plays lesbian Tommy, leader of one of the gangs. Tommy has been identified as TV's first thoroughly developed and sympathetic gay or lesbian character, and the first one of color as well. She dies after being stabbed by rival Suzy (Susie Elene, b. circa 1950s) in the film's final scene while intervening to save Valerie's life. Valerie, who has been exonerated and will be freed, sobs over her corpse.
1975 Medical Center: In “The Fourth Sex: Part 1” (September 8, 1975) and “Part 2” (September 15, 1975), Robert Reed (1932-1992) — who was gay in real life — made a memorable appearance as Det. Pat Caddison, a trans woman presenting as a man who decides to undergo SRS. In stark contrast to drag and female impersonation, when actual trans issues were explored on TV — which was rarely — they were often presented in an earnest, well-meaning, medical way. When they weren't murderers. (Image via CBS)
1975 Doctors' Hospital: This hospital-based drama (September 10, 1975-January 14, 1976) aired the episode “Watchman Who Will Guard Thy Sleep?” (October 29, 1975), in which a patient's orderly is openly gay.
1975 Barney Miller: On the episode entitled “Discovery” (October 30, 1975), recurring gay character Marty Morrison (Jack DeLeon) and Darryl Driscoll (Ray Stewart, b. 1932) accuse a man (Norman Rice, 1938-2009) of gay extortion. The man is apprehended by a sergeant from another precinct (Paul Jenkins, 1938-2013), who comes out as gay.
1975 All in the Family: On “Archie the Hero” (September 29, 1975), when Archie (Carroll O'Connor) saves the life of a person presenting as a woman (Lori Shannon, 1938-1984) who passes out in his cab, he learns, much to his chagrin, that Beverly LaSalle is a professional female impersonator — and therefore a man. Oh, jeez. The character came back for “Beverly Rides Again” (November 6, 1976), a lighthearted episode. On “Edith's Crisis of Faith: Part 1” (December 18, 1977), however, Beverly and Edith's (Jean Stapleton, 1923-2013) son-in-law Mike (Rob Reiner, b. 1947) are gay-bashed — and Beverly dies, leading Edith to question the existence of God.
1975 Tomorrow: Sometime in 1975, Tom Snyder's Tomorrow dealt with “Gays and Military Service.” No record of how the conversation went.
1976 The Jeffersons: On the January 3, 1976, “The Breakup: Part 1,” episode of The Jeffersons (January 18, 1975-July 2, 1985) —a show about an upwardly mobile black couple (Sherman Hemsley, 1938-2012; Isabel Sanford, 1917-2004), their son Lionel (Damon Evans, b. 1949), his biracial GF (Berlinda Tolbert, b. 1949) and her interracial parents (Franklin Cover, 1928-2006; Roxie Roker, 1929-1995) — Lionel has a tough time writing a college term paper about homosexuality.
1976 Bronk: In an episode entitled “The Deadlier Sex” (January 18, 1976), a trailblazing female cop (Julie Sommars, b. 1942) is accused of molesting a female prisoner. The series only ran from September 21, 1975-March 28, 1976.
1976 The American Parade: The March 9, 1976, telecast of this series (March 17, 1974-September 12, 1976) was Song of Myself, about the life of Walt Whitman (1819-1892), played by Rip Torn (b. 1931). Brad Davis (1949-1991) played his lover Peter Doyle (b. 1845, 1847 or 1848). In its positive review, The New York Times referenced the awkward fact that Whitman was both a treasured poet and a proud homosexual, making TV portrayals and plays about him too controversial to mount.
I miss Debralee Scott ...
1976 Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The 126th episode (June 28, 1976) of this comedic soap (January 5, 1976-May 10, 1977) revealed that Howard (Beeson Carroll, b. 1934) and Ed (Larry Haddon, 1922-2013) are boyfriends when they engage in a lovers' argument.
1976 Ball Four: Short-lived (September 22, 1976-October 27, 1976) series about the players on a fictional minor-league baseball team that was co-created by and starred Jim Bouton (b. 1939). Bill Westlake (David James Carroll, 1950-1992) was the team's gay rookie, a very early recurring gay character. Carroll became a Tony-nominated actor who in 1991 died of an AIDS-related pulmonary embolism in the restroom of the BMG/RCA recording studio while recording the cast album for Grand Hotel: The Musical. He was replaced in that musical by out actor Brent Barrett (b. 1957).
1976 Alice: Popular sitcom (August 31, 1976-March 19, 1985) based on the acclaimed film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974). In the “Alice Gets a Pass” episode (September 29, 1976), Alice (Linda Lavin, b. 1937) has a crush on a football pro (Denny Miller, 1934-2014) who turns out to be gay. She thinks twice about letting her son (Philip McKeon, b. 1964) go camping with him, then comes around. The series was less than a month old. Full episode here.
1976 Visions: “The War Widow” (October 28, 1976) was a groundbreaking episode of this PBS series (October 21, 1976-January 26, 1980) in which a houswife (Pamela Bellwood, b. 1951) falls in love with an older, more worldly photographer (Frances Lee McCain, b. 1944). Their relationship is portrayed as being genuine and romantic, and so powerful he young woman must choose between this or her husband. Full episode here.
1976 Snip: This sitcom about a hairdresser (David Brenner, 1936-2014) and his ex-wife (Lesley Ann Warren, b. 1946) featured Walter Wanderman aka Wonderman (b. 1920s?) as the openly gay owner of a salon. Shortly before its scheduled September 30, 1976, premiere, the series was preemptively canceled, presumably because NBC got cold feet over the gay character. Seven episodes were shot, five edited, none aired — except in Australia.
1976 The Nancy Walker Show: This short-lived sitcom (September 30, 1976-December 23, 1976) starring showbiz veteran Nancy Walker (1922-1992) as a talent agent featured Ken Olfson (1937-1997) as her character's gay personal assistant, an out-of-work actor and client who also doubled as her roommate.
1976 The Bob Newhart Show: The “Some of My Best Friends Are ...” (October 9, 1976) episode of The Bob Newhart Show (September 16, 1972-April 1, 1978) — a classic series about a shrink (Bob Newhart, b. 1929) — featured Howard Hesseman (b. 1940) as a gay man who joins the central character's therapy group.
1976 Police Woman: The cop series revisited a gay theme in “Trial by Prejudice” (October 12, 1976), in which Pepper's (Angie Dickinson) closeted college roomie (Pat Crowley, b. 1933) hesitates to defend her honor when she's accused of molesting a female suspect, fearing exposure if she speaks up.
1976 Sanford and Son: In the episode entitled “The Stakeout” (October 15, 1976), Fred (Redd Foxx) is attracted to a woman named Miss Wallace (Charles Weldon, b. 1940) ... who turns out to be a crook in drag. Other characters wonder about Fred's sexual orientation once the truth is out. He did, after all, kiss Miss Wallace's hand. Full episode here.
1976 Kojak: The “A Need to Know” episode (October 24, 1976) of cop show Kojak (October 24, 1973-March 18, 1978) starring bald sex symbol Telly Savalas (1922-1994, featured Hector Elizondo (b. 1936) as a foreign diplomat accused of molesting little boys. The character has diplomatic immunity, so must be released. In a sign of growing gay activism, the National Gay Task Force objected on the grounds that the episode may be construed as anti-gay as opposed to being anti-molester. One affiliate in D.C. ran a disclaimer making that point clear.
1976 Phyllis: The November 1, 1976, episode of this Mary Tyler Moore spin-off series (September 8, 1975-March 13, 1977) deals with narcissistic Phyllis's (Cloris Leachman) relief that her boyfriend (Edward Winter, 1937-2001) turns out to be gay — a palatable explanation for why he didn't find her attractive. The episode's title, “Out of the Closet,” was an early use of the phrase on a TV show.
1976 Maude: On November 15, 1976, the controversial sitcom aired the episode “Arthur's Worry,” in which Walter (Bill Macy, b. 1922) awakens from a dream in which he kissed his friend Arthur (Conrad Bain, 1923-2013), a perplexing development for the middle-aged card-carrying hetero.
1976 Executive Suite: On the “Re: The Sounds of Silence” episode (December 6, 1976), a woman (Geraldine Brooks, 1925-1977) comes out as a lesbian to her friend. The lesbian character made three separate appearances on the short-lived nighttime soap (September 20, 1976-February 11, 1977); the actress playing her died of a heart attack while battling cancer less than a year after her character's coming-out episode.
1976 Family: On this angsty drama (March 9, 1976-June 25, 1980), the “Rites of Friendship” episode (December 28, 1976) features family friend Zeke (Brian Byers, no info) becoming ensnared in a gay-bar raid, leading to his being kicked out of this home. He bunks with the series' titular family, and has to win over his initially homophobic relative/best friend Willie (Gary Frank, b. 1950). Full episode here.
1976 Sirota's Court: This short-lived sitcom (December 1, 1976-April 13, 1977) featured TV's first gay wedding. The titular Judge Sirota (Michael Constantine, b. 1927) performs a marriage ceremony between two men (no info on actors) on the “Court Fear” episode. Unclear how vividly this was depicted, as the episode's plot was apparently more about a felon being released from prison and paying the judge (who sent him up the river) a visit.
1977 The Streets of San Francisco: The “A Good Cop ... But” episode (February 10, 1977) guest-stars Barry Primus (b. 1938) as an inspector who must come out as gay in order to put a drug dealer away for good. His partner on the job, played by Robert Walden, struggles with accepting him at first.
1977 In the Glitter Palace: This TV movie (February 23, 1977) had more queer people in it than anything else on TV up until that point. Barbara Hershey (b. 1948) plays Ellen, a woman whose girlfriend (Diana Scarwid, b. 1955) has been charged with murdering a woman (Gloria LeRoy, b. 1931) whose m.o. was to hire lesbians (like Grace, played by Tisha Sterling, b. 1944) to seduce other lesbians (like a judge played by Salome Jens) for blackmail purposes. Ellen hires her ex (Chad Everett, 1937-2012) to defend her girlfriend. The movie also features Carole Cook (b. 1924) as a nightclub star and Lynne Marta (1977) as a lesbian who is hiding the child she lost in a custody battle from the authorities.
1977 Barney Miller: The “Asylum” episode (February 24, 1977) features a Soviet defector (Ion Teodorescu, 1934-1985 ) who is gay.
1977 The Streets of San Francisco: If you're noticing this show had quite a few LGBTQ storylines, remember where it was set. In “Once a Con ...” (March 3, 1977), a young college student named Jackie Collins (Devon Ericson, b. 1952) becomes jealous, murdering her girlfriend Tina's (Joanne Nail, b. 1947) best friend. (Video still via ABC)
1977 Three's Company: The premise of this broad comedy series (March 15, 1977-September 18, 1984) revolves around a horny young man, Jack (John Ritter, 1948-2003), who pretends to be gay in order to be allowed to room with two young women, Chrissy (Suzanne Somers, 1946-) and Janet (Joyce DeWitt, 1949-). Almost every episode features a reference to Jack's phony gayness, including mincing stereotypes and gay-panic attacks on the landlord Mr. Roper (Norman Fell, 1924-1998). Roper won't say the word “gay,” instead preferring to mug like a female streetwalker and go limpwristed to get the point across. The October 4, 1977, episode, “Strange Bedfellows,” finds Roper waking up next to Jack and fearing he's gay, too. The January 22, 1980, “The Love Lesson” ep is about Mr. Furley (Don Knotts, 1924-2006) — the series' replacement landlord — trying to cure Jack's homosexuality. On “Night of the Ropers” (March 17, 1981), Jack pretends he's gay, etc., etc. It's pretty tame 'n' lame in 2018, but Lucille Ball loved this shit!
1977 C.P.O. Sharkey: The March 16, 1977, episode, of this military sitcom (December 1, 1976-April 28, 1978), entitled “Sharkey's Secret Life,” featured Sharkey's (Don Rickles, 1926-2017) men presuming he might be gay when a flaming guy (Jack DeLeon) enters his office. Yes, that is all it took. One recruit (Barry Pearl, b. 1950) even uses the term “closet queen” while informing his pals that anyone can be gay, no matter what they look like. The guys' comments about homosexuality (repeatedly communicated non-verbally with a rocking hand gesture) are beyond broad and ignorant, including a mention of “morphodites.” (Don't ask.) They're so thrilled when they find out their bald commander was simply buying a (lace-front!) wig from the queen and isn't gay they sing “For He's a Jolly Good Fellow.” Full episode here.
1977 All That Glitters: This Norman Lear syndicated sitcom (April 18-July 15, 1977) churned out 65 episodes and feaured a phenomenal cast, including Eileen Brennan (1932-2013), Lois Nettleton (1927-2008), Jessica Walter (b. 1941) and Greg Evigan (b. 1953). It was a soap opera spoof in which all the women had the power and men were stay-at-home husbands and secretaries and the like. Linda Gray (b. 1940) played Linda Murkland, a transgender model — the first recurring trans character in TV history. In 2015, there was briefly talk of rebooting the forgotten series.
1977 Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn: On May 16, 1977, NBC aired this sequel to the TV movie Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway (September 27, 1976) about teen prostitution, in which Alexander (Leigh McCloskey, b. 1955) — a character from the first movie — heads to Hollywood after being kicked out of his Oklahoma home for being an artist. Hoping to be a painter and also to make money so he can marry his hooker girlfriend (Eve Plumb, b. 1958), he winds up turning tricks himself under the direction of a pimp (Asher Brauner, b. 1946), sometimes with women (like a callous, dishy married chick played by Juliet Mills, b. 1941), but including with a closeted football pro (Alan Feinstein, b. 1941). The football pro is depicted as wanting to help Alex, but clearly wanting him to put out. Earl Holliman is the less predatory head of a Gay Services Center who says he has too much of a conscience to try to recruit straight/gay-for-pay boys like Alex. It feels like he has sinned in his heart, though. After getting two big breaks from the court, Alexander makes it to Tucson to be with his girl, albeit a little the worse for wear.
1977 Terraces: Made-for-TV movie (June 27, 1977) written and directed by Lila Garrett (b. 1925) about the lives of a group of neighbors whose terraces in an apartment building are adjacent. One storyline involves a married doctor (Lloyd Bochner, 1924-2005) who has a romantic interlude with a much younger man (James Phipps, b. circa 1950s), then is unable to break it off without extremely unfortunate results.
1977 Westside Medical: On this blink-and-you-missed-it series (March 17-August 25, 1977), an episode entitled “The Mermaid” (July 7, 1977) features Betsy Slade (b. circa early '50s) as a trans woman defecting from East Germany.
1977-1981 Soap: On this series, which debuted September 13, 1977, and aired until April 20, 1981, Billy Crystal (b. 1948) played sardonic gay son Jodie, who also considered having SRS. Jodie was one of the earliest gay-dad characters on TV.
1977 The Richard Pryor Show: On “Episode #1.3” (September 27, 1977), a woman details a lesbian encounter she had in the park in a lengthy dramatic monologue punctuated by CENSORED signs, telling the same story three different ways, all of which turn out to be fantasies. Kres Mersky (b. 1949) wrote the segment and performed in it. So far ahead of its time it's unreal. The series itself lasted only from September 13-October 4, 1977.
1977 Carter Country: This (September 15, 1977-August 23, 1979) sitcom based in (where else?) the South tackled gay teachers with “Out of the Closet” (September 29, 1977), an episode in which the show's central character, a police chief (Victor French, 1934-1989), is shocked to learn his old buddy (Richard Jaeckel, 1926-1997), a teacher, is gay ... but winds up attesting to his character when he's fired by the school board.
1977 The Jeffersons: On the “Once a Friend” episode (October 1, 1977), George Jefferson's (Sherman Hemsley) old army buddy Eddie shows up as Edie (Veronica Redd, b. 1948), a trans woman. Edie must've had a facelift, too, since Redd is a decade younger than the late, great Hemsley. Vernon Washington (1927-1988), recruited to pretend he is Edie, steals the episode, awkwardly trying to pass as a trans woman. One of TV's first representations of a trans person, and one of the most mainstream. Full episode here.
1977 All in the Family: The October 9, 1977, episode, “Cousin Liz,” features K Callan (b. 1936) as Veronica, the surviving partner of Edith's (Jean Stapleton) cousin Liz. Edith had no idea Liz was a lesbian, but she happily allows Veronica to keep a valuable tea set that she asks for, one that had been bequeathed to Edith. Archie (Carroll O'Connor) wants the tea set enough he threatens to sue, but he backs down when Veronica explains to him that a lawsuit would out her and destroy her career. An early examination of gay spousal inheritance issues. Full episode here.
1977 Starsky & Hutch: The buddy cop series (April 30, 1975-May 15, 1979) aired “Death in a Different Place” (October 15, 1977), in which a bi cop (Art Fleming, 1924-1995) is murdered by a dirty officer. The episode also features legendary female impersonator Charles Pierce (1926-1999) in drag.
1977 Baretta: The October 26, 1977, episode of the cop show Baretta (January 17, 1975-May 18, 1978), “The Sky Is Falling,” finds Baretta (Robert Blake, b. 1933) helping a teen hustler (Barry Miller, b. 1958) whose friend, another hustler (John Herbsleb, b. 1961), is murdered.
1977 Family: In the “We Love You, Miss Jessup” episode (November 1, 1977), Buddy's (Kristy McNichol, b. 1962) teacher Miss Jessup (Blair Brown, b. 1946) is accused of being a lesbian by the PTA and resigns. Shades of The Children's Hour (1934 play) — the teacher turns out to really be a lesbian. In real life, McNichol came out as gay in 2012.
1977 The Rockford Files: The “Requiem for a Funny Box” (November 4, 1977) episode of this James Garner (1928-2014) P.I. series (September 13, 1974-January 10, 1980) features the gay son (Jason Evers, 1922-2005) of a mobster (Gilbert Green, 1914-1984) who is blackmailed by a comic (Chuck McCann, b. 1934), and then is ordered killed by his own dad in order to avoid staining the family's, er, good name. The younger mobster refers to his partners as “lovers,” including lounge lizard Lee Russo (Robert Quarry, 1925-2009).
1977 Maude: In the legendary “The Gay Bar” episode (December 3, 1977), Maude's (Bea Arthur) neighbor Arthur (Conrad Bain) founds the group F.A.G.S. (Fathers Against Gay Society) to keep a gay bar, the Gay Caballero, from opening in their town. The episode depicts the inside of a gay bar quite extensively. The classic episode features tough-guy character actor Frank Campanella (1919-2006) as a sassy bartender and Craig Richard Nelson (b. 1947) as a patron.
1978 All in the Family: The January 8, 1978, episode, “The Commercial,” finds Archie (Carroll O'Connor) asking a swishy TV commercial director (Darryl Hickman, b. 1931) if he's gay.
1978 WKRP in Cincinnati: The popular sitcom based at a radio station (September 18, 1978-April 21, 1982) featured Richard Sanders (b. 1940) as mousy Les Nessman, an on-air personality who in “Les on a Ledge” (October 2, 1978) gets wind of rumors that people have mistaken his nerdiness for being gay. The rumors so unnerve Les he threatens suicide. The episode's handling of the gay issue is undercut by its use of a rumor that sex-bomb receptionist Jennifer (Loni Anderson, b. 1946) was once a man, told in order to discourage a co-worker (Frank Bonner, b. 1942) from hitting on her incessantly. Full episode here.
1978 The Rockford Files: On November 17, 1978, the P.I. series aired “The Empty Frame,” about a rich gay couple (Paul Carr, 1934-2006; Richard Seff, b. 1927) whose valuable art is stolen during a dinner party. The gay couple become Jim Rockford's (James Garner) clients.
1978 A Question of Love: This TV movie (November 26, 1978) starred Gena Rowlands (b. 1930) as Linda Ray Guettner and Jane Alexander (b. 1939) as Barbara Moreland, divorced moms who move in together and fall in love, only to face a tough custody battle when Linda Ray's husband (Clu Galager, b. 1928) sues for custody of their children on the grounds that the relationship is impure. It was Linda Ray's own teen son (Josh Albee, b. 1959) who told his dad about the women's relationship. Full TV movie here.
1979 The White Shadow: This basketball drama (November 27, 1978-March 16, 1981) deals with a student (Peter Horton, b. 1953) switching schools to dodge gay rumors in the January 27, 1979, episode “One of the Boys.”
1979 Dallas: This hugely popular nighttime soap (April 2, 1978-May 3, 1991) starred one of TV's all-time most irredeemably evil villains, J.R. (Larry Hagman, 1931-2012). In the February 23, 1979, “Call Girl” episode, J.R. tries to blackmail his sis-in-law Pam (Victoria Principal, b. 1950) with incriminating lesbian photographs.
1979 Dallas: On March 9, 1979, the “Royal Marriage” episode of Dallas aired, in which dastardly J.R. (Larry Hagman) doesn't want to let a little thing like the groom Kit Mainwaring's (Mark Wheeler, b. circa 1950) homosexuality ruin a business-savvy wedding. Even though his niece (Charlene Tilton, b. 1958) is about to wed a gay man, J.R. urges the groom to man up and go through with it, while his brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy, b. 1949) tells Kit he needs to 'fess up to his bride-to-be. In the March 16, 1979, “The Outsiders” episode, Kit comes out to Lucy.
1979 The Facts of Life: In the pilot episode of this girls'-school sitcom (August 24, 1979-May 7, 1988), entitled “Rough Housing” (August 24, 1979), tomboy Cindy (Julie Anne Haddock, b. 1965) is spotted by mean girl Blair (Lisa Whelchel, b. 1963) hugging another girl and is accused of being “strange.” She self-consciously confesses to Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae, b. 1926) that hating dresses and loving sports might be clues — maybe she really isn't “normal.” Mrs. Garrett tells her girls can hug without it being romantic. Easy for Mrs. Garrett to say — Cindy was written out of the series the following season while Blair stayed on for all 209 episodes! Full episode here.
1979 Barney Miller: “Inquisition” (September 13, 1979) finds a gay cop, Officer Zatelli (Dino Natali, b. 1931) coming out to Barney Miller (Hal Linden, b. 1931).
1979 Lou Grant: The Mary Tyler Moore spin-off (September 20, 1977-September 13, 1982) was a much more dramatic show, starring Ed Asner (b. 1929) as a no-B.S. newspaper editor. The “Cop” episode (September 17, 1979) finds Lou deciding to name five deceased gay men who perished in a fire at a gay bar, even though doing so will posthumously out them. He also discovers that a cop investigating a murder (Joe Penny, b. 1956) is gay, but does not publish the information, as it is irrelevant. The fire storyline was inspired by the real-life inferno at the X-rated moviehouse Cinema Follies in Washington D.C. in 1977, which killed nine patrons. The Washington Post did not name all the victims in order to spare their wives and kids, but the paper's ombudsman wrote that by refusing to report the names, the paper may be “underscoring the stigma of homosexuality, of shoving it back in the closet at a time when efforts are being made to bring it out and address it as a social fact” — which is my argument why outing is not outing, it's just reporting the truth, something the press is honor-bound to do. Full episode here.
1979 The Baxters: This American-Canadian sitcom aired in syndication from September 1979 to August 1981 after having aired as a local Boston (WCVB) series from 1977 to 1979. The series featured a wholesome St. Louis family (who were recast twice in the show's second incarnation) faced with real-life issues in the first 15 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of studio talk-back. The “Homosexual Teachers” episode (October 31, 1979) features Larry Keith (1931-2010) and Anita Gillette (b. 1936) as the mom and dad, who find out one of their kids' fave teachers is gay ... then the dad is torn over whether he should sign a petition demanding that the teacher be fired.
1979 Archie Bunker's Place: This All in the Family spin-off (September 23, 1979-April 4, 1983) set in a tavern owned by Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) featured Anne Meara (1929-2015) as a cook. In “The Cook” (November 4, 1979), Meara's character demands that her gay nephew (Dean Scofield aka Dino Scofield, b. 1957) be hired on as a waiter. Full episode here.
1979 Mrs. Columbo aka Kate Loves a Mystery: This Columbo spin-off starred Kate Mulgrew (b. 1955) as the reporter wife of the iconic detective. A crime-solver herself, Kate snoops around the murder of a married bisexual woman (Shannon Wilcox, b. circa 1950) in “Feelings Can Be Murder” (December 6, 1979), including questioning the woman's female lover (Kathleen Lloyd, b. 1948). The woman's lover is portrayed sympathetically, and their therapist (played by Rene Auberjonois, b. 1940) talks about the concept of coming out.
1979 ABC News Closeup: The episode entitled “Homosexuals” (December 18, 1979) covered positive social contributions made by gay people. From a New York Times review of the episode, which had been bumped by the World Series the previous October: “Hands are held once or twice, and there is a brief, self‐conscious kiss exchanged between two men on a dance floor. The rest is mostly standard stuff plucked from dark discos and New Orleans Mardi Gras festivities.” Still, it featured real-life gay and lesbian men and women speaking of their lives and experiences, and noted, “This program is about certain urban men and women who are homosexual. It is not about all homosexuals, because their world is as diverse as the heterosexual world.”
1980 Barney Miller: In the “The Child Stealers” episode (January 24, 1980), gay series semi-regular Darryl (Ray Stewart) kidnaps his own son from a playground in a domestic dispute with his ex-wife (Joanna Miles, b. 1940). When the ex-wife makes anti-gay comments, series semi-regular Officer Zatelli (Dino Natali) comes out to the rest of the squad (having already come out to his boss the previous season).
1980 Archie Bunker's Place: The “Archie Fixes Up Fred” episode (February 10, 1980) finds Archie (Carroll O'Connor) trying to turn a gay waiter (Dean Scofield) straight by fixing him up with a broad. Full episode here.
1980 Vega$: The casino-set series (April 25, 1978-June 10, 1981) starred Robert Urich (1946-2002) as a P.I. The March 12, 1980, episode “The Man Who Was Twice” involves a female impersonator (Jim Bailey) who is receiving death threats ... from his other persona.
1980 The Associates: This sitcom ran for all of 13 episodes (September 23, 1979-April 17, 1980). An April 10, 1980, episode — “The Censors” — features a gay activist (Richard Brestoff, b. circa 1950) who pretends to be effeminate while being consulted by TV execs on the topic of whether “queer as a $3 bill” would offend the gay community. He then stops the swishy act, castigating his audience for going with his mannerisms and throws down the gauntlet about writing less stereotypical gay characters. (A pretty weird way to make this point.) The series was an early job for Martin Short (b. 1950).
1980 CBS Reports: The “Gay Power, Gay Politics” (April 26, 1980) episode of this docuseries, hosted by Harry Reasoner (1923-1991) and with reporting by George Crile III (1945-2006), purported to cover the San Francisco mayoral election and the growing influence of the gay lobby. When it aired, it was roundly condemned as being edited to stress gay male sexual practices (lots of SM to frighten the masses). This special has been used by right-wingers to attack gay-rights efforts.
1980 Sanford: The short-lived Sanford and Son sequel (March 15, 1980-July 10, 1981) featured an episode entitled “Cal's Diet: Part 2” (May 24, 1980), in which Fred (Redd Foxx) is hit on in a bar by a man.
1980 Speak Up, America!: This Real People (April 18, 1979-July 4, 1985) spin-off first aired on August 1, 1980, and lasted only a few months, until October 10. It was a show featuring man-on-the-street interviews on hot topics, with hosts Rhonda Bates (b. 1948), Marjoe Gortner (b. 1944) and Jayne Kennedy (b. 1951). One episode, air date unconfirmed (sometime between August and October) concerned “Lesbians Fighting to Stay in the Military.”
1980 The Love Boat: The “Target Gopher/The Major's Wife/The Oilman Cometh” episode (November 8, 1980) of this seaworthy sitcom-on-the-high-seas (May 5, 1977-May 24, 1986) features Al Corley (b. 1956) and Mark Pinter (b. 1950) as brothers sharing the honeymoon suite who are mistaken for boyfriends. Corley would soon after play gay on Dynasty.
1980 WKRP in Cincinnati: On the “Hotel Oceanview” (November 29, 1980) episode, lecherous Herb (Frank Bonner) is hot and heavy to get Nikki (Linda Carlson, b. 1945), the assistant of a jeans magnate/potential advertiser (Dr. Joyce Brothers, 1927-2013), into bed — then finds out she used to be Nick, a friend of his from childhood. Before a planned sexual encounter, Nikki gives Herb a passionate kiss, exclaiming, “I bet you'd never guess — I was once a man.” Herb lies down in shock, going into the fetal position. Nikki is actually very assertive and self-confident in explaining that she used to be trapped in the wrong body but is happy now. Herb later defensively tells his co-workers, “She's not a she, and if I kissed him, it doesn't mean that I'm gay, okay?” They shrug it off.
1980 Taxi: On the “Elaine's Strange Triangle” episode (December 10, 1980) of this hit show (September 12, 1978-May 6, 1982; September 30, 1982-June 15, 1983) set in a taxi dispatch garage, sexy single Elaine (Marilu Henner, b. 1952) is dating a man (John David Carson, 1952-2009) who is secretly bisexual — and who has the hots for her friend/co-worker, Tony (Tony Danza, b. 1951). At episode's end, Alex, the older cabbie who often mentors his co-workers, winds up at a gay bar, where he is egged on into dancing with and for the patrons, which he does with increasing abandon. Fun fact: I watched my dad cry with laughter over this.
1981 Trapper John, M.D.: This hospital drama (September 23, 1979-September 4, 1986) starred Gregory Harrison (b. 1950) as Dr. Gonzo Gates. In the “Straight and Narrow” episode (January 11, 1981), a gay cop (Joseph Cali, b. 1950) who is shot and paralyzed winds up at the hospital, where Gonzo worries he may still be in danger. He is — a fellow detective (Frank Marth, 1922-1914) shot him to keep the force free of gay contamination; turns out the cop had previously sued to be the first out gay cop in the city. Charles Hallahan (1943-1997) plays a virulently homophobic cop who's smacked down for his bigotry by Gonzo, who says the slur “fag” is no better than the slur “pig” ... and orders the cop to do his job and “go find the Titanic.” My hero! But it's the bigoted cop who nabs the killer. Harold J. Stone (1913-2005) is the injured cop's estranged dad who disowned him when he came out to him 10 years previously. Drag legend Craig Russell (1948-1990) makes an appearance as a drag queen patient who gives a despondent patient (Janet Brandt, 1914-2004) a reason to smile.
1981-1989 Dynasty: The glitzy nighttime show (January 12, 1981-May 11, 1989) featured Carrington heir Steven (Al Corley for Seasons 1 & 2; Jack Coleman, b. 1958, from 1982-1988), a gay-identifed man who slept with men and women. His dad, Blake (John Forsythe, 1918-2010), tells Steven in the first episode: “The American Psychiatric Association has decided that it’s no longer a disease. That’s too bad; I could have endowed a foundation. The Steven Carrington Institute for the Treatment and Study of Faggotry. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go get married.” On the April 28, 1982, “The Two Princes” episode, Steven — tired of trying to be straight for the sake of his family, confronts them by saying, “I'm a homosexual, Dad. I'm gay. And I want you to face it. And say it. Say it:' Steven is gay.' Somebody say it.” Only his sister, Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin, b. 1953) accepts the challenge. It doesn't take Nancy Drew to figure out Steven's sexual orientation will never sit well with these people. Steven's sexuality became a staple issue of the show throughout the '80s. (Image via ABC)
1981 Barney Miller: “The Movie: Part 1” episode (January 22, 1981) finds Wojo (Max Gril, b. 1943) accused of sexual harassment when a male suspect hides a wallet down his jeans. In the same episode, Wojo outs Officer Zatelli (Dino Natali). Zatelli winds up being transferred — and is written “out” of the show.
1981 Fridays: Mark Hamill (b. 1951) was a guest on the May 8, 1981, episode of Fridays (April 11, 1980-April 23, 1982), a sketch-comedy rival to Saturday Night Live (October 11, 1975-present), which included a sketch called “Men Who Hug.” In the sequence, characters played by Bruce Mahler (b. 1950) and Michael Richards (b. 1949) host a fictional talk show called Men Who Hug. They greet their guests, characters played by Hamill and Larry David (b. 1947), with hugs — and a round of kisses on the mouth. The point of the sketch is to lampoon casual homosexual panic, and the studio audience hoots approvingly at the kissing, hugging and some same-sex waltzing — including a dip. Could this be the first TV example of same-sex kissing on the lips?
1981 Sidney Shorr: A Girl's Best Friend: This TV movie (October 5, 1991) starred Tony Randall (1920-2004) as the titular affluent gay loner who lets a bubbly young actress (Lorna Patterson, b. 1956) and her daughter (Kaleena Kiff, b. 1974) move in with him. The movie spawned the series Love, Sidney (October 28, 1981-June 6, 1983), in which Shorr's sexuality was less obvious, recasting the actress part with Swoosie Kurtz (b. 1944). On a two-part episode called “Alison: Part 1” and “Alison Part 2” (May 16, 1983) shortly before the series ended, Shorr goes on a date with a female co-worker (Martha Smith, b. 1953), who remarks that whoever broke his heart was missing out ... at which time the camera pans to a framed picture of Sidney's former boyfriend. On the second to last episode, an openly gay psychiatrist (Howard Hesseman, b. 1940) is introduced, a man Sidney talks out of committing suicide. As diluted as Sidney's sexual orientation was on the show, he was the first gay lead in a regular series on American TV.
1982 Magnum, P.I.: This private dick series set in Hawaii starred Tom Selleck (b. 1945), a conservative in real life who was falsely outed by Queer Nation in 1991 and settled with the tabloid Globe, which reported on the outing and later apologized for seeming “to express or imply that Tom Selleck is or ever was a homosexual.” On the January 7, 1982, “The Jororo Kill” episode of his show some years before the suit, Selleck's Magnum has to stop a killer transvestite (Christopher Morley, no b. info, but he was kickin' in 2011 and is active on YouTube) from offing a visiting dignitary. Hey, it could happen.
1982 Brideshead Revisited: This British miniseries, based on the 1945 novel by Evelyn Waugh (October 28-April 10, 1966), aired in England first, and then on PBS in the U.S. in 11 parts that started on January 18, 1982. Jeremy Irons (b. 1948) and Anthony Andrews (b. 1948) starred in the project, which frankly depicted homosexuality. (Image via PBS)
1982 The Love Boat: On a January 24, 1982, episode, the segment Gopher's Roommate starred Mackenzie Phillips (b. 1959) as Rachel Johnson, who Gopher (Fred Grandy, b. 1948) recognizes from somewhere. Eventually, while dancing, she reveals she was once Ray Johnson, his college roommate. Gopher is uncomfortable, but later finds Rachel and tells her he hopes she has made a good decision and is happy. “You'll never know what I went through before I made my decision. I mean, it was two years of therapy, tests, meetings with specialists,” she tells him. When they part at episode's end, Rachel blows Gopher a kiss. The tender moment is slightly diluted when fellow crew members ask where he knew her from and when told it was from college football look confused when he says she wasn't a cheerleader, but “left tackle.”
1982 Gemini: On February 8, 1982, Showtime aired a videotaped version of the stage play Gemini, starring Scott Baio (b. 1960) as Francis Geminiani, a sexually confused young man who has had a passionate affair with a beautiful girl, Judith (Eve Gordon, b. 1960), but is also attracted to her sexy brother, Randy (Eric Schiff, no data). The L.A. Times wrote of the play (regarding a 1989 production):
Gemini is not a bad play, but it's not an especially good one, either. It's marked by a middle-of-the-road sensibility. Innaurato, although he tiptoes up to the dilemma of what it must be like to be young and gay, never really faces it head-on. He'd rather be an entertainer. And he does provoke some good laughs with his in-your-face characters. But the gay issue never seems to take hold, never coming across as much more than a device to generate tension. The playwright especially loses it in the end, when his resolution is so neatly packaged and convenient that it lacks conviction.
1982 American Playhouse: On March 9, 1982, this showcase of dramatic pieces aired The Fifth of July, a 1978 Lanford Wilson (1937-2011) play starring Richard Thomas (b. 1951) as a gay paraplegic Vietnam vet. His lover is played by Jeff Daniels (b. 1955). Off-Broadway, Christopher Reeve (1952-2004) originated the role taken by Thomas.
1982 Diff'rent Strokes: This sitcom (November 3, 1978-May 4, 1985) about two black brothers, Arnold (Gary Coleman, 1968-2010) and Willis (Todd Bridges, b. 1965), adopted by a rich white businessman (Conrad Bain) was, more often than not, simply a broad, fish-out-of-water comedy. The May 20, 1982, episode, entitled “On Your Toes,” is about Arnold developing an interest in ballet, only to be scared off when Willis tells him only “sissies” do ballet.
1982 Hill Street Blues: One of the most acclaimed cop series of all time, Hill Street Blues (October 26, 1981-April 17, 1987) featured an episode entitled “Trial by Fury” (September 30, 1982), in which Sgt. Belker (Bruce Weitz, b. 1943) becomes friendly with a gay hustler (Charles Levin, b. 1949). The December 2 episode, “Phantom of the Hill,” brought the hustler back, this time for a brief storyline in which his lover was involved in a drug-related killing.
1982 Gimme a Break!: This sitcom about a widowed white cop, Chief Carl Kanisky (Dolph Sweet, 1920-1985), and his daughters (Kari Michaelsen, b. 1961; Lauri Hendler, b. 1965; Lara Jill Miller, b. 1967)), who are being cared for by a sassy black housekeeper (Nell Carter, 1948-2004), took on the topic of gay cops in “The Chief's Gay Evening” (November 13, 1982). Chief spends a long night staking out a laundromat where a creep has been violently mugging women. His companions are a cop in drag (Frank Bonner) who seems to enjoy it a lot, and a fellow officer (Eugene Roche, 1928-2004) he never realized was gay. Chief complains about men who enjoy dressing as women (“You mean transvestites?” his buddy asks), then makes a vulgar gay joke that offends and flushes out the gay cop, and the entire episode is then centered on Chief's visceral discomfort with homosexuality. He tells a story of a favorite teacher who was hounded for being gay ... and who committed suicide. Later, while Chief is locked in the bathroom, the gay cop takes a bullet apprehending the laundromat lunatic — but lives. The man declared his orientation, did his job well and thus proved himself worthy of Chief's grudging respect. Sidebar: In real life, theater legend Carter was in a relationship with a woman at the time of her death.
1982 Too Close for Comfort: This daffy, San Francisco-based sitcom (November 11, 1980-February 7, 1987) was able to wring lotsa laffs out of the juxtaposition of tight-assed cartoonist Henry (Ted Knight, 1923-1986) and his daughters' (Deborah Van Valkenburgh, b. 1952; Lydia Cornell, b. 1953) flamboyant (but not gay) friend Monroe (Jm J Bullock, b. 1955, who came out in real life later on, and who is now known as Jim J. Bullock). On the “Monroe's Secret Love's Secret” (November 18, 1982) episode, Monroe is flummoxed when he falls for a girl who won't accept his offers of a date ... until he realizes the girl is a guy (Christopher Morley).
1982 Cagney & Lacey: Already a lesbian favorite for its status as a female buddy cop show featuring two tough women (Tyne Daly, b. 1946; Sharon Gless, b. 1943), Cagney & Lacey (March 25, 1982-May 16, 1988) tackled the issue of gay cops in “Conduct Unbecoming” (December 13, 1982) by featuring an undercover operative (Christopher Allport, 1946-2008) who has been outed as having posed nude in a gay magazine and who may face discharge from the force for his “serious misconduct.” One cop, heartthrob Isbecki (Martin Kove, b. 1946) doesn't even want to work out with the officer at the center of the controversy, even though the officer isn't gay. The beleaguered cop asks Cagney and Lacey, “What's the next question here — am I a fag?” He also states, “For the record, I am not gay. I was not [when I posed], I am not now.” By the way — the series had originally starred Meg Foster (b. 1948) in the Gless role, but she was fired for seeming too similar to Daly ... and possibly because the two seemed like “dykes” to the audience. (Image via CBS)
1983 Trapper John, M.D.: The January 9, 1983, “Baby on the Line” episode covers congenital adrenal hyperplasia, in which the parents (Dianne Kay, b. 1952; Edward Edwards, no data) of an infant boy named Andy are faced with the decision of whether to raise their child as a boy or a girl. The father kidnaps the baby, he's so tortured by the prospect of a child who is in-between, and even more tortured at the prospect of choosing to allow the child he had been raising as a boy to grow up as a girl. When an infection threatens the child's life, the dad almost doesn't allow treatment. “You've got three choices,” Dr. Gonzo Gates (Gregory Harrison) tells the dad. “You can have a baby boy, a baby girl, or no baby at all — now you decide.” The child lives, and the couple chooses to raise Andy as a girl.
1983 Cheers: On the January 27, 1983, “The Boys in the Bar” episode of the phenomenally popular, bar-based series (September 30, 1982-May 20, 1993), ex-baseball player/current bar owner Sam Malone's (Ted Danson, b. 1947) old teammate (Alan Autry, b. 1952, later a Republican politician in real life) comes out as gay in a scandalous new memoir. Sam eventually supports him. Regulars of Sam's bar worry it will become a gay hang-out, with Norm (George Wendt, b. 1948) and others tricking some guys they presume to be gay into leaving the bar early ... only to be surprised when two guys they had presumed to be straight kiss Norm on either cheek at the end. The plot was based on the real-life story of former MLB player Glenn Burke (1952-1995), the first — and so far only! —player to come out as gay to teammates and team owners as gay while he was still playing, and the first to come out publicly. Burke was black, but Cheers made the character based on him white. (Image via NBC)
1983 American Playhouse: The February 1, 1983, episode was given over to the play Family Business, starring Milton Berle (1909-2002) as Isaiah Stern, a rich toy mogul who is facing his own mortality. He gathers his adult sons together for a revision of his will. One of the sons (Jeffrey Marcus, b. 1960), Stern's favorite, is secretly gay and moves in with his boyfriend after his dad dies about a third of the way into the piece.
1983 St. Elsewhere: On this medical drama (October 26, 1982-May 25, 1988), the first-season “Release” episode (February 1, 1983) features the old college roommate (Andy Romano, b. 1941) of a main character, Dr. Mark Craig (William Daniels, b. 1927), announcing plans for SRS. It's taken me years to stop tryin' to be somethin' I'm not, the character says when told his feelings are abnormal. Dr. Craig goes so far as to angrily refuse to allow the man's surgery to take place at his hospital. In a bar scene, Craig rants to his friends that his man's-man dad never had time for “this homosexual, transsexual, asexual, unisexual crap” His co-worker Nurse Rosenthal (Christina Pickles, b.1935) tells him the world is better now, and that people are happier even if it's confusing, while Dr. Westphall (1934-1995) notes it is the medical profession that's made SRS possible, offering a scissors gesture. Nothing is resolved in this ep, but in the February 8, 1983, “Family History” ep, Dr. Craig comes to his senses and apologizes. Full episode here. (Video still via NBC)
1983 Diff'rent Strokes: “The Bicycle Man: Part 1” (February 5, 1983) and “Part 2” (February 12, 1983) was a two-part episode of a normally lightweight series that dealt, explicitly and uncomfortably, with the issue of child molestation, going into graphic detail to illustrate how pedophiles groom children for sex. The titular villain in the controversial episodes is played by the normally lovable Gordon Jump (1932-2003), whose character shows Arnold (Gary Coleman) and his pal Dudley (Shavar Ross, b. 1971) X-rated cartoons, takes pictures of them frolicking as superheroes, plies them with wine and eventually talks Dudley into a special shower. When he is caught, the episode takes care to note that the bicycle man is not gay, he's a pedophile — there's a difference.
1983 Making of Male Model: This TV movie (October 9, 1983) starred Jon-Erik Hexum (1957-1984) as reluctant male model Tyler Burnett, who's been recruited by cougarish agent Joan Collins (b. 1933). Supporting character Chuck Lanyard, played by Jeff Conaway (1950-2011) — in a scenery-chewing performance — is presented as gay. Also, prolonged exposure to images of Hexum will turn straight male viewers gay.
1983 Hill Street Blues: The October 13, 1983, “Here's Adventure, Here's Romance” episode dealt with a shooting in a gay bar that kills six, the only witness to which is an off-duty cop (Lawrence Pressman, b. 1939), who recognized the shooter (Eugene Butler, b. circa 1940) as a recent trick. Two fellow officers bust the assailant using the gay cop's tip, but the murderer could go free if the closet case won't accuse him on the record. The gay cop, bathed in sweat, does the right thing, even as the killer calls him a “faggot” and lectures the judge: “Are they accusing me of homosexuality? Is that what this is turning into? ... Is this society become a breeding ground for perversion? Is that the instruction we're under?” Full episode here.
1983 Magnum, P.I.: The “Limited Engagement” episode (November 3, 1983) featured Martha Scott (1912-2003) and Mildred Natwick (1905-1994) as elderly sisters who dress as men to rob banks.
1983 Gimme a Break!: Nell (Nell Carter) sets up her boss, Chief (Dolph Sweet) with a woman named Melissa (Victoria Carroll, b. 1941) as his date for the Man of the Year dinner in an episode also named “Melissa” (November 17, 1983) ... not realizing Melissa is a trans woman. “I guess I should've told you this before,” Melissa admits to a shocked, and hysterically bemused, Nell later on, another in a long line of trans storylines that play up subterfuge. “I was once Man of the Year,” Melissa says as she makes her exit. Chief, heartbroken, admits, “It's gonna be hard to find another woman like him.” Full episode here.
1983 Hotel: This glitzy drama set in a luxury hotel (September 21, 1983-May 5, 1988) featured an episode entitled “Faith, Hope, and Charity” (November 23, 1983) in which a playwright (Carol Lynley, b. 1942) invites her old friend (Barbara Parkins, b. 1942) to the premiere of her new play and comes out — and on — to her. In 2012, Parkins recalled, “They wanted me to give her a kiss and I said no, because that's not what I would do as a heterose— so I tweaked her toes.” Lynley in 2011 said she'd been honored by some gay org (which?!) for her performance, but added, “Which is very funny because I'm not gay.” Fun interview with Lynley on her gay bestie Roddy McDowall (1928-1998) here.
1983 St. Elsewhere: Becoming the first American medical drama to confront the topic of AIDS, the “AIDS & Comfort” episode (December 21, 1983) features a politician (Michael Brandon, b. 1945) who is diagnosed with AIDS and admits he has slept with men. The episode takes on paranoia around the disease.
1983 Tony Brown's Journal: The long-running (1968-2008) PBS series, hosted by a black conservative (Tony Brown, b. 1933), aired an episode entitled “Homosexuality Among Blacks” sometime in 1983.
1984 Hotel: On “Mistaken Identities” (February 1, 1984), a father (Steve Kanaly, b. 1946) thinks his son (Lance Kerwin, b. 1960) could be gay — so he hires him a female hooker.
1984 Celebrity: NBC aired this miniseries, based on Thomas Thompson's (1933-1982) sensational best seller, from February 12-February 14, 1984. It starred Michael Beck (b. 1949), Joseph Bottoms (b. 1954) and Ben Masters (b. 1947) as men who, as teens, were involved in the rape and presumed death of a young girl. Making a pact to never tell, they meet again as adults, when one is a televangelist, one is a reporter and one is a movie star. The movie star is, of course, gay. His son is played by little River Phoenix (1970-1993), who has he misfortune of accidentally catching his dad getting it on with his lover/male secretary (Peter Nelson, b. 1959). River's face says it all.
1984 Kate & Allie: The single-moms sitcom (March 19, 1984-May 22, 1989) starring Susan Saint James (b. 1946) as Kate and Jane Curtin (b. 1947) as Allie tackled sissy-boy syndrome with “Odd Boy Out” (April 16, 1984), in which Allie's son (Frederick Koehler, b. 1975) worries over the effects of living in a female-driven household.
1984 Too Close for Comfort: The June 2, 1984, “Shipmates” episode finds Henry Rush (Ted Knight) asking an old Navy buddy to (Gerald S. O'Loughlin, 1921-2015) to dinner, only to be shocked when the buddy brings his male lover (William Prince, 1913-1996). Wouldn't you know? The lover dies in the end. But what else would you expect from a sitcom that once offered an episode in which one of its characters is gang-raped — and played it for laughs?!
1984 Brothers: This Showtime sitcom (July 13, 1984-May 5, 1989) starred Robert Walden (b. 1943), Paul Regina (1956-2006) and Brandon Maggart (b. 1933) as three brothers whose personalities could not be less alike. In the first episode, the youngest brother, Cliff, played by Regina, comes out as gay after leaving his fiancée at the altar. Cliff's unapologetically gay BFF Donald (Philip Charles MacKenzie, b. 1946) acts as his guide in the world of gay. Over the course of the series' run, gay bashing, self-acceptance and promiscuity were addressed. Season 2 brought an episode called “The Stranger,” on which a friend of Cliff's (James Avery, 1945-2013) comes out as having HIV, as well as a passionate gay kiss on “Happy Birthday, Baby Brother” (August 8, 1985) between Cliff and his rich boyfriend Winston March III (John Furey, b. 1951).
1984 American Playhouse: The series aired a crackling interpretation of the Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (August 19, 1984), in which Brick's (Tommy Lee Jones, b. 1946) bisexuality is clearly portrayed. Full episode here. (Image via PBS)
1984 Murder, She Wrote: This Angela Lansbury (b. 1925) sleuthing series (September 30, 1984-May 19, 1996) featured an episode entitled “Birds of a Feather” (October 14, 1984), in which two female impersonators (Jeff Conaway; Dick Gautier, 1931-2017) — one accused of murder — are actually straight. There are plenty of gender jokes, including a scene intended to be an eyebrow-raiser that shows Conaway making out with his fiancée (Genie Francis, b. 1962) while in full makeup and a dress. Full episode here.
1984 Kate & Allie: The October 15, 1984, “Landlady” episode guest-starred Gloria Cromwell (1927-2008) as the roommates' (Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin) landlady, who informs the women they owe nearly $2,000 in back rent and owe more than $600 per month going forward because their lease stipulates that the apartment — in NYC's Greenwich Village! — be inhabited by a single family. The women decide to pretend they're a gay couple, since the landlady has said due to “gay liberation,” she would accept them as a single family if they were a romantic couple. Allie is reluctant, saying, “Look, I know I haven't done that much with my heterosexuality lately, but I am not willing to give it up.” She caves when faced with the prospect of moving into a dump. Surprise! The landlady is a lesbian, too, and brings her lover (Chevi Colton, b. circa 1921) over with a pineapple upside-down cake to encourage the women to, “Never be ashamed of what you are — have pride.” When the ruse is exposed, the landlady is heartbroken. Allie winds up delivering the episode's message: “A family is anybody who wants to share their lives together.” Full episode here. (Image via CBS)
1984 Hotel: On the November 14, 1984, “Transitions” episode, a woman (Deidre Hall, b. 1947) catches her husband (Robert Reed, 1932-1992) in a romantic clinch with his producer (Granville van Dusen, b. 1944). In real life, Reed was outed posthumously after dying of AIDS.
1984 St. Elsewhere: The “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (November 28, 1984) episode finds series regular Cynthia Sikes's (b. 1954) Dr. Cavanero flipping out when a visiting medical professional (Caroline McWilliams, 1945-2010) comes out as a lesbian while staying with her. She goes on to out the woman to some of their colleagues and call her “unnatural” before ultimately apologizing for her reactions.
1984 Night Court: Part of NBC's must-see TV lineup, Night Court (January 4, 1984-May 31, 1992) featured John Larroquette (b. 1947) in an Emmy-winning supporting role as snarky prosecutor Dan Fielding. In the December 6, 1984, “The Blizzard” episode, Fielding finds himself trapped in an elevator with a gay man (Jack Riley, 1935-2016) who's hot for him, and who assumed Fielding was gay, too. Full episode here.
1984 The Love Boat: On “Country Blues/A Matter of Taste/Frat Brothers Fever” (December 8, 1984), Doc's (Bernie Kopell, b. 1933) frat brother (Roy Thinnes, b. 1938) comes out as gay (“Adam, I'm homosexual”) after revealing the man he's traveling with (Michael McGrady) is not a cousin, but his lover. Doc is taken aback, mostly because his good friend didn't trust him enough to tell him right off the bat.
1985 Sara: This Geena Davis (b. 1956) sitcom (January 23-May 8, 1985) set in a San Francisco Legal Aid office featured a gay lawyer played by Bronson Pinchot (b. 1959), who had the year before made an impact as a gay clerk in the feature film Beverly Hills Cop (1984).
1985 Consenting Adult: Based on the novel by Laura Z. Hobson (1900-1986), this TV movie (February 4, 1985) starred Barry Tubb (b. 1963) as a young man coming to terms with being gay. Coming out to his parents, his mom (Marlo Thomas, b. 1937) is reluctantly accepting, while his dad, (Martin Sheen, b. 1940), is so freaked out he eventually dies.
1985 Hill Street Blues: Hunky Officer Coffey (Ed Marinaro) is propositioned via an obscene whisper in his ear by his old coach (James Tolkan, b. 1931) while on a prostitution sting in “Queen for a Day” (April 11, 1985). When the shocked coach is hauled into the precinct, he begs, “Can you gimme a break here? I knew you from when you were 15! Can't you just talk to me?” Full episode here. (Image via NBC)
1985 Miami Vice: One of TV's chicest shows at the time, this Miami cop series (September 16, 1984-June 28, 1989) starred Don Johnson (b. 1949) and Philip Michael Thomas (b. 1949) as hot lawmen busting crooks and flaunting killer threads. “Evan” (May 3, 1985) dealt with a man named Evan Freed (William Russ, b. 1950), who had once been a close buddy of Crockett's (Johnson) and another man, who had come out as gay to them. After coming out, the third friend was bullied relentlessly by Evan — and eventually committed suicide. Crockett held that suicide against Evan, but forgives him after he is mortally wounded.
1985 Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The revival of the series (September 29, 1985-July 22, 1989) focused on remaking some of the most classic episodes from the original Hitchcock series. The pilot episode (May 5, 1985) was two hours long, made up of four segments. One was a remake of “An Unlocked Window,” the infamous cross-dressing killer episode from The Alfred Hitchock Hour in 1965. Bruce Davison (b. 1946) — later nominated for an Oscar as a gay man with AIDS in Longtime Companion (1990) — stepped into the role created by T.C. Jones. How many men dressed as women have killed people?
1985 The Golden Girls: Now a favorite among gay men, The Golden Girls (September 14, 1985-May 9, 1992) actually kicked off its run with an episode (“The Engagement”) in which a potentially recurring character was openly gay cook Coco (Charles Levin), who stroke-addled Sophia (Estelle Getty, 1923-2008) derisively calls “the fancy man” before deciding he's “an okay petunia.” When discussing the expenses of possibly having to buy their own, new house, Rose (Betty White, b. 1922) asks, “What do we have for collateral? A gay cook?” Coco vanished after this episode.
1985 Hollywood Beat: Jack Scalia (b. 1950) and Jay Acovone (b. 1955) starred on this ABC crime drama, which featured John Matuszak (1950-1989) as a gay coffee shop owner.
1985 Hotel: The October 2, 1985, “Rallying Cry” episode takes on gay parenting, with a couple (Lloyd Bochner, 1924-2005; Marion Ross, b. 1928) suing for custody of their niece (Missy Francis, b. 1972) after discovering she has been left by her late mom in the care of a gay couple, (Doug Barr, b. 1949; Michael Sabatino, b. 1955). The straight couple actually wins custody, but decides to let their unhappy niece live with her preferred gay daddies. (Image via ABC)
1985 Trapper John, M.D.: The “Friends and Lovers” episode finds Nurse Libby (Lorna Luft, b. 1952) discovering her old boyfriend (Robert Desiderio, b. 1951) is gay and has AIDS. The issue explores how some hospitals removed AIDS patients to other facilities in a subplot in which the titular character (Pernell Roberts, 1928-2010) pushes his hospital to establish its own AIDS ward.
1985 Night Court: The November 7, 1985, “Best of Friends” episode finds Fielding (John Larroquette) perplexed when an old friend shows up having transitioned from male to female. The trans character is played by female impersonator Jim Bailey. (Snippet from episode here.)
1985 An Early Frost: In this made-for-TV movie, an early
(November 11, 1985) look at the AIDS crisis, Aidan Quinn (b. 1959, in one of his first filmed acting roles) goes home to tell his mom (Gena Rowlands), dad (Ben Gazzara, 1930-2012) and granny (Sylvia Sidney, 1910-1999) that he is gay and dying of AIDS. He may have gotten infected when his partner (D.W. Moffett, b. 1954) cheated. The misconception of casual contagion is addressed, including when an AIDS patient (John Glover. b. 1944) dies and his belongings are quickly put into a trash bag as if they might transmit his virus. The TV movie was an enormous ratings hit, was nominated for 14 Emmys, Sidney won the Golden Globe, and it won a Peabody Award.
1986 Hotel: The January 22, 1986, “Scapegoats” episode featured an anti-gay bartender (Ken Kercheval, b. 1935) who thinks he somehow caught AIDS from a gay waiter (Leigh McCloskey) even though the waiter is HIV-negative. Frank's wife (Rita Taggart, b. 1947) accuses him of having sex with guys, and his son (Doug Savant, b. 1964) says he must be doing drugs. In reality, he was infected by a blood transfusion. A very earlyinstance of episodic TV with an AIDS storyline.
1986 Welcome Home, Bobby: This CBS TV movie (February 22, 1986) is about a troubled high school kid (Timothy Williams, b. 1967) who is arrested when he gets caught in a drug sting, an event that reveals he has had an affair with a thirtysomething man (Stephen James, b. 1952). He faces rejection from his schoolmates and his old-school Italian dad (Tony Lo Bianco, b. 1936). Much of the movie is about why Bobby became involved with a dude in the first place (he was dazzled by the man's culture and wealth and attention), with lots of soul-searching and lots of uses of the non-obscene F-word. The sexual aspect of the relationship would not fly in 2018 — Bobby is depicted as being wined and dined into submission, and he is, of course, just 16. Also, his dates with the older man are creepy, and it is later revealed that Bobby's been easily replaced with another kid. And yet, the film's tackling of fluid sexuality is quite modern. Full movie (in parts) here.
1986 Dress Gray: This explosive miniseries (March 9-March 10, 1986) was adapted by Gore Vidal from Lucian Truscott's IV (b. 1947) novel about the murder of a young cadet (Patrick Cassidy, b. 1962) at a military academy in the Vietnam War era. The man, an accomplished swimmer, turns up dead from drowning — and shows signs of having been raped. The miniseries starred Alec Baldwin (b. 1958) as the upperclassman falsely accused of the crime and intent on unmasking the real killer, Hal Holbrook as the commandant and Eddie Albert (1906-2005) as the powerful father of the dead cadet. Reflective of the era in which it was written and filmed, Dress Gray's depiction of homosexuality is negative and sensationalized. A wrestling scene between Baldwin and Cassidy ends with Baldwin brutishly subduing his opponent and asking, “Okay, I'm the boss now, yeah? Yeah? Yeah? ... You do what I tell you now?” in a clear allusion to rape that is probably also intended to lead viewers to believe this was what gay sex was all about. It turns out the murdered man was a manipulative gay rapist who forced himself on a younger cadet (Joseph Kelly, b. 1960) while recruiting him, leading that cadet to rape and murder him in return. The miniseries was nominated for three Emmys. (Image via NBC)
1986 Hill Street Blues: Officer Kate McBride, played by Lindsay Crouse (b. 1948), is falsely accused of molesting a female suspect, then later comes out as gay in the “Look Homeward, Ninja” episode (March 20, 1986). It is the character's second appearance of five. Full episode here.
1986 Hill Street Blues: Just a week after a recurring character came out as gay, a past character — gay hustler Eddie (Charles Levin) — returned to the series on the “Slum Enchanted Evening” episode (March 27, 1986), in which it is revealed he is dying of AIDS. Full episode here. (Image via NBC)
1986 My Two Loves: In this TV movie (April 7, 1986) — co-written by lesbian novelist Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) — a recent divorcée (Mariette Hartley, b. 1940) juggles two new suitors, one a man (Barry Newman, b. 1938), the other, much to her own surprise, a female co-worker (Lynn Redgrave, 1943-2010). Sada Thompson (1927-2011) is on hand as a mom who doesn't like the lesbian development one little bit.
1986 Moonlighting: The cheeky detective show (March 3, 1985-May 14, 1989) ended its second season on May 13, 1986, with its fourth-wall-busting episode “Camille,” guest-starring Oscar nominee (and future winner) Whoopi Goldberg (b. 1955) and The Breakfast Club (1985) alum Judd Nelson (b. 1959). In a scene set in a hair salon, private detective Maddie Hayes Cybill Shepherd, b. 1950) tries to persuade a gun-toting Nelson, a dirty cop pursuing Goldberg's con artist character, to lay down his arms by imploring, “If you won't think of Camille, at least think of your wife and kids!” to which he hisses, “I'm gay! I don't have any wife and kids.” Maddie's partner, David Addison (Bruce Willis, b. 1955) quips, “Alright, then think of next month — all the new fall clothes will be out!” Sure, a quickie gay joke based on a stereotype, but also an interesting, off-the-cuff acknowledgment that a character on an hour-long episode had been gay the whole time, impacting nothing in the story.
1986 Second Serve: This TV biopic (May 13, 1986) starred Vanessa Redgrave (b. 1937) as Dr. Renée Richards (b. 1934), the real-life trans tennis pro.
1986 L.A. Law: Hey, Rose Nylund (Betty White) always watched La Law! This series, a legal drama (September 15, 1986-May 19, 1994), had a pilot episode with a gay twist — the partners in McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney & Kuzak law firm find out their late partner, Chaney (stuntman legend Loren Janes, 1931-2017), was gay.
1986 Matlock: This creaky court show (March 3, 1986-May 7, 1995), fronted by TV legend Andy Griffith (1926-2012), aired “The Stripper” (September 30, 1986), an episode in which a killer (Gary Frank, b. 1950) is unmasked on the stand as a cross-dresser. The killer is said to be experiencing “identity confusion,” but it seems more like a split personality, since the woman he thinks he is at times killed someone, and he did not. Toto, we're not in Mayberry anymore. Full episode here.
1986 The Golden Girls: One of the best episodes of the cherished series may be “Isn't It Romantic” (November 8, 1986), in which Dorothy (Bea Arthur, 1922-2009) welcomes an old friend from college (Lois Nettleton, 1927-2009) who has since come out as a lesbian and, improbably, falls in love with naïve Rose (Betty White). Dorothy and her mom (Estelle Getty) die laughing at the development, while Blanche (Rue McClanahan, 1934-2010) takes great offense that she isn't the one lesbians are falling for. Full episode here.
1986 Hunter: This hardboiled cop show (September 18, 1984-April 26, 1991) aired the snarkily titled “From San Francisco with Love” (November 15, 1986), in which it is revealed that a female detective (Laura Johnson, b. 1957) investigating a murder case involving a rich man and his son was behind the killings as an accomplice with her lover ... the rich man's wife (Philece Sampler, b. 1956). Full episode here. (Image via NBC)
1986 Hotel: On the “Undercurrents” (November 19, 1986) episode, a homophobic military man (Jan-Michael Vincent, b. 1944) is blindsided when a fellow officer (Boyd Gaines, b. 1953) comes out as gay after being gay-bashed. Even after the same guys beat up him and one of the bellhops (series regular Michael Spound, b. 1957), he is still too set in his ways to accept his friend as a gay man. His friend, however, swallows his pride and comes out publicly in order to press charges against the men who cleaned his clock.
1986 L.A. Law: On “The Venus Butterfly” (November 21, 1986) and its follow-up “Fry Me to the Moon” (November 28, 1986), Grace Van Owen (Susan Dey, b. 1952) must prosecute a PWA (Peter Frechette, b. 1956) for the assisted suicide of his lover, who was also dying of AIDS. The accused's lawyer (Stanley Kamel, 1943-2008) is also gay; his character recurred on two future episodes, in 1990 and 1991. In real life, Frechette married theater and TV director David Warren, his partner since 1988, in 2017. Full episode here.
1986 Cagney & Lacey: The “Rites of Passage” episode (December 1, 1986) established Tony Statinopolis (Barry Sattels, b. circa 1950) — an out, gay man — as Cagney's (Sharon Gless) neighbor for the remainder of the series.
1987 HBO Family Playhouse: On February 9, 1987, HBO aired The Truth About Alex, a Canadian-American TV movie starring Scott Baio (b. 1960) as the best friend of a boy (Peter Spence, b. circa 1960s) who is outed as gay. Snippet of episode here.
1987 CBS Schoolbreak Special: This teen anthology series (April 19, 1980-January 23, 1996) was known as CBS Afternoon Playhouse for its first five years. On “What If I'm Gay?” (March 31, 1987), a teen (Richard Joseph Paul, b. 1962) comes out as gay after being caught with a gay magazine. He also challenges his friend (Manfred Melcher, b. circa 1960) for being homophobic, suggesting it could be from their sexual experimentation years earlier as kids. Sounds like someone's a little nervous about Schoolhouse Cock.
1987 American Playhouse: The Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning feature film Waiting for the Moon aired on TV June 15, 1987, as part of American Playhouse. The film stars Linda Bassett (b. 1950) as Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) and Linda Hunt (b. 1945) as her lover, Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967), depicting Toklas's loving devotion to her ill companion in the '30s. Hunt, in real life married to Karen Klein (no data) since 2008 (and with her since 1987), came out publicly as a lesbian in an L.A. Times piece in 2014. (Image via Skouras Pictures)
1987 Designing Women: The Emmy-nominated October 5, 1987, episode of this female-powered sitcom (September 29, 1986-May 24, 1993) was written by series creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (b. 1947), whose mother Claudia Bloodworth (1919-1986) died of AIDS after contracting HIV from a blood transfusion. While in the hospital, she reportedly overheard someone say that the good thing about AIDS was that it was killing all the right people, hence the title: “Killing All the Right People.” In the episode, Tony Goldwyn (b. 1960) plays a young man dying of AIDS who wants the series' central design firm to design his funeral so that the room will reflect his New Orleans upbringing. The women agree, and the heartlessness from holier-than-thou Imogene Salinger (Camilla Carr, b. 1942) — who articulates the common belief that gay men have “reaped what they sow” with AIDS, which is “God's punishment” — lights a fire under their creativity.
1987 Nine to Five: The sitcom version (March 25, 1982-October 27, 1983; September 13, 1986-September 10, 1988) of the hit 1980 film featured an episode called “One of the Girls” (October 31, 1987) in which a man (Edward Winter, 1937-2001) figures out he'll never get back with an old GF (Gail Strickland, b. 1947) since she herself has an old GF (Hilarie Thompson, b. 1949). He gives them his blessing.
1987 Fame: The TV adaptation (January 7, 1982-May 18, 1987) of the hit movie starred a large cast of talented young people attending a school for the performing arts. Among them was Danny (Carlo Imperato, b. 1963) whose best friend Ron (Ivan Kane, b. circa 1960) comes out to him as gay in the “Best Buddies” (March 30, 1987) episode. Danny struggles to accept his friend as he is. Best unintentionally funny line: “Ron is a genius with wood.” Ron's coming out is very realistically handled, including his fear that he'll lose his best friend.
1987 Women in Prison: This FOX series (October 11, 1987-February 20, 1988) about — guess what? — featured Antoinette Byron (b. 1962) as a lesbian inmate, and boasted a rather amazing cast: Peggy Cass (1924-1999), Denny Dillon (b. 1951), C.C.H. Pounder (b. 1952) and Wendie Jo Sperber (1958-2005).
1987 Miami Vice: The “God's Work” episode (November 6, 1987) starred Esai Morales (b. 1962) as the son of a crime boss (Alfonso Arau, b. 1932), who returns to Miami to tell his dad he's gay.
1987 The Golden Girls: On the “Strange Bedfellows” episode (November 7, 1987), Blanche (Rue McClanahan) is excited to be involved with the other ladies in supporting local politician Gil Kessler's (John Schuck, b. 1940) run for city council. When footage suggests Blanche and Kessler were alone together in his home, rumors swirl that they were intimate. The other women (Betty White, Bea Arthur) are furious with Blanche, snubbing her as a slut who is taking down a good man. Blanche declares her innocence, but is shocked when Kessler confesses to the non-existent affair. In the end, it turns out the unmarried politician was lying because the scandal actually improved his image. While getting things off his chest, he also admits he was “part-time stenographer and mild-mannered housewife Anna Maria Bonaducci” before undergoing SRS in 1968. Although played for laughs, and although the character unfortunately says he isn't “who you think I am,” it is a rare instance of FTM SRS on TV and does not come off as malicious. (Image via NBC)
1987 21 Jump Street: This Johnny Depp (b. 1963) career-launcher (April 12, 1987-April 27, 1991) about young-looking cops investigating criminal activity in high schools offered “Honor Bound” (November 8, 1987), in which military-school cadets are suspected of beating, sometimes to death, gay men. Plus, you see young Depp in a military uniform, which is pretty LGBTQ. Full episode here.
1987 Leg Work: This extremely short-lived (October 3, 1987-November 7, 1987) series starred Margaret Colin (b. 1958) as a P.I. Only six of 10 filmed episodes aired. The “Life Itself” episode (which had been slated to air November 14, 1987) was unaired in the U.S. at the time, but did air later on TV Land. The episode found Colin's character assisting a friend (Robert Dorfman, b. 1950) with AIDS in tracking down a former lover as his dying wish. (Image via CBS)
1987 Frank's Place: Tim Reid (b. 1944) starred as bartender Frank Parrish in this short-lived (September 14, 1987-March 22, 1988), well-loved sitcom. On the “Season's Greetings” holiday episode (December 14, 1987), Frank's lifelong buddy Bubba (Robert Harper, b. 1951) tells his mom he and Frank are boyfriends in order to get her off his back about when he will get married ... which is a flawed plan for getting your mom to shut up about your love life.
1988 21 Jump Street: Taking its title from a line in Prince's (1958-2016) hit single “Sign o' the Times” (1987), the “A Big Disease with a Little Name” episode (February 7, 1988) finds the main characters providing protection for a student (Philip Tanzini, b. 1967) living with AIDS. The character is presented as a hemophiliac who contracted HIV from blood products, similar to the story of real-life AIDS icon Ryan White (1971-1990), but with one major point of departure: In this episode, the young man later admits he made up his status as a hemophiliac and admits he contracted HIV via gay sex. Kinda thoughtless to dramatize White's plight with this twist, as he had been diagnosed with HIV as a virginal kid, so why plant that suspicion in viewers' heads? Also, White was still alive at the time. Still, the episode portrayed the gay kid with AIDS with empathy. Full episode here.
1988 HeartBeat: This medical drama (March 12, 1988-April 6, 1989) becomes the first TV series with a lesbian as a leading character, nurse practitioner Marilyn McGrath (Gail Strickland). Also groundbreaking was the fact that Marilyn and her partner Patty (Gina Hecht, b. 1953) were portrayed without making their lesbianism a focus. (They did not, however, kiss or touch.)
1988 Hotel: The March 17, 1988, “Contest of Wills” (March 17, 1988) episode, a man Dick O'Neill, 1928-1998) arrives to collect the body of his late daughter (Susan Wheeler Duff, b. 1958), who died in a car accident, only to learn she had been living with her girlfriend, the titular hotel's catering manager (Christopher Norris, b. 1953). He reacts negatively, but they find common ground and, in the end, depart for the hometown funeral.
1988 The Bronx Zoo: The “Crossroads” (June 15, 1988) episode of this series (March 19, 1987-June 29, 1988) set in an inner-city school focuses on a student who is secretly gay but not-so-secretly engaged to be married. Harry Barnes (David Wilson, b. 1949), a teacher, decides to out the kid to his fiancée in order to keep him from duping her. I believe the couple in the show was played by Tom Fridley (b. 1965) and Tammy Lauren (b. 1968), but I can only confirm they were in the episode.
1988 Tidy Endings: On August 14, 1988, HBO aired its first gay-themed film, Tidy Endings, about the ex-wife (Stockard Channing (b. 1944) and the boyfriend (Harvey Fierstein) of a man who has just died of AIDS. First part of TV movie available here.
1988 The Golden Girls: On “Sophia's Wedding: Part 1” (November 19, 1988), Sophia (Estelle Getty)'s caterer (Raye Birk, b. 1943) is depicted as flamboyantly gay. He urges Dorothy aka Stretch, who is balking at the wedding on the day-of, “I have a hundred cheese puffs and a sensitive assistant, both on the verge of collapse. Whatever the problem is, overlook it. My mother did with my marriage ... and if you say something smart, I'll slap you silly.” Asking him to scram, Dorothy sarcastically calls him “Rambo.” Later, he becomes fahrklempt seeing the nuptials, comparing it to “Susan Hayward's climactic speech in I Want to Live,” to which Blanche snarks, “You're ready to fly right outta here, aren't ya?” The caterer doesn't back down, sniping, “Well, excuse me for living, Anita Bryant!” McClanahan is obviously on the verge of laughter during the exchange.
1988 Cheers: The “Norm, Is That You?” episode (December 8, 1988) Norm (George Wendt) plays stereotypically gay in order to convince a yuppie couple (Jane Sibbett, b. 1962; George DelHoyo, b. 1953) he must be a good interior decorator.
1988 The Golden Girls: Blanche's (Rue McClanahan) recently divorced brother Clayton (Monte Markham, b. 1935) pays her a visit in the “Scared Straight” (December 10, 1988) episode. He hits it off with Rose (Betty White) and, in order to conceal his homosexuality, claims he slept with her. Blanche, a sexual libertine herself, is unnerved by the idea her baby brother is gay; it takes her a while to get used to the information. Full episode here.
1988 Midnight Caller: This show (October 25, 1988-May 17, 1991), set in the world of talk radio, featured a storyline in which a man intentionally gives a woman HIV and leaves her pregnant. The “After It Happened” (December 13, 1988) episode carries a warning about sensitive material. In the episode, a bisexual man (Richard Cox, b. 1948; the actor also appeared in the controversial film Cruising in 1980) gives HIV to the ex-GF (Kay Lenz, b. 1953) of the show's radio host (Gary Cole, b. 1956). J.D. Lewis (b. circa 1960) plays the HIV-positive man's discarded ex-lover, who himself is dying of AIDS. The man spreading HIV is depicted as cavalier and uncaring: “I gotta live my whole life in 100 nights.” The plot inspired protests, with San Francisco's KRON-TV even airing a half-hour live show after the episode entitled Midnight Caller: The Response. This was not exactly the kind of exposure LGBTQ people were looking for in the '80s. Full episode here. (Image via NBC)
1989 Married... with Children: This broad, cheerfully vulgar comedy (April 5, 1987—June 9, 1997) was the first show to inspire a mad-mom boycott campaign, and the “Her Cups Runneth Over” (January 15, 1989) episode is the one that made stay-at-home mom Terry Rakolta lose her shit. Among other imagery she found offensive in the episode, a sequence in which a swishy guy holds a tiara to his head, prompting main character Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill, b. 1946) to quip, “And they wonder why we call them queens.”
1989 Dear John: On the February 16, 1989, “Stand by Your Man” episode of the sitcom Dear John (October 6, 1988-July 22, 1992), the titular John (Judd Hirsch, b. 1935) has to deal with a same-sex crush from a newcomer (Cleavon Little, 1939-1992) to his divorce support group. At one point, John's crush kisses him suggestively on the nose. Full episode here.
1989 L.A. Law: The February 23, 1989, “The Accidental Jurist” episode finds Kuzack (Harry Hamlin, b. 1951) picking a retired judge (Donald Moffat, b. 1930) he knows for a fact is gay to hear the case of a famous Olympian (Brian McNamara, b. 1960) whose coming out has cost him a lucrative endorsement deal. The judge decides you can't fire someone just for being gay, but he decides that the Olympian hiding his sexuality from the company was deceptive, nullifying the contract — so the gay guy loses. The judge figures out why he was chosen and lectures Kuzack for choosing him just because he's gay. While ranting about his belief that the world isn't ready for gay Olympians — or gay judges — the judge admits his selection for the case could have been to the Olympian's detriment. Kuzack seizes on the admission and threatens to expose the judge (via an appeal on the grounds of bias), but the judge refuses to budge. The Olympian takes pity on the closeted judge and refuses to destroy a fellow queer's privacy, letting sleeping dogs lie. Full episode here. (Image via NBC)
1989 The Women of Brester Place: Oprah Winfrey (b. 1954) produced this miniseries (March 19-20, 1989) about a group of black women living in a tenement. Lonette McKee (b. 1954) and Paula Kelly are a lesbian couple who move in, only to face disapproval and malicious gossip.
1989 Dear John: The April 27, 1989, “Margo” episode features John unwittingly falling for the cross-dressing husband (Shannon Tweed, b. 1957) of one of his divorced singles group's members. Full episode here.
1989 Doctor Doctor: This medical sitcom (June 12, 1989-April 6, 1991) starred Matt Frewer (b. 1958) as a doctor. Tony Carreiro (b. 1954) played his openly gay brother.
1989 Friday the 13th: The Series: This TV adaptation (October 3, 1987-May 26, 1990) of the impossible-to-kill film series that launched in 1980 presented “The Secret Agenda of Mesmer's Bauble” on May 1, 1989, an episode in which a man (Martin Neufeld, b. 1958) is supernaturally obsessed with a singer (Vanity, 1959-2016) to the point that he wants to become her. Full episode here.
1989 American Masters: The long-running (June 22, 1986-present) PBS series aired James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket (August 14, 1989), about gay author James Baldwin (1924-1987).
1989 Doogie Howser, M.D.: In the “Vinnie Video Vici” (October 25, 1989) episode of the Neil Patrick Harris-fronted (b. 1973) medical dramedy (September 19, 1989-March 24, 1993), a gay PWA paints a mural in Doogie's hospital.
1989 thirtysomething: The “Strangers” (November 7, 1989) episode of this popular show depicts gay lovers (Peter Frechette & David Marshall Grant, b. 1955) shirtless in bed, a first. Despite not touching, the vision sparked defections of advertisers and protest from conservative groups. ABC opted out of reairing the episode.
1989 Friday the 13th: The Series: “Night Prey” (November 13, 1989) squeezed in two gay items, a comparison of vampirism to homosexuality (thanks!) and a scene in which a hooker (Tamara Gorski, b. 1968) is paid to kiss a female vampire (Jill Hennessy, b. 1968).
1989 China Beach: This drama (April 27, 1988-July 22, 1991) set during the Vietnam War, featured a male character (Brian Wimmer, b. 1959) who in the “China Men” episode (November 22, 1989) finds himself falling for a trans woman (Kayla Blake, b. 1963).
1989 Alien Nation: On this TV adaptation (September 18, 1989-May 7, 1990) of the 1988 cult movie, the “Chains of Love” (November 27, 1989) episode features a male alien (S.A. Griffin, b. 1954) with a same-sex crush on series lead Sikes (Gary Graham, b. 1950) due to the effects of an elixir. Part 1 of full episode here.
1989 Hunter: The December 9, 1989, episode, “The Fifth Victim,” was about a homophobic serial killer (Michael Champion, b. circa 1955) of gay men who applies lipstick to their lips postmortem. During the course of the investigation into 11 murders, Hunter (Fred Dryer, b. 1946) gets the homophobic killer to confess by calling him a “limp-wrist,” and detective Frank Buchanan (Rick Giolito, b. 1958) is outed as gay after being seen by Hunter in a piano bar and identified as a fan of Cole Porter (1891-1964). It is determined that the fifth man out of 11 killed died at the hands of a copycat. The longtime companion (Richmond Hoxie, b. 1946) of the fifth victim is interviewed, telling cops he isn't embarrassed by his past relationship. The fifth victim is revealed to have been killed for reasons unrelated to his sexual orientation. In the end, Buchanan comes out to his boss (Charles Hallahan) before accepting a promotion from him. His boss replies, “Well, I don't know what that has to do with anything — do you?” Full episode here. (Image via NBC)
1989 Doctor Doctor: On the “Torch Song Cardiology” episode (December 18, 1989), the doc's (Matt Frewer) gay brother (Tony Carreiro) bonds with a co-worker (Beau Gravitte, b. circa 1960), leading to some uncomfortable reactions to their closeness.
1989 Night Court: On “Passion Plundered” (December 20, 1989), Dan (John Larroquette) listens to a hot female reporter's (Annette McCarthy, b. circa 1960) tapes, becoming turned on by a steamy message ... not realizing she's a lesbian.
1990 Doctor Doctor: A female doctor (Maureen Mueller, no info) freaks out when her patient, a TV host (Brian George, b. 1952), tests positive for HIV, because she fears she herself could be infected. The episode's title? “Accentuate the Positive” (January 8, 1990).
1990 21 Jump Street: The “A Change of Heart” (January 15, 1990) episode focuses on the murder of a popular lesbian teacher (Olivia Negron, no data), and also features the dead woman's former protégée (Katy Boyer, no data) hitting on recurring character Hoffs (Holly Robinson Peete, b. 1964) — even giving her a kiss. The kiss is strategically cropped, but becomes the first-ever female same-sex romantic kiss on American TV, beating L.A. Law to the punch by over a year. It is also a rare example of a character played by a POC who is involved in anything gay, albeit not of her doing. The girl who kissed Hoffs is a suspect in her mentor's murder on the theory she may be a lover spurned.
1990 American Playhouse: The Emmy-winning telecast of the Terrence McNally (b. 1939) play Andre's Mother (March 7, 1990) brings to life the tensions between the lover (Richard Thomas), mother (Sada Thompson, 1927-2011) and grandmother (Sylvia Sidney, 1910-1999) of a gay man who has just died of AIDS.
1990 Quantum Leap: Note — March 7, 1990, is the first time two shows with references to homosexuality were airing simultaneously, the other being (see above) the telecast of Andre's Mother. The “Good Night, Dear Heart — November 9, 1957” episode of the sci fi series Quantum Leap (March 26, 1989-May 5, 1993) — which used time travel as a conceit — involves Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula, b. 1954) looking into a young woman's (Suzanne Tegmann, b. circa 1970) suicide, only to discover her jealous lover (Marcia Cross, b. 1962) caused her death accidentally.
1990 Designing Women: The April 9, 1990, “Suzanne Goes Looking for a Friend”episode finds ditzy Suzanne (Delta Burke, b. 1956) asking an old rival (Karen Kopins, b. 1958) to accompany her to a charity ball ... and not quite getting that she's a lesbian. Full episode here.
1990 L.A. Law: On “Outward Bound” (May 10, 1990), a gay cop (Craig Wasson, b. 1954) is outed by the gay media and sues.
1990 Northern Exposure: This trendy dramedy set in Alaska's (July 12, 1990-July 26, 1995) second episode, “Brains, Know-How and Native Intelligence” (July 19, 1990), finds DJ Chris (John Corbett, b. 1961) upsetting station owner Maurice (Barry Corbin, b. 1940) by reading Walt Whitman poetry on the air, and referencing Whitman's homosexuality. Full episode here.
1990 The Fanelli Boys: Short-lived sitcom (September 8, 1990-February 16, 1991) with a stellar cast, including Ann Morgan Guilbert (1928-2016). The “Pursued” episode (September 19, 1990) features a guy (Joe Pantoliano, b. 1951) jealous that his old pal (Chazz Palminteri, b. 1952) spends more time with other buddies than with him ... until he realizes his friend is gay. Then he becomes afraid of his kid brother (Chris Meloni, b. 1961) spending the weekend with the gay guy. I mean, normally that would be offensive, but it is Chris Meloni.
1990 Law & Order: On “The Reaper's Helper” episode (October 4, 1990) of the soon-to-be-ubiquitous police procedural series (September 13, 1990-May 24, 2010), a gay man with AIDS (Peter Frechette) is accused of murdering another gay man with AIDS in a mercy killing. Full episode here.
1990 The Simpsons: The iconic animated TV show (December 17, 1989-present) was relatively young when it first referenced homosexuality, in the “Simpson and Delilah” (October 18, 1990) episode. In this installment, homo-uncomfy Homer (Dan Castellanata, b. 1957) receives an undeserved promotion (strictly because he's managed to grow hair on his bald head), which comes with an assistant (out actor Harvey Fierstein, b. 1954). The Magical Homo assistant takes Homer shopping for better-fitting clothes and later kisses him on the lips, also smacking his booty — do not try this in your office.
1990 Married... with Children: The “Dance Show” episode (October 21, 1990) finds Peg (Katey Sagal, b. 1954) going out dancing with a man (Sam McMurray, b. 1952) ... whose male lover (Dan Castellaneta) later confronts her husband (Ed O'Neill). Snippet of episode here.
1990 Doctor Doctor: On “The Terminator” (October 25, 1990), a newcomer at the hospital (Charles Rocket, 1949-2005) is thought to be a crazy former Green Beret who killed scores ... but turns out to be a gay Village People backup dancer who wore a green beret as part of his costume.
1990 Roseanne: The trailblazing, blue-collar family sitcom (October 18, 1988-May 20, 1997) first stuck its toe in the LGBTQ water with a gender-themed episode, “Trick or Treat” (October 30, 1990). In the Halloween-season episode, Dan (John Goodman, b. 1950) gets grumpy when Roseanne (Roseanne Barr, b. 1952) — who's going as a man — allows their son DJ (Michael Fishman, b. 1981) to dress as a witch, therefore a female. Dan later defends Roseanne, still in drag, because, “He's my husband,” and pretends to come on to a bully to protect her. Snippet of episode here.
1990 L.A. Law: On November 8, 1990, bisexual lawyer C.J. Lamb (Amanda Donhoe, b. 1962) is introduced. She was a main character until her departure following the May 14, 1992, “Double Breasted Suit” episode.
1990 L.A. Law: The “Smoke Gets in Your Thighs” episode (November 15, 1990) addresses spousal rights when a gay man (Kevin Kilner, b. 1958) is denied visitation with his longtime lover (uncredited), who is dying of ALS, by the man's homophobic dad (Mitchell Ryan, b. 1928) and mom (uncredited). Nina Foch (1924-2008) makes for a particularly nasty lawyer who argues against the gay man's rights. The gay man loses, and tenderly says goodbye to the love of his life, whose parents are smugly giddy. Full episode here.
1990 Wings: The airport-based sitcom (April 19, 1990-May 21, 1997) introduced a main character's (David Schramm, b. 1946) gay son (Abraham Benrubi, b. 1969) on its “There's Always Room for Cello” episode (December 14, 1990). He made only one more appearance, on the “Sons and Lovers” (January 16, 1996) episode.
1990 The Golden Girls: Dorothy's (Bea Arthur) kid brother Phil has always been teased — without appearing on screen — as a fruitcake of sorts, eventually being established as a heterosexual crossdresser. In “Ebbtide's Revenge” (December 15, 1990), Phil's funeral provides ample opportunity for family drama on a sitcom. Full episode here.
1990 Twin Peaks: The December 15, 1990, January 12, 1991, and January 19, 1991, episodes of the phenomenally popular, offbeat series included David Duchovny (b. 1960) as trans DEA agent Dennis Bryson, who dons drag on the job, only to discover that she feels more comfortable presenting as a woman. She demands that her co-workers accept her as a woman. Duchovny later revived the role in a 2017 reboot.
1990 Lifestories: This medical drama (August 20, 1990-July 14, 1991) was filmed doc-style, and intended to convey what really goes on surrounding nightmare medical situations. The “Steve Burdick” episode stars D.W. Moffett (b. 1954) as a gay, poz TV reporter whose lover dies of AIDS, which inspires him to expose his own life, orientation and illness on TV. The episode was originally set to air December 2, but was pulled, ultimately airing December 19, 1990.
1991 The Golden Girls: On “Sister of the Bride” (January 12, 1991), Blanche's (Rue McClanahan) gay, gladiator-movie-loving brother Clayton (Monte Markham) returns, this time bringing in tow his partner (Michael Ayr, 1953), a man with whom he intends to participate in a commitment ceremony. Blanche attends the ceremony, in spite of her turmoil over having a gay brother.“ I don't mind Clayton being homosexual ... I just dont like him dating men.” Full episode here. (Image via NBC)
1991 L.A. Law: On the “He's a Crowd” (February 7, 1991) episode, bisexual C.J. Lamb (Amanda Donohoe, b. 1962) and ostensibly straight colleague Abby Perkins (Michele Greene) share a romantic kiss — TV's first clearly shot same-sex smooch — and it ignited a firestorm of controversy, as well as helping to launch the “lesbian kiss” genre of very special TV episodes. Another storyline in the same episode involves a man (Andrew Robinson, b. 1942) with multiple personalities, one of them an old lady. Full episode here.
1991 L.A. Law: On “Speak, Lawyers, for Me” (April 25, 1991), a trans model (Claudia Christian, b. 1965) sues when she loses a contract with a cosmetics company called Lady Bride because shew was not “born a woman.” She wins her case, as well as $400,000 in compensatory damages. Full episode here.
1991 Northern Exposure: The show's fictional town is discovered to have been founded by lesbians on the episode “What I Did for Love” (April 29, 1991). Full episode here.
1991 Roseanne: On the “Dances with Darlene” (April 30, 1991) episode, Martin Mull's (b. 1943) character, who has resisted matchmaking, is revealed to be gay when a boyfriend (Michael Des Barres, b. 1948) arrives on the scene.
1991 Star Trek: The Next Generation: This syndicated series (September 28, 1987-May 23, 1994) made Star Trek franchise history with its first-ever reference to same-sex love. Unfortunately, the plot of “The Host” (different dates are reported, including May 11 and May 13, 1991) is timid — lead character Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden, b. 1949) falls in love with an alien (Franc Luz, b. 1950), but she walks away when the alien moves into a female body.
1991 L.A. Law: On the “Since I Fell for You” episode (May 16, 1991),
a gay lawyer with AIDS (Stanley Kamel) sues his insurance company for not paying for an unapproved treatment. The man winds up barging in on the wedding of Victor (Jimmy Smits, b. 1955) and Grace (Susan Dey) and serves as their witness. The man wins his case. Full episode here.
1991 Our Sons: This fondly remembered AIDS drama starred Julie Andrews (b. 1935) as Audrey Grant and Ann-Margret (b. 1941) as Luanne Barnes, the mothers of two gay men in a relationship. James (Hugh Grant, b. 1960) asks his mom Audrey to fly to Arkansas to inform Luanne that his partner, her son Donald (Željko Ivanek, b. 1957), is dying of AIDS. Luanne is openly homophobic, while Audrey — who fancies herself a woman of the world, must also deal with her own shortcomings. The result is a wrenching drama about family, friendship, acceptance, our perceptions of homosexuality and the struggle against HIV/AIDS.
1991 Northern Exposure: “Slow Dance” (May 20, 1991) explores what happens when the anti-gay Maurice (Barry Corbin) finds out he's sold his B&B to a gay couple (Doug Ballard b. circa 1950s) and Don R. McManus (b. 1959). Full episode here.
1991 Beverly Hills, 90210: The popular teen drama (October 4, 1990-May 17, 2000) used series regular Jennie Garth's (b. 1972) character Kelly to explore how to handle it when the boy you're crushing on (David Lascher, b. 1972) turns out to be gay in the “Summer Storm” episode (July 25, 1991). The character, volleyball player Kyle Conners, made three appearances on the series.
1991 Dear John: On the September 20, 1991, “Kirk's Ex-Wife” episode (September 20, 1991), it is discovered that the ex-wife (Kate McNeil, b. 1959) of Kirk (Jere Burns, b. 1954), a regular member of the series' singles support group, left him not for another man, but for a woman. Full episode here.
1991 Designing Women: The September 23, 1991, episode, “A Toe in the Water” finds Julia Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter, 1939-2010) contemplating dating again after the death of her longtime BF. She's attracted to Mark (Charles Frank, b. 1947) but Cousin Allison (Julia Duffy, b. 1951) derisively thinks Mark is super gay, based on his references, which include knowing who Ida Lupino (1918-1995) is. Wrong — Mark's very hetero.
1991 Roc: This sitcom (August 25, 1991—May 10, 1994) featured Charles S. Dutton (b. 1951) as the title character, a Baltimore garbage collector. On the “Can't Help Loving That Man” episode (October 20, 1991), Roc's brother (Richard Roundtree, b. 1942) arrives with his longtime boyfriend (Stephen Poletti, b. 1949), who is white, and announces they're getting married. It became the first-ever scripted same-sex commitment ceremony on U.S. TV.
1991 Coach: On the “A Real Guy's Guy” episode (October 29, 1991) of this long-running jock sitcom (February 28, 1989—May 14, 1997), Coach Hayden Fox (Craig T. Nelson, b. 1944) pressures his daughter (Clare Carey, b. 1967) to date a star player (Rob Youngblood, b. 1969), not realizing the player is gay. In discussing the situation with the player, he fails to realize they are in a gay bar — even though two of his former players are visible, dancing together. (Image via ABC/MCA TV)
1991 L.A. Law: On “Do the Spike Thing” (October 31, 1991), a college chum (Charles Levin) comes out as gay to Douglas Brackman (Alan Rachins, b. 1942), telling him he wants him as his best man (which he was for the man's first, heterosexual marriage). Brackman is uncomfortable, but generally accepting. Later, Brackman is gay-bashed in spite of being straight. He is encouraged by his gay friend to testity aganst the assailant (Michael Cudlitz, b. 1964), even though it bothers him he was perceived as gay in the first place. Bonus: Carlton Wilborn (b. 1964), one of Madonna's (b. 1958) gay Blond Ambition dancers, appears in a small role. Full episode here.
1991 L.A. Law: On “The Nut Before Christmas” (December 19, 1991), C.J. (Amanda Donohoe) persuades Arnie Becker (Corbin Bernsen, b. 1954) to defend her ex (Sheila Rosenthal, b. circa 1956), who is being sued by her ex-husband for custody of their kids on the grounds that she is a lesbian. Full episode here.
1992 Seinfeld: In the broadly funny episode “The Subway” (January 8, 1992), Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, b. 1961) is trapped on the subway with an overly friendly, non-feminist, none too articulate woman (Rhoda Gemignani, b. 1940) while en route to a lesbian wedding. When the woman naïvely asks who's getting married and realizes it's two women, she exclaims, “A lesbian wedding? ... My luck, I don't talk to a soul on the subway for 35 years, I get the best man at a lesbian wedding,” before stalking off. Elaine, afraid to be seen as gay, shouts, “I'm not a lesbian! I hate men, but I'm not a lesbian!” The show's edgy humor was leagues ahead of the kid-glove treatment being given LGBTQ issues elsewhere on TV.
1992 The Golden Girls: Blanche (Rue McClanahan) and Dorothy (Bea Arthur) are thought to be a lesbian couple when they appear on a talk show whose theme is “Women Who Love Each Other and Sleep Together” in the “Goodbye, Mr. Gordon” (January 11, 1992) episode. Blanche is furious that the show will cramp her style, but the women reluctantly keep up the facade so Rose (Betty White) won't lose her job at the station. Full episode here.
1992 Quantum Leap: On “Running for Honor — June 11, 1964” (January 15, 1992), Sam (Scott Bakula) tries to prevent a gay classmate (Sean O'Bryan, b. 1963) at a naval academy from being killed by other students. The conceit of the sci-fi series has the star inhabiting the bodies of various people over time, but while he heroically attempts to save a gay man's life, it's noteworthy that the series did not have him inhabit a gay character's body. Bakula would later memorably play a gay role on HBO's Looking (2014-2015).
1992 Murphy Brown: On this Candice Bergen (b. 1946) sitcom, Miles (Grant Shaud, b. 1961) frets about the implications of having a dream involving a gay co-worker on the “Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are” (March 4, 1992) episode.
1992 Star Trek: The Next Generation: Captain Riker (Jonathan Frakes, b. 1952) falls for Soren (Melinda Culea, b. 1955), a genderless member of the J'naii race, on “The Outcast” (March 14, 1992).
1992 Doing Time on Maple Drive: FOX aired this TV movie directed by Ken Olin (b. 1954) on March 16, 1992, about a dysfunctional family that includes a son (William McNamara, b. 1965) recovering from a car accident that is revealed to have been the result of a suicide attempt because he is tormented by being gay. Full movie here.
1992 Cheers: On the April 23, 1992, “Rebecca's Lover ... Not” episode, Harvey Fierstein plays a man on whom Rebecca (Kirstie Alley, b. 1951) had a crush in high school, proving her gaydar is nonexistent.
1992: Law & Order: The “Silence” episode (April 28, 1992) finds a squeamish power player (George Martin, 1929-2010) pressing to block the prosecution of his own son's murderer because the case involves his son, a councilman, being gay. Full episode here.
1992 Northern Exposure: On “Cicely” (May 18, 1992), the story of the town's founding mothers — a lesbian couple (Yvonne Suhor, b. 1965; Jo Anderson, b. 1958) — is told via flashback. Full episode here.
1992 The Real World: New York: The first season (May 21-August 13, 1992) of MTV's influential reality series featured well-liked out gay artist Norman Kopi (b. 1967), who was presented as bi on the show. One of the men he dated on the series, Charles Perez (b. 1943), later denied they had a romantic relationship and re-closeted before hosting his own talk show, The Charles Perez Show (1994-1996). Perez later came out as gay.
1992 Dream On: The “For Peter's Sake” (June 20, 1992) episode of this inventive, racy Brian Benben (b. 1956) sitcom (July 8, 1990-March 27, 1996) that aired on HBO was about a writer with AIDS (David Clennon, b. 1943) publishing his autobiography.
1992 The Lost Language of Cranes: This BBC production (February 9, 1992) aired on PBS's Great Performances series (which began in January 1971 and is still ongoing) on June 24, 1992. PBS censored its then-shocking full-frontal nudity, which was also snipped from a stateside VHS release. Based on the acclaimed novel by David Leavitt (b. 1961), this British-ized adaptation follows the relationship between Philip (Angus Macfadyen, b. 1963) and his boyfriend Elliot (Corey Parker, b. 1965), and Philip's coming out to his parents, Owen (Brian Cox, b. 1946) and Rose (b. 1934). Philip's announcement stuns his mother, but his father is even more deeply affected — he, too, is in the closet, and has been frequenting bookstores for sex with men. Gay father and gay son bond in the end. Elliot's adoptive parents, Derek (gay film director John Schlesinger, 1926-2003) and Geoffrey (René Auberjonois, b. 1940) are gay men who this writer feels strongly were based on gay writer Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) and his life partner Eugene Glynn (1926-2007). Also, Ben Daniels (b. 1964) plays gay friend Robin. So basically, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay.
1992-1999 Melrose Place: This trashy nighttime soap (July 8, 1992-May 24, 1999) casually featured openly gay Matt Fielding (Doug Savant, b. 1964). He wasn't the most sexual gay character, but he was a series regular. The show did not generate much controversy for the gay angle, perhaps because it was marketed as salacious to begin with. (Image via FOX)
1992 Citizen Cohn: HBO aired the original movie Citizen Cohn on August 22, 1992, starring James Woods (b. 1947) as Sen. McCarthy's loathsome chief counsel Roy Cohn. Cohn's homosexuality and death from AIDS are portrayed in the film
1992 Herman's Head: “The Sperm 'N' Herman” (September 20, 1992) episode of this FOX sitcom (September 8, 1991-April 21, 1994) about a fact-checker whose internal thought process is dramatized by a sort of Greek chorus involves Herman's (William Ragsdale, b. 1961) ex-GF (Liz Vassey, b. 1972), a lesbian who seeks a sperm donor so she can become a parent. Full episode here.
1992 Picket Fences: Spoiler alert! The “Remembering Rosemary” episode (October 26, 1992) of this series (September 18, 1992-June 26, 1996) about bigger-than-life events that keep happening in a fictional small town ends with the revelation that a 10-year-old cold-case murder was committed by a man who flipped out when he discovered his wife was in love with another woman.
1992 Seinfeld: On “The Cheever Letters” (October 28, 1992), George Costanza's (Jason Alexander, b. 1959) father-in-law-to-be Mr. Ross (Warren Frost, 1925-2017) is revealed to have had a passionate affair with real-life writer John Cheever (1912-1982), proof of which is unearthed when the only surviving item from a fire at his cabin is a box of love letters. Sample line from a rescued letter: “I fear my orgasm has left me a cripple.” Mr. Ross had always been portrayed as a gruff, snobbish man unhappily married to a sarcastic, drunken wife (Grace Zabriskie, b. 1941) with no indication he might be gay or bisexual; when his affair is revealed, his own sister-in-law (Patricia Lee Wilson, no info) exclaims, “I knew it! while everyone else is nonplussed.
1992 Roseanne: The “Ladies' Choice” episode (November 10, 1992) features a superb coming-out subplot starring Roseanne's (Roseanne Barr) co-worker Nancy (Sandra Bernhard, b. 1955), whose new GF is Marla (Morgan Fairchild, b. 1950), a glamourpuss. (Image via ABC)
1992 Murder, She Wrote: On “The Dead File” (November 15, 1992), Harvey Fierstein's comic-strip artist character is depicted as having an eye for the boys.
1992 Roseanne: Arnie, the character played by Tom Arnold (b. 1959) wants his ex, Nancy (played by Sandra Bernhard), back even more once he finds out she's gay on “Stand on Your Man” (November 17, 1992)
1992 American Playhouse: On November 23, 1992, the series presented a videotaped recording of the play Tru, in which Robert Morse (b. 1931) brings gay writer and gossip Truman Capote (1924-1984) to life. The play was written by the great Jay Presson Allen (1922-2006). First part of full episode here.
1992 Picket Fences: A female music teacher (Natalija Nogulich, b. 1950) set to play Mary in a hotly contested Christmas pageant is revealed to be trans in “Pageantry” (December 11, 1992).
1993 Doogie Howser, M.D.: On “Spell It M-A-N,” (January 6, 1993), Vinnie (Max Casella, b. 1967) is uncomfortable after finding out his college roommate (Gil Cates, Jr., b. 1969) is gay. Full episode here.
1993 Life Goes On: On this one-hour drama (September 12, 1989-May 23, 1993) about a family whose son (Chris Burke, b. 1965) has Down syndrome, the “Incident on Main” episode (January 10, 1993) focuses on HIV-positive Jesse (Chad Lowe, b. 1968) getting gay-bashed outside an AIDS clinic. Though straight, it's worth noting that the character was IDed as HIV-positive beginning with the November 3, 1991, “Life After Death” episode.
1993 Picket Fences: On “The Body Politic” (February 5, 1993), the town's latest mayor (Michael Keenan, b. 1939) fires a gay dentist (Gary Frank, b. 1950) for refusing to tell people he is HIV-positive.
1993 Seinfeld: One of the sitcom's most classic episodes, “The Outing” (February 11, 1993), spawned a catchphrase for the ages. When Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld, b. 1954) and George (Jason Alexander) are overheard by a journalist who mistakes them for a bickering couple, they have to deal with their parents, their lovers and the readers of The New York Post thinking they're gay. The earnest, open-minded characters' insistence on freaking out over gayness then hastily adding, “Not that there's anything wrong with it!” perfectly skewered political correctness at its core. Full episode here.
1993 Seinfeld: On “The Smelly Car” (April 15, 1993), George (Jason Alexander) finds out his ex-GF Susan (Heidi Swedberg, b. 1966) is now a lesbian, and feels he “drove her” to it. Meanwhile, Susan's GF (Kari Coleman, no info) begins seeing Kramer (Michael Richards, b. 1949), unable to resist him. The seemingly temporal quality of lesbianism on the show is later reinforced when Susan and George become engaged.
1993 Picket Fences: The “Sugar & Spice” episode (April 29, 1993) of this family drama showed teen girls (Holly Marie Combs, b. 1973 & Alexondra Lee, b. 1975) making out and talking about sex. The network was so icked out it had the smooching scene re-shot with less lighting.
1993 Designing Women: On “The Lying Game” (May 7, 1993), Carlene (Jan Hooks, 1957-2014) cross-dresses in order to get into the head of a cross-dressing man(Greg Kean, b. 1962) she's dating. (Image via CBS)
1993 Law & Order: A cop's distress call is ignored — simply because he was gay on “Manhood” (May 12, 1993).
1993 Wild Palms: This sci-fi miniseries aired from May 16-May 19, 1993, on ABC. An early look at the dangers of politically weaponized mass media and virtual reality, it featured Nick Mancuso (b. 1948) and Ernie Hudson (b. 1945) as a gay couple who were a part of a Libertarian rebel group.
1993 Cheers: On “One for the Road” (May 20, 1993) — the final episode of the popular sitcom — Diane (Shelley Long, b. 1949) pretends she is married to make Sam (Ted Danson, b. 1947) jealous — but her phony husband (Mark Harelik, b. 1951) is also a phony heterosexual, and the arrival of his partner (Anthony Heald, b. 1944) points that out. The episode was seen by over 42 million people the night it aired.
1993 Cutters: CBS aired this sitcom (June 11-July 9, 1993) about a barbershop and a hoity-toity salon having to share space. It starred Robert Hays (b. 1947) and featured Julius Carry (1952-2008) as a gay hairdresser/former Olympian.
1993 Dream On: Martin (Brian Benben) finds out his dad (Paul Dooley, b. 1928) is gay, and that his dad's roomie (Dion Anderson, no info) is his lover on the episode entitled “Pop's Secret” (June 23, 1993).
1993 The Real World: Los Angeles: Season 2 (June 26, 1993-November 11, 1993) of MTV's hit reality show offered Beth Anthony aka Beth A., an out lesbian and recovering alcoholic. Beth first appeared on the 12th episode (September 2, 1993) of the season. Viewers were treated to an early TV appearance of the now classic I'M NOT GAY, BUT MY GIRLFRIEND IS T-shirt courtesy of Beth A.
1993 Sisters: This NBC drama aired from May 11, 1991-May 4, 1996, following the close relationships between four sisters, played by Swoosie Kurtz, Sela Ward, Patricia Kalember (b. 1956) and Julianne Phillips (b. 1960). Beginning with the “A Kick in the Caboose” (October 9, 1993) episode, Nora Dunn's (b. 1952) character Norma Lear was introduced. The out lesbian was a recurring character through the April 13, 1996, “Nothing Personal” episode.
1993 CBS Schoolbreak Special: The “Other Mothers” episode (October 12, 1993) of this made-for-kids series is about a young boy (Justin Whalin, b. 1974) raised by a lesbian couple (Meredith Baxter; Joanna Cassidy, b. 1945) is confronted by uptight values at a new school. (Image via CBS)
1993 The John Larroquette Show: On “The Past Comes Back” (October 26, 1993), a fellow recovering alcoholic (Ted Shackelford, b. 1946) arrives to make amends with John (John Larroquette), claiming the two had sex while drunk — and heavily implying that John bottomed. Of course, it turns out in the end that no such thing ever occurred. The sitcom ran from September 2, 1993-October 30, 1996.
1993 The Mommies: This sitcom (September 18, 1993-June 10, 1995) about two moms-next-door (Marilyn Kentz, no info; Caryl Kristensen, b. 1960) offered the retrograde episode “I Got the Music in Me” (November 6, 1993), on which Caryl (Kristensen) and Paul (Robin Thomas, b. 1949) freak out that their son (Ryan Merriman, b. 1983) could be gay because he takes up the flute.
1994 Tales of the City: From January 10, 1994-January 12, 1994, PBS aired this six-part adaptation of the popular book series by out writer Armistead Maupin (b. 1944), focused on the wild goings-on among a group of people in San Francisco in the '70s, several of them LGBTQ. Our Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm focus is, at first, Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney, b. 1964); Marcus D'Amico (b. 1965) played the sexually liberated Mouse; Billy Campbell (b. 1959) played a closeted doctor who was Mouse's casual boyfriend; Chloe Webb (b. 1956) was everybody's bi-ish best friend; Cynda Williams was a closeted white lesbian passing for black (it's a long story); Thomas Gibson (b. 1962) played a bisexual baddie who cheats on his rich wife; and Olympia Dukakis (b. 1931) played Anna Madrigal, the story's mysterious de facto matriach, who is dramatically revealed to be trans. The series was so bawdy it sparked a congressional investigation into the monies allotted to public television. Britain's Channel 4 was behind the miniseries, airing it there first in 1993.
1994 NYPD Blue: The extremely popular police procedural series (September 21, 1993-March 1, 2005) was a noted envelope-pusher. Early on, on “Jumpin' Jack Fleishman” (January 18, 1994), Detectives Medavoy (Gordon Clapp, b. 1948) and Martinez (Nicholas Turturro, b. 1962) pursue a strangler presumed to be a crossdresser, a man who steals his victim's credit card to buy wigs and fingernails. “This guy's plan is to go home and spend the rest of his life as a woman,” Medavoy exclaims to his superior, played by James McDaniel (b. 1958), who responds, “He doesn't sound rational, this guy.” When the killer (Chris Nelson Norris, b. circa 1960s) is arrested, he's in a garish wig, is snidely called “gorgeous,” tries to escape by lifting his skirt to reveal pantyhose while sprinting away, and is taunted by Dennis Franz's (b. 1944) character for deciding to run down the street “like Mary Tyler Moore.”
1994 The X-Files: A bona fide TV pheneomenon, this sci-fi series (September 10, 1993-May 19, 2002) offered the “Gender Bender” episode (January 21, 1994), in which a transgender alien (played by both Kate Twa, b. circa late '60s, and Peter Stebbings, b. 1971) is responsible for a series of sex crimes. Full episode here.
1994 The Commish: The cop comedy-drama (September 28, 1991-January 11, 1996), starring Michael Chiklis (b. 1963), aired the episode “Keeping Secrets” (January 22, 1994) about a series of gay-bashing incidents outside a gay bar. Things get sticky when a fellow cop (Matthew Ryan, no info) comes out of the closet.
1994 Lifestories: Families in Crisis: This series, which ran from August 1, 1992-February 8, 1996, dramatized conflict-laden situations faced by real-life young people, who themselves appeared on the episodes at the end to offer life lessons. More Than Friends: The Coming Out of Heidi Leiter (January 24, 1994) — the show was big on colons — is about a girl (Ssbrina Lloyd, b. 1970) who went to prom in Virginia with her GF (Kate Anthony, b. 1971).
1994 Blossom: This sitcom (January 3, 1991-May 22, 1995) about a quirky young girl (Mayim Bialik, b. 1975) and her Italian-American family featured an episode entitled “Double Date” (January 31, 1994), in which her dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks, cute bro Joey (Joey Lawrence, b. 1976) has a secret admirer — who turns out to be a guy (Paul Wittenburg, no info). Full episode here.
1994 Evening Shade: This Burt Reynolds (b. 1936) -fronted series aired from September 21, 1990 until May 23, 1994. Toward the end of its run, perhaps to try to spice things up, “The Perfect Woman” (January 31, 1994) featured the cast setting up Ponder (Ossie Davis, 1917-2005) with a gorgeous woman (Diahann Carroll, b. 1935) — who “used to be a man.”
1994 The John Larroquette Show: On the “Dirty Deeds” episode (February 1, 1994), Larroquette bumps into his college roomie (Lane Davies, b. 1950) — dressed as Dietrich (1901-1992) at a drag show. On “Another Average Night,” a second episode that aired the same evening, drag performer Jazzmun (b. 1969, who came out as trans in 2008) made her first of eight appearances on the show as a hooker, ending with “Wrestling Matches” (January 31, 1995).
1994 Roseanne: On the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” episode (March 1, 1994), housewife Roseanne (Roseanne Barr, b. 1952) shares a surprise kiss with Sharon (Mariel Hemingway, b. 1961), the GF of Nancy, an out lesbian character who appeared in 33 episodes from 1991-1997). Full episode here.
1994 Law & Order: On “Mayhem” (March 9, 1994), Scott is a man (Tom Riis Farrell, b. circa early '60s) reluctant to say he was with his boyfriend Julian (Jason Duchin, b. circa early '60s) at the time a crime was committed. Julian, on the other hand, is so gay he says, “Life is a cabernet.” He's so gay, dogs are like:
1994 The Mommies: “Mr. Mommie” (March 19, 1994) features the series stars opining whether a stay-at-home daddy (Jere Burns, b.1954) might be gay. It's either that or he's a bigamist. Or, you know, a spy.
1994 Roc: On the “Brothers” (April 5, 1994) episode, Russell Emerson (Richard Roundtree) tells his family he and his boyfriend will move to Paris to escape racism and homophobia in the U.S.
1994 Beverly Hills, 90210: On “Blind Spot” (April 6, 1994) When BMOC Steve (Ian Ziering, b. 1964) sees a frat buddy (Jack Armstrong, 1958) in a gay coffee shop, he outs him, only to find himself coming to the guy's defense when their frat tries to expel him. Full episode here.
1994 Northern Exposure: A commitment ceremony between Ron (Doug Ballard, b. circa early '60s ) and Erick (b. 1959) is shown on the May 2, 1994, episode “I Feel the Earth Move,” making it only the second scripted same-sex ceremony on TV. CBS affiliates KNOE-TV (Louisiana) and WTVY-TV (Alabama) passed on airing the episode.
1994 NYPD Blue: On “Rockin' Robin” (May 17, 1994), a priest is murdered in a park frequented by men cruising for sex. A closeted professor (Stanley Anderson, b. 1939) and an HIV-positive teen hustler (Chaka Forman, b. 1970) who uses a gay panic defense in admitting to cutting the priest are in the mix. Full episode here.
1994 Roommates: This made-for-TV movie aired May 30, 1994. It is about a straight, macho dude (Randy Quaid, b. 1950) and a gay, not-so-macho dude (Eric Stoltz, b. 1961) who are sharing a apartment at a facility for people with AIDS. As the New York Times review pointed out at the time, “AIDS is still not an easy sell as a subject for prime-time drama. Since An Early Frost in 1985, pitifully few network movies (traditionally addicted to diseases of every stripe), have tackled one of the century's deadliest viruses.”
1994 The Real World: San Francisco: Cuban-American Pedro Zamora (1972-1994) came out as gay and HIV-positive to his castmates, allowing the MTV series to chronicle his real-life struggles. He and his partner, Sean Sasser (1968-2013), engaged in TV's first-ever non-scripted same-sex commitment ceremony. The series aired from June 30-November 10, 1994; Zamora died one day after the final episode aired. Tribute to Zamora here.
Sidenote: I was penpals with Alex Escarano (1957-1997), Zamora's roommate and mentor, the man who encouraged him to audition for The Real World, and who clearly helped to shape Pedro's mission as an AIDS activist and educator on a national level. I knew of his connection to Pedro, but we bonded over Madonna — and he was also a huge Lucille Ball fan. I still have photos of some of the gorgeous paintings he did, always attributed to ART UP, including the one above, in which his gay card is on full display.
1994 My So-Called Life: Wilson Cruz (b. 1973) played Rickie Vasquez, a character acknowledged as gay throughout the series' August 25, 1994-January 26, 1995 run. His favoring of makeup makes him an early example of a gender-questioning youth (he was playing 15 at the time), as well as of a queer POC at all, on series TV. On the “Life of Brian” episode (November 10, 1994), Rickie's crush on Corey (Adam Biesk, b. circa early '70s) is a major plotpoint — so, not only gay, but has a sex drive. Progress!
1994 Dream On: On “The Courtship of Martin's Father” (September 14, 1994), Martin's (Brian Benben) father (Paul Dooley) breaks up with his boyfriend and moves in with Martin. When the lonely dad meets Martin's book editor (Kevin McCarthy, 1914-2010), their flirtation threatens to send Martin's book in a gay direction.
1994 Living Single: This groundbreaking sitcom (August 22, 1993-January 1, 1998) followed the ups and downs of life in a circle of young, black professional women (with anchoring star Queen Latifah, b. 1970) and their male friends. In an aside on “They've Gotta Have It” (September 15, 1994), a women's seminar on breaking your dependence on men includes a male attendee. “Welcome back, ladies. And Dennis,” says the seminar leader (Melanie Chartoff, b. 1948) — wink, wink.
1994 Murphy Brown: “Brown vs. the Board of Education” (September 19, 1994) features a moment when fussy Miles (Grant Shaud) is mistaken for gay, and told gay parents are more than welcome at an exclusive pre-school.
1994 Daddy's Girls: This very short-lived sitcom (September 21-October 12, 1994) starred Dudley Moore (1935-2002) — in his second-to-last performance — as the owner of a fashion house left high and dry when his wife and his business partner run off together. Harvey Fierstein played Dennis Sinclair, one of the firm's designers, a dramatic gay man. With this performance Fierstein became the first openly gay man to appear in the role of a gay series regular on American TV.
1994 Frasier: Eventually one of NBC's most acclaimed and long-running sitcoms, Frasier (September 16, 1993—May 13, 2004) was in its infancy when it aired “The Matchmaker” (October 4, 1994), a GLAAD Award-winning episode in which Frasier (Kelsey Grammer, b. 1955) invites a man (Eric Lutes, b. 1962) home as a dating prospect for his housekeeper (Jane Leeves, b. 1961), only to inadvertently lead the man — who is gay — to believe the entire evening is a date with Frasier himself. The episode was the first produced by Joe Keenan (b. 1958), a gay writer who became the exec producer of the series, wrote for it often and won a total of five Emmys throughout the series run. Full episode here. (Image via NBC)
1994 Hearts Afire: This politics-based comedy, which ran from September 14, 1992-February 1, 1995), starred John Ritter and Markie Post (b. 1950). Its “Birth of a Donation” episode (October 22, 1994) focuses on a series regular (Billy Bob Thornton, b. 1955) becoming incensed over a friend (Charles Frank) coming out as gay.
1994 Danielle Steel's Family Album: Airing on October 23-24, 1994, this NBC miniseries contained starred Jaclyn Smith (b. 1945) as a '50s actress who marries an at-first rich, and always controlling man (Michael Ontkean, b. 1946). One of their sons (Joe Flanigan, b. 1967) comes out to them, which the mother takes well and the father rejects absolutely. After a long time, the father comes around a bit, just in time for his gay son and the son's boyfriend (Joel Gretsch, b. 1963) to get into a car crash, one in which the boyfriend perishes. The son eventually finds love again, this time with a drug-addicted actor (Paul Satterfield Jr., b. 1960). (Image via NBC)
1994 Party of Five: This FOX youth drama (September 12, 1994—May 3, 2000) offered “Something Out of Nothing” (November 7, 1994), the episode on which series regular Mitchell Anderson (b. 1961), playing Ross Werkman, comes out as gay. He appeared on a total of 20 episodes through “All's Well” (May 3, 2000). Anderson came out as gay a the 1996 GLAAD Media Awards.
1994 Friends: One of the most popular sitcoms of all time, Friends (September 22, 1994-May 6, 2004) made light of a lead character's gay-vibing traits on “The One Where Nana Dies Twice” (November 10, 1994). In this episode, people mistake Chandler (Matthew Perry, b. 1969) for being gay. Later in the series, his father will be revealed to be trans.
1994 Gargoyles: This animated series (October 24, 1994-February 15, 1997) introduced the character Lexington (Thom Adcox-Hernandez, b. 1960), a gargoyle implied to be gay. The series' creator, Greg Weisman (September 28, 1963), later confirmed they thought of Lexington as gay toward the end of the series.
1994 Roseanne: The “Skeleton in the Closet” episode (October 26, 1994) finds Roseanne attempting to prank Leon (Martin Mull), but finding out in the process that Fred (Michael O'Keefe, b. 1955) is seemingly gay. Mull is seen dressed as then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (b. 1947), a woman Roseanne Barr would — in real life — come to publicly loathe. Barr is dressed in drag as Prince (1958-2016) and Laurie Metcalf (b. 1955) is dressed in drag as Robin. At the end of the episode, it's revealed that Fred being gay was an elaborate prank. To get even, Roseanne takes pictures of him in bed with Dan (John Goodman, b. 1952). Full episode here.
1994 ER: E.R., one of the most popular medical series of all time, debuted on September 19, 1994 (and would run until April 2, 2009). Just two months later, it tackled its first LGBTQ-themed story: The “ER Confidential” episode (November 17, 1994) features Carter (Noah Wyle, b. 1971) consoling a trans patient (Vondie Curtis-Hall, b. 1950) contemplating suicide because she has aged and isn't able to pass as easily. Curtis-Hall was nominated for an Emmy for his performance. Speaking of gay, Curtis-Hall directed Mariah Carey (b. 1969) in Glitter (2001)!
1994 Beverly Hills, 90210: The “Up in Flames” episode (November 30, 1994) is about a dangerous house fire, but contains a gay element in that the party at the house had attracted an inordinate number of lesbians. Full episode here.
1995 NYPD Blue: On the “Don We Now Our Gay Apparel” episode (January 3, 1995) of the cop show, the detectives investigate the murder of a gay-bar owner who is found bound and shot, leading to plenty of jokes about bondage. The co-owner, the dead man's uncle (Charles Cioffi, b. 1935) is a suspect, as is “a lesbian girl” named Kira (Vanessa Williams, not that one, b. 1963) and a bouncer (Brian Cousins, b. 1959) who is concerned that when he gave mouth-to-mouth to the victim he may have come into contact with blood. As the episode opens, the cops gawk at “a sex change” (later referred to as a “he/she”) named Candace LaRue (Jahna Steele, 1959-2008) who does a lounge act at the bar and jokes of her messy makeup, “This puss is a felony.” Steele was making her only acting appearance, a rare instance of a trans actor playing a trans character. P.S. The murder winds up being totally unrelated to the victim's sexual identity.
1995 Empty Nest: This Golden Girls spin-off (October 8, 1988-April 29, 1995) starred Kristy McNichol (b. 1962), who came out as gay in real life in 2012 after living with her partner for almost 20 years. On the “Single White Male” (January 7, 1995) episode, Charlie (David Leisure, b. 1950) invites a “great-looking” buddy (Douglas Sills, b.1960) to move in with him, thinking he'll get the guy's sexy leftovers — before finding out the man is gay. This, of course, ends up in a gay bar, where Charlie grabs someone who he thinks is a woman and demands a kiss to send his buddy the message that he isn't interested. The woman turns out to be a drag queen — but they do kiss. “I slow-danced with a transvestite — and he wasn't a bad kisser,” Charlie later admits, but that doesn't stop him from taking a shower with a baseball bat and asking his friend to move out before coming to his senses when a date (Rebeccah Bush, b. 1968) says, “All the great guys are either married or fags.”
1995 Muscle: This short-lived The WB series (January 11, 1995-May 24, 1995) was set in an NYC gym. TV news anchor Bronwyn Jones (Amy Pietz, b. 1969), a series regular, is a closeted lesbian. On the imaginatively titled “Episode Five,” (February 1, 1995), Bronwyn is facing an outing threat, so comes out as a lesbian live on the air. In a twist, her employers use it as a sleazy promo gimmick.
1995 Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story: NBC aired this TV movie starring Glenn Close (b. 1947) as the real-life lesbian colonel almost expelled from her post due to the U.S. military's anti-gay policies, but who won the right to continue serving until she retired in 1997. Judy Davis (b. 1955) played her partner, Diane Divelbess. The film won three Emmys — Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries or a Special and both Outstanding Lead and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Special
1995 Seinfeld: On “The Beard” (February 9, 1995), Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) agrees to beard for a friend of a friend (Robert Mailhouse, b. 1962) who's unbelievably gorgeous “so of course he's gay,” going on phony dates to impress the man's supposedly conservative boss (Edward Winter, 1937-2001) and his wife (Georgann Johnson, b. 1926). Elaine develops a crush on the guy, deciding to “convert him.” Her gambit works — initially — and she is flush with triumph, exclaiming, “I turned him! He defected! 'Cause I'm a woman — ba-ba-boom chicka boom chicka boom-boom-boom.” Expecting “nothing but sex and shopping,” she's soon disappointed when he goes back to being gay. The episode also plays with the concept of masculinity in a subplot in which Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) won't admit he loves watching Melrose Place. Full episode here. (Image via NBC)
1995 Blossom: On the “It Happened One Night” episode (February 13, 1995), Nick (Ted Wass, b. 1950) asks Blossom (Mayim Bialik) to go on a date with his friend's son (Charlie Heath, b. circa late '70s), later finding out the boy is gay. The two have a lot in common, Blossom says, as in, “We both like guys!” Meanwhile, Joey (Joey Lawrence) makes a comment about finding girls in men's clothing cute ... just not k.d. lang (b. 1961): “I mean, she's okay and everything, but God, I wouldn't call her cute.”
1995 Chicago Hope: This medical series ran from September 18, 1994-May 4, 2000 on CBS. On the March 13, 1995, “Informed Consent” ep, Dr. Kronk (Peter Berg, b. 1964) is shocked to discover his new GF Annie (Mia Sara, b. 1967), is not the sister of his childhood buddy Andy, but is trans and is his childhood friend Andy. Full episode here.
1995 NYPD Blue: Starting with the March 21, 1995, “Dirty Socks” episode, Bill Brochtrup (b. 1963) played openly gay temp John Irvin. He appeared on the show regularly until the March 1, 2005, “Moving Day” episode. Full episode here.
1995: Beverly Hills, 90210: On “Girls on the Side” (May 3, 1995), Kelly (Jennie Garth) finds out that Alison (Sara Melson, b. circa 1970s) has romantic feelings for her.
1995: Beverly Hills, 90210: “P.S. I Love You: Parts 1 & 2” (May 24, 1995) finds rumors swirling about Kelly (Jennie Garth) and Alison (Sara Melson), the latter of whom has already admitted she has feelings for the former. In the same two-episode arc, Steve (Ian Ziering) hunts for the perfect girl, finding her in the form of the too-on-the-money-named Elle (Monika Schnarre, b. 1971). It turns out Elle is trans, and still has male genitalia. The discovery is most unwelcome in a way that's played strictly for laughs.
1995 Law & Order: The “Pride” ep (May 24, 1995) features a murdered gay congressman (Richard Bekins, b. 1954), with suspects including his gay roomie (Mitchell Lichtenstein, b. 1956), a married man he may have been boinking (Robert Joy, b. 1951), a rival congressman (Daniel Hugh Kelly, b. 1952) who is outspokenly homophobic but claims to have been a good pal to the victim in private, and a hustler (John Cameron Mitchell, b. 1963). This episode was based loosely on the murders of gay icon Harvey Milk (1930-1978) and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone (1929-1978).
1995 The Outer Limits: On this supernatural reboot (March 26, 1995-January 18, 2002), the “Caught in the Act” (July 1, 1995) episode stars Alyssa Milano (b. 1972), a virginal co-ed whose body hosts an alien, causing her to do out-of-character things, including having lesbian sex.
1995 The Larry Sanders Show: This sitcom (August 15, 1992-May 31, 1998) about a fictional late-night talk show starred Garry Shandling (1949-2016) as the nutty titular host. From July 26, 1995, through the end of the show's run, out actor Scott Thompson (b. 1959) played Brian, Larry's gay assistant.
1996 Live Shot: UPN tried this drama set at fictional TV station KXZX from August 29, 1995-January 9, 1996. Tom Byrd (b. 1960) played Lou Waller, the station's gay sports announcer.
1995 The Crew: Openly gay producer/writer Marc Cherry (b. 1962) co-created this FOX sitcom (August 31, 1995-June 30, 1996) about a group of flight attendants, one of whom (David Burke, b. 1967) is gay. In the pilot, he gets into a war of words with a nemesis (Christine Estabrook, b. 1952), who calls him “heterosexually challenged” before taunting him that gay humor is “so witty, so biting, so ... illegal in 37 states.” He also mentions he knew he was gay by age 7. (Image via FOX)
1995 Courthouse: This CBS drama (September 13-November 15, 1995) starred Patricia Wettig b. 1951) as a tough-as-nails judge. It featured Jenifer Lewis (b. 1957) as Judge Rosetta Reide and Cree Summer (b. 1969) as her housekeeper and lover, the first recurring black lesbian characters on TV. Their portrayal was reportedly toned down at the request of network execs.
1995 Murder One: This ABC legal drama ran from September 19, 1995-May 29, 1997. Controversial queer artist John Fleck (b. 1951) played out character Louis Hines on 31 episodes, including the first and last.
1995 The Pursuit of Happiness: Sitcom (September 19-November 14, 1995) about a lawyer (Tom Amandes, b. 1959) going through a midlife crisis. Series regular Brad Garrett (b. 1960) played the lead's astereotypical gay friend/office mate. (Image via NBC)
1995 Caroline in the City: Running from September 21, 1995-April 26, 1999, this light, romantic sitcom starred Lea Thompson (b. 1961) as a cartoonist and Malcolm Gets (b. 1964) as her colorist, who eventually falls for her. On “Caroline and the Gay Art Show” (October 5, 1995), hijinks ensue when Gets's character accidentally becomes part of an art show for gay people. In real life, Gets is gay, and came out publicly as the series came to an end.
1995 Friends: On “The One with Phoebe's Husband” (October 12, 1995) a gay man (Steve Zahn, b. 1967) Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) married so he could get a green card returns, wanting a divorce. He wants the divorce so he can be with a woman ... he's not gay after all!
1995 Fallen Angels: This noir-themed anthology series aired on Showtime from August 1, 1993-December 1995. One of its final episodes, “The Professional Man” (October 15, 1995) — directed by Steven Soderbergh (b. 1963) — features a young guy named Johnny Lamb (Brendan Fraser, b. 1968) who works for a maniacal gay gangster (Peter Coyote, b. 1941) and is having an intense affair with a bartender (Bruce Ramsay, b. 1966). Desiring to be the center of attention, the gangster orders Johnny to bump off his lover.
1995 Highlander: The Series: This syndicated sci-fi series fronted by Adrian Paul (b. 1959) offered “Leader of the Pack” (October 16, 1995), on which two Immortals (including one played by Louis Ferreira, b. 1966) are depicted, subtly, as gay lovers.
1995 High Society: This rip-off of the UK's Absolutely Fabulous (November 12, 1992-November 7, 1996; August 31, 2001-December 25, 2004; December 25, 2011-July 23, 2012; feature film 2016) starred Mary McDonnell (b. 1952) and Jean Smart (b. 1951) as drunk-ish jet-setters. Luigi Amodeo (b. circa 1970s) appeared as gay secretary Stephano. The series lasted from October 30, 1995-February 26, 1996.
1995 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: This Star Trek incarnation (January 3, 1993-June 2, 1999) spawned “Rejoined” (October 30, 1995), an episode on which Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell, b. 1963) and Lenara Kahn (Susanna Thompson, b. 1958) share a lesbian kiss. The gimmick was that the real taboo involved Dax, a Trill symbiont, hooking up with the ex-wife of one of her (its?) former hosts. But no matter how you slice it, it was a same-sex kiss, among U.S. TV's first. It was a highly rated episode that was mostly well-received by fans, but controversial for its time.
1995 The Nanny: This broadly funny sitcom (November 3, 1993-June 23, 1999) starred Fran Drescher (b. 1957) as a brassy, sassy nanny from Flushing, Queens, hired to watch over a group of rich kids (Nicholle Tom, b. 1978; Benjamin Salisbury, b. 1980; Madeline Zima, b. 1985) by a dashing theatrical producer (Charles Shaughnessy, b. 1955). She is forever competing for his affections with his business partner, ice maiden C.C. Babcock (Lauren Lane, b. 1961). On the October 23, 1995, “Oy Vey, You're Gay” ep, the women are united in their jealousy of a sexy PR expert their boss hires (Catherine Oxenberg, b. 1961) — until learning she's a lesbian. (Image via CBS)
1995 The Single Guy: This NBC sitcom starring Jonathan Silverman (b. 1966) as Jonathan Eliot ran from September 21, 1995-April 14, 1995, benefiting from plum placement in the network's Must-See TV lineup. It never achieved satisfactory ratings in light of that prime positioning. On “Neighbors” (November 2, 1995), Jonathan's apartment is undergoing repairs, so he moves in with his gay neighbors, Jeff (Mark Harelik, b. 1951) and Mike (Michael Winters).
1995 Homicide: Life on the Street: This police procedural (January 31, 1993-May 21, 1999) followed a Baltimore police squad. On the November 17, 1995, “Hate Crimes” ep, directed by Peter Weller (b. 1947), Nazis kill a gay man (Brett Hamilton, b. circa early '70s) in a gay neighborhood. Full episode here.
1995 The Price of Love: A hustler flick that starred a young (but not that young) Peter Facinelli (b. 1973) as Brett, a 16-year-old runaway who flees to L.A. and turns tricks with guys to survive. His girlfriend, Roxanne (Laurel Holloman, b. 1971), also homeless, strongly disapproves of how he makes his money. A friend, Beau (Jay R. Ferguson, b. 1974), is also hustling, but is legit gay. At one point, Brett is lured to the set of a gay porn flick and berated for resisting the job offer. This FOX Tuesday Night Movie aired November 28, 1995. Partial movie here.
1995 In the House: This sitcom (April 10, 1995-August 11, 1999) starred LL Cool J (b. 1968), who in real life has long been the subject of gay rumors. On “Boyz II Men II Women” (December 4, 1995), RuPaul (b. 1960) plays a friend of his who is now a drag queen. “Can I ask you a question man to — well, can I ask you a question?” LL Cool J says at one point, indicative of the level of maturity on this episode. At the very end, LL's character is worried that little Austin (Jeffery Wood, b. 1986) is too into his glittery Thanksgiving costume, causing Debbie Allen (b. 1950) to say, “Why? He's a yam, not a sweet potato,” and snap her fingers with a swish.
1995 Grace Under Fire: This woman-driven sitcom starred stand-up comic Brett Butler (b. 1958) and ran from September 29, 1993-February 17, 1998. “Emmet's Secret” (December 6, 1995) finds Grace (Butler) and Rick (Alan Autry, b. 1952) ending up in a gay bar, where they are shocked to spot her former father-in-law Emmet (Matt Clark, b. 1936), who had been closeted.
1995 Picket Fences: The “Witness for the Prosecution” episode (December 8, 1995) improbably involves the shooting death of a gay man during a papal parade in Wisconsin — leading to the Pope (Eugene Greytak, 1925-2010) being summoned as a witness. A man claiming to have been the deceased's lover is played by Geoffrey Nauffts (b. 1961), who in 2008 wrote the acclaimed gay-themed Broadway play Next Fall.
1995 Roseanne: On “December Bride” (December 12, 1995), Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) becomes an unlikely wedding planner for Leon (Martin Mull) and his lover Scott (Fred Willard, b. 1939). Full episode here.
1995 The John Larroquette Show: On “An Odd Cup of Tea” (December 19, 1995), Officer Hampton (Lenny Clarke, b. 1953) receives flowers from a secret admirer — and is panicky that they may well be from a dude. Full episode here.
1995 Grace Under Fire: On the “Emmet, We Hardly Knew Ye” (December 20, 1995) episode, the character of Emmet (Matt Clark) — who had just been revealed to be gay only two weeks earlier — dies. At the funeral, his secret lover (Michael Winters, b. 1958) sounds off about their undying love.
1995 Diagnosis Murder: With this mystery for old-timers, the legendary Dick Van Dyke (b. 1925) enjoyed the longest-running TV series of his career (October 29, 1993-May 11, 2001). The “All American Murder” (December 22, 1995) ep features a murdered woman (Kristen Dalton, b. 1966) who turns out to have been trans, and who was booted out of the military for being gay when she still presented as male. Van Dyke's character — during the woman's autopsy — says, “You are looking at a miracle of modern medicine. It's a complete, perfectly constructed trassexual.” When he offers to tell his staffers all the procedures “she'd” had done, one (Barry Van Dyke, b. 1951) barks “spare me” and the other (Victoria Rowell, b. 1959) snipes, “You mean he.” The revelation is treated in a very jokey manner. Another surgeon asks, “She used to be a guy, right?” The case at first seems to hinge on the victim dating fellow Marines who didn't know she was trans, but it turns out she was murdered by the woman she left behind (Rebecca Cross, b. circa 1970) when she had SRS. Full episode here.
1996 Matt Waters: From January 3-February 7, 1996, CBS tried this mid-season replacement (January 3-February 7, 1996) starring Montel Williams (b. 1956) that featured Felix A. Pire (b. 1971) as Russ Achoa, a gay high schooler.
1996 Mad About You: This popular comedy (September 23, 1992-May 24, 1999) was about the married life of average NYC apartment-dwellers Paul (Paul Reiser, b. 1957) and Jamie (b. 1963). On the January 7, 1996, “Ovulation Day” episode, Paul's sister (Robin Bartlett, b. 1951) comes out as a lesbian. She introduces her gynecologist girlfriend (Suzie Plakson, b. 1958) to her brother.
1996 Murder One: The “Chapter Nine” episode (January 8, 1996) finds Daniel Benzali's (b. 1950) character defending a closeted prof (Richard Schiff, b. 1955) caught with a hustler in a library john, but the man commits suicide rather than tell his wife.
1996 Wings: The January 16, 1996, “Sons and Lovers” episode concerns Roy's (David Schramm) estranged gay son (Abraham Benrubi) showing up on his dad's birthday to make up ... and to introduce his father to his boyfriend (Tim Bagley, b. 1957). Full episode here.
1996 Friends: As seems to have often been the case, it took a very vanilla, massively successful show to have the might to show TV's first-ever gay wedding. In the hilarious and beautifully organic “The One with the Lesbian Wedding” episode (January 18, 1996), the ex-wife (Jane Sibbett, b. 1962) of Ross (David Schwimmer, b. 1966) weds her lady love (Jessica Hecht, b. 1965) in front of an intimate group of supportive family and friends — years before gay marriage was legal anywhere in the U.S. The ceremony is officiated by Candace Gingrich, b. 1966), the real-life non-binary (then lesbian) half-sibling of right-wing politician Newt Gingrich (b. 1943), and lesbian comic Lea Delaria (b. 1958) attempts to pick up a clueless Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow).
1996 Chicago Hope: On “Right to Life” (January 22, 1996), Kronk (Peter Berg) treats an HIV-positive drag queen Cherchez LaFemme (Giancarlo Esposito, b. 1958) for AIDS. He's homo- and/or transphobic, while Cherchez and her girlfriend Missy (Jazzmun) take great pleasure in hitting on him to make him squirm. Kronk is touched when his patient's mom (Louisa Abernathy, b. 1949) shows up and has nothing but support for her sick child. Full episode here.
1996 Tracey Takes On ... : Sketch comedy series (January 24, 1996-March 17, 1999) starring comic Tracey Ullman (b, 1959) that aired on HBO. The “Romance” ep (January 24, 1996) features Tracey as the GF of a closeted pro golfer (Julie Kavner, b. 1950).
1996 Chicago Hope: “Women on the Verge” (February 12, 1996) finds Annie (Mia Sara), who is trans, committing suicide when a medical issue means she won't be able to use hormones any more. One doctor (Jamey Sheridan, b. 1951) laughs full in the trans woman's face when she first explains that she had SRS. Full episode here.
1996 Ned and Stacey: This sitcom (September 11, 1995-January 27, 1997) starred Thomas Haden Church (b. 1960) as Ned and Debra Messing (b. 1968) as Stacey, a couple. On “The Gay Caballeros” (February 19, 1996), Ned feigns homosexuality to ingratiate himself to gay designer Brent Barrow (Stephen Kearney, b. circa early '60s), a client.
1996 Ellen: Stand-up comedian Ellen Degeneres starred on this middling sitcom (original title: These Friends of Mine) from March 29, 1994-July 22, 1998). It would go on to contain the single most important moment in LGBTQ TV history when the series star and the character she played came out as a lesbian, but back in 1996, it was baby steps for the Ellens. Still, gay characters Barrett (Jack Plotnick, b. 1968) and Peter (Patrick Bristow, b. 1962) exchange commitment rings on the February 28, 1996, “Two Ring Circus” episode. Both actors were and are gay in real life as well. Full episode here.
1996 Living Single: The “Woman to Woman” ep (March 21, 1996) finds Max (Erika Alexander, b. 1969) freaked out that her old college roomie (Karen Malina White, b. 1965) is marrying a woman (Tanika Ray, b. 1972) — and used to have a crush on her.
1996 Law & Order: The “Deceit” episode (March 27, 1996) focuses on a gay lawyer who is fired for his sexual orientation and then murdered to protect another lawyer's (Peter Riegert, b. 1947) own gay secret. His ex-BF (Robert Sella, b. circa mid-'60s) and the other lawyer's delusional wife (Mary Beth Hurt, b. 1948) are also suspects.
1996 Nash Bridges: This cop show (March 29, 1996-May 4, 2001) starred Don Johnson (b. 1949). On “The Javelin Catcher” (April 19, 1996) — yes, it was called that — two separate crimes Bridges is tracking become one when an illegally purchased anti-tank gun is tracked to a gangster (Martin Ferrero, b. 1947) who is attacking trans hustlers. Inspector Cortez (Jaime Gomez, b. 1965) goes undercover in drag to nab the bad guy, and returns home to his girlfriend (Lisa Caye Smith, b. circa early '70s) before changing — only to discover she's into it. The ep features RuPaul as a helpful advocate who, in a meeting with the cops, corrects the phrase “transvestite prostitutes” by offering “transgender sex workers”; Lt. A.J. Shimamura (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, b. 1950) is very receptive to the correction. Also worth noting is that RuPaul's character uses the men's room.
1996 3rd Rock from the Sun: This broad comedy about four aliens on Earth (January 9, 1996-May 22, 2001) offered “I Enjoy Being Dick” (April 21, 1996), an episode on which the titular Dick (John Lithgow, b. 1945) dons drag to infiltrate a group for women only.
1996 Picket Fences: The April 24, 1996, ep entitled “Bye-Bye, Bey-Bey” took on themes of surrogacy, gay parenting and gay bashing as the mayor (Marlee Matlin, b. 1965) has a baby for her gay brother (Lenny von Dohlen, b. 1958) and his partner (Bill Brochtrup), leading to the mayor's mother (Louise Fletcher, b. 1934) suing for custody and to the couple being assaulted. In the end, the gay dads emerge victorious. Full episode here.
1996 Chicago Hope: The April 26, 1996, episode “The Parent Rap” tackles the issue of a baby born with ambiguous genitalia. The parents (Paul McCrane, b. 1961; Cynthia Lynch, b. 1971) decide to make their intersex baby present as female because surgery to make the baby present as male is too risky.
1996 Cybill: Fronted by movie and TV actress Cybill Shepherd (b. 1950), this sitcom (January 2, 1996-July 13, 1998) was about an actress of a certain age who was still out there looking for her big break. Or even a couple of little ones. On “Three Women and a Dummy” (May 13, 1996), Cybill hangs out with a gay waiter (Tim Maculan, b. 1963), watching Mommie Dearest (1981) with him, which even he admits is a cliché. When he has “a Holly Hunter moment” over a boyfriend who dumped him, Cybill convinces him to attend his ex's (Roger Nehls, b. 1963) party, where he rebuffs the advances of a cute dude (Brian Little, b. circa 1970) due to his broken heart. The episode also features Michael Feinstein (b. 1956), the openly gay pianist. Full episode here.
1996 The John Larroquette Show: The “Happy Endings” (May 21, 1996) episode features the coming out of Officer Adam Hampton (Lenny Clarke). Full episode here.
1996: The Real World: Miami: Season 5 (July 10-December 4, 1996) of the MTV reality series boasted wannabe model Dan Renzi (b. 1974), who was openly gay and a Rutgers student. Depicted as at first dating a closeted married man, Renzi also dated Johnny Diaz (b. 1973), later a reporter and successful novelist — and a guy who was once, bizarrely, mistaken for spree killer Andrew Cunan. Diaz recalls some experiences from the show here.
1996 Arliss: This sitcom about a sports agent (August 10, 1996-September 8, 2002) featured a debut episode entitled “A Man of Our Times” (August 10, 1996) on which Arliss (Robert Wuhl, b. 1951) has a male figure skater client who's getting married to a man.
1996 Boston Common: This sitcom (March 21, 1996-April 27, 1997) starred Anthony Clark (b. 1964) as a man who drops his sister off at college and decides to stay. The “Autumn 'Foilage'” (August 18, 1996) ep finds regular character Leonard (Steve Paymer, b. 1951) getting hot for a woman at an impound lot — who turns out to be a dude (John Fleck). Clark in real life was later outed in a tabloid, which asserted he was contractually forbidden from being openly gay while on a later series.
1996 Turning Point: A news program (March 19, 1995-June 17, 1999) focusing on a single topic ,starring Diane Sawyer, b. 1945) and several other A-list reporters. On September 1, 1996, the series aired “For Better or Worse: Same-Sex Marriage,” a report detailing the ups and downs of four gay couple seeking to be wed in commitment ceremonies. The ep features an Episcopalian priest helping to plan a same-sex union.
1996 Lush Life: From September 9-30, FOX tried out this sitcom about wildly mismatched rommates (Karyn Parsons, b. 1966; Lori Petty, b. 1963) sharing a studio apartment. John Ortiz (b. 1968) played outrageously gay Nelson “Margarita” Marquez. Full sample episode here. (Image via FOX)
1996 Party Girl: Airing September 9-30, 1996, this FOX sitcom based on the 1995 indie-film hit of the same title starred Christine Taylor (b. 1971) as a clubkid who goes to work for her auntie (Swoosie Kurtz) in a libary. I mean ... library. John Cameron Mitchell played her gay bestie Derrick. Full sample episode here.
1996 Spin City: This successful sitcom was a vehicle for Michael J. Fox (b. 1961), who remained on the show until 2000, when he left to deal with his Parkinson's disease. There from the first episode until the last (September 17, 1996-April 30, 2002) was Michael Boatman (b. 1964), who played head of minority affairs Carter Heywood, a gay man who was not a stereotype, not closeted or neurotic, and not white.
1996 Profiler: Ally Walker (b. 1961) starred as a criminal profiler on this NBC drama. Peter Frechette played George Fraley, a gay man, throughout the show's September 21, 1996-July 1, 2000 run, though his sexuality was established but rarely referenced.
1996 Silk Stalkings: This crime drama (November 7, 1991-April 18, 1999) on CBS was a precursor to modern sex-crimes cop shows. The September 22, 1996, “Compulsion” episode stars Christopher Atkins (b. 1961) as an unremorseful, fortune-hunting killer of a gay male couple.
1996 Relativity: This ABC series aired from September 24, 1996-April 14, 1997. A total of 17 episodes ran before it was canceled. It starred Kimberly Williams (b. 1971) and David Conrad (b. 1967) as the central couple in a drama about family that included Lisa Edelstein (b. 1966) as Conrad's character's lesbian sis. Toward the end of the run, she found herself a girlfriend (b. 1970).
1996 Murphy Brown: The September 30, 1996, “A Comedy of Eros” plays up the humorous angle of very hetero Frank's (Joe Regalbuto, b. 1949) autobiographical play being turned into a gay love story for the stage when flamboyant director George (Joel Brooks, b. 1949) decides to play the character of Frank's lost love. One exchange in the play (we never see the action on the stage): “Did I ... hurt you?” “Frank, you are an animal.” Full episode here.
1996 Moesha: A UPN sitcom (January 23, 1996-May 14, 2001) starring R&B singer Brandy Norwood (b. 1979). On October 1, 1996, the series aired “Labels,” an ep in which Moesha outs Hakeem's (Lamont Bentley, 1973-2005 ) cousin (Chris Lobban, b. 1976) in a gossipy way at school, not realizing the repercussions of her loose lips.
1996 Frasier: On the October 15, 1996, “The Impossible Dream” episode, Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) panics over his sexuality due to a recurring dream in which he wakes up in a hotel bed with his co-worker Gil Chesteron (out gay actor Edward Hibbert, b. 1955). Full episode here.
1996 NYPD Blue: The “Moby Greg” episode (October 15, 1996) introduces Paige Turco (b. 1965) as Officer Abby Sullivan, who is pursued romantically by Det. Greg Medavoy (Gordon Clapp, b. 1948) only to inform him she is a lesbian. From then through the “Three Girls and a Baby” (October 14, 1997) episode, Abby is presented as a lesbian with a long-term partner, Kathy (Lisa Darr, b. 1963). On “Bad Rap” (April 29, 1997), Abby tells Greg she and her partner want his sperm so they can conceive, which he agrees to. On her final appearance, Abby has survived a home invasion that leaves Kathy dead (a murder for which Abby is briefly considered a suspect) and leaves Abby a pregnant single-mom-to-be. Full “Moby Greg” episode here.
1996 Millennium: This sci-fi series aired from October 25, 1996-May 21, 1999, The October 26, 1996, pilot episode featured main character Frank Black (Lance Henriksen, b. 1940) coming out of retirement to help when the FBI is desperately seeking a serial killer going after gay men cruising a park and (female) strippers.
1996 Public Morals: This disastrous Steven Bochco (b. 1943)/Jay Tarses (b. 1939) sitcom was based in a vice squad unit. It lasted exactly one episode, which aired on October 30, 1996. Bill Brochtrup played John Irvin, a gay man.
1996 The Pretender: This gritty NBC action series (September 19, 1996-May 13, 2000) starred impossibly handsome Michael T. Weiss (b. 1962) as Jarod, a man with an uncanny ability master skills. He poses as a different person each episode as he seeks info on how he came to be. The episode entitled “The Paper Clock” (November 2, 1996) features Jarod seeking to help a trans cabbie (Gerry McIntyre, b. 1962) who killed while defending herself. She tells him, “Listen, I know you don't know me, and I'll admit I'm a little different, but if you don't help me, they're gonna put me away faster than you can say Chanel no. 5.” Full episode here.
1996 3rd Rock from the Sun: On “World's Greatest Dick” (November 10, 1996), alien Sally (Kristen Johnston, b. 1967) has a gay male dance partner/BF (Burke Moses, b. 1959) ... who thinks she is a man in drag. The fact that she leads when they dance — in a gay bar — has something to do with it. Full episode here.
1996 Caroline in the City: The “Caroline and Victor/Victoria” episode (November 19, 1996) finds Annie (Amy Pietz) donning male drag — after extensive research — for a Victor/Victoria (1995 play) audition after kidnapping an (unseen) Julie Andrews (b. 1935). Pietz does a mean Julie impersonation and has a funny Carol Channing (b. 1921) joke up her sleeve! Full episode here.
1996 New York Undercover: This cop series (September 8, 1994-June 25, 1998) aired on FOX and focused on gang-related and other violent crimes. On “Without Mercy” (November 21, 1996), a woman (name of actress?) is poisoning AIDS patients to put them out of the misery she says her daughter endured.
1996 Roseanne: In a bizarre twist, the “Home Is Where the Afghan Is” episode (November 26, 1996) asks us to believe that Roseanne's prissy mom Bev (Estelle Parsons b. 1927), has always been a lesbian when she comes out to the family. A week later, on “Mothers and Other Strangers” (December 3, 1996), Bev talks with her mother (Shelley Winters, 1920-2006) to find out the truth about her father. Full episode here.
1996 The Larry Sanders Show: On the “Ellen, or Isn't She?” episode (December 11, 1996) featuring Ellen DeGeneres (b. 1958), Larry (Garry Shandling) is supposed to try to get Ellen to come out as gay on his show — but he's not even sure if she's really gay. Full episode here.
1996 Touched by an Angel: This Christian series (September 21, 1994-April 27, 2003) starred Roma Downey (b. 1960) and Della Reese (1931-2017) as angels meant to help mere mortals with their struggles in life. The episode entitled “The Violin Lesson” (December 22, 1996) features out gay actor Lawrence Monoson (b. 1964) as a young gay man dying of AIDS who comes home to try to reconcile with his anti-gay dad (Peter Michael Goetz, b. 1941). Part of what the angels try to do is teach the dying man that his dad's bigotry is not God's doing. Full episode here.
1997 The Nanny: On the Season 4 ep “Danny's Dead and Who's Got the Will?” (January 8, 1997), Fran (Fran Drescher) goes on a date with a gay man (Todd Graff, b. 1959) she meets at her ex-husband Danny's (Jonathan Penner, b. 1962) funeral He's a Jewish doctor, so her mother Sylvia (Renée Taylor, b. 1933) just wants to know, “Are you seeing him again?” Full episode here.
1997 Ned & Stacey: On “Saved By the Belvedere” (January 20, 1997), an episode-ending gag has Ned (Thomas Haden Church) becoming the object of a co-worker's (Andrew Craig, no info) affection. The man, a bear, leaves him progressively raunchy messages on his answering machine, the final one announcing he is waiting in Ned's bedroom with a thong. Ned casually removes a gun from his jacket as the credits roll, a turn of events that earned a complaint from GLAAD — and led the show's network, FOX, to apologize. Full episode here.
1997 Coach: The “A Boy and His Doll” ep (January 22, 1997) features Howard (Kenneth Kimmins, b. 1941) and Shirley (Georgia Engel, b. 1948) giving baby Tim (actor's name?) a doll called a Princess Tiffany Coronation Doll, causing Luther (Jerry Van Dyke, b. 1931) discomfort; he feels boys should have more macho toys. Hayden (Craig T. Nelson) has no problem with his infant son receiving a doll, saying, “When I take Tim to the park, I see little girls playing with trucks, I see little boys playing with dolls. It takes some getting used to, but I figure, why make a big deal out of it? It's just gonna mess 'em up later.” Full episode here.
1997 The Naked Truth: This Téa Leoni (b. 1966) vehicle (September 13, 1995-May 25, 1998) about a tabloid photographer offered “Woman Gets Plastered, Star Gets Even” (January 23, 1997), an episode in which co-workers (Jonathan Penner, b. 1962; Mark Roberts, b. 1961) pretend to be gay, but can't seal the deal when they're challenged to make out. Full episode here.
1997 Silk Stalkings: The February 2, 1997, “Pumped Up” ep is about a woman (Belinda Waymouth, b. circa 1960s) faking lesbianism in order to seduce and kill the nymphomanical bisexual (Ashlyn Gere, b. 1959) — “The only thing she turned down was roadkill.” — set to marry her rich dad (Patrick Wayne, b. 1939), effectively cutting her out of the family fortune. She winds up digging the sex. The sleazy show also includes a gross scene in which Det. Sgt. Tom Ryan's (Chris Potter, b. 1960) retired dad (Nicolas Coster, b. 1933) relates a story about a male friend who valiantly performed lifesaving mouth-to-mouth on a woman passed out from a fire: “This broad's wig falls off, and there's a crewcut underneath it! ... And to make matters worse, every year he gets a Christmas card from the guy, with his picture on it, no less.” Ryan and his partner (Janet Gunn, b. 1961) laugh in a cruel, forced way at the degrading tale. Full episode here.
1997 ER: On the “Whose Appy Now?” (February 6, 1997) episode, Dr. Maggie Doyle (Jorja Fox, b. 1968) casually mentions she is a lesbian in a comedic scene. The character debuted on October 10, 1996, and last appeared on a March 25, 1999, episode. In later episodes, she sues over sexual harassment by Dr. Romano (Paul McCrane, b. 1961), but her sexual orientation is otherwise not deeply explored.
1997 The Simpsons: On “Homer's Phobia” (February 16, 1997), Homer (Dan Castellaneta) befriends John (out filmmaker John Waters, b. 1946), the owner of a collectibles shop called Cockamamie's, only to flip out when realizing John's gay. Homer's beef? He doesn't want John's queerness to rub off on Bart (Nancy Cartwright, b. 1957), so he encourages Bart to do macho stuff, like hunting. In the end, Homer accepts John — and Bart, who is totally confused by his father's odd behavior. The episode was originally centered on Lisa (Yeardley Smith, b. 1964) becoming enamored with campy things, then was pitched with the concept “Bart the homo.” The two notions were combined. In the end, the FOX censors deemed the use of the word “gay” and the entire subject matter to be unsuitable for broadcast, an issue only resolved when FOX's president (and the censors) were replaced. After that, the note back from the new censors was “suitable for broadcast.” The only change from the original script was that Homer no longer referred to John as a “fag,” but as “queer.”
19997 Wings: On “Escape from New York” (February 19, 1997), Helen (Crystal Bernard, b. 1961) pretends to be a drag queen named Helena Handbasket to win the prize money in a drag contest. Full episode here.
1997 Malcolm & Eddie: Starring Malcolm Jamal Warner (b. 1970) and Eddie Griffin (b. 1968) as bar owners, this series on UPN aired from August 26, 1996-May 22, 2000. The February 24, 1997, “The Commercial” episode involves the men trying to create a commercial for their bar that will attract as many people as possible, but they accidentally made their establishment sound gay, leading to a boom in gay customers. Hiring Tim (Jaime Cardriche, 1968-2000) to perform in drag, they soon realize their stereotypical views of gay people are so far off that they're driving away all their new business. Tim tries to use his drag to repel the advances of Danielle (Kellita Smith, b. 1969) ... but she's into it.
1997 Roseanne: The March 4, 1997, “Roseanne-feld” episode find Bev (Estelle Parsons) introducing her female lover Joyce (Ruta Lee, b. 1935) to Leon (Martin Mull) and Scott (Fred Willard). Full episode here.
1997 The Drew Carey Show: Based on the stand-up act of series star Drew Carey (b. 1958), this long-running sitcom (September 13, 1995—September 8, 2004) features a March 5, 1997, episode entitled “Man's Best Same Sex Companion.” In it, Drew uses the name of his dog as his domestic partner while fraudulently filling out an insurance claim. Called on his lie, he's forced to pretend his BFF (Diedrich Bader, b. 1966) is his BF. Full episode here.
1997 Early Edition: This Chicago-based supernatural drama (September 18, 1996—May 27, 2000) was about a man, Gary Hobson (Kyle Chandler, b. 1965), who receives copies of the Chicago Sun-Times the day before it's published, affording him the opportunity to stop tragedies. On The March 8, 1997, episode, “The Jury,” Chuck (Fisher Stevens, b. 1963) pretends to be Gary's mincing lover in order to sneak him off a sequestered jury so he can work on keeping an innocent man from being convicted. The act involves Chuck singing “YMCA” in the shower, for some reason. The enraged judge (Kevin McCarthy), in a clear swipe at his perceived sexuality, tells Gary, “Get help. You need it.” Full episode here.
1997 Temporarily Yours: This aptly named series (it lasted only six episodes, March 5-April 9, 1997) was created by out producer/writer/director Michael Patrick King (b. 1954) and starred Debi Mazar (b. 1964) and Joanna Gleason (b. 1950). The “Temp-tation” ep (March 12, 1997) is about Deb swearing off men, then becoming attracted to a romance novelist (John O'Hurley, b. 1954) for whom she's working — only to find out he likes dudes.
1997 Living Single: The “Swing Out Sisters” episode (March 20, 1997) finds the ladies turning up in a gay bar. Max (Erika Alexander) is mistaken for a trans woman. Full episode here.
1997 The Twilight of the Golds: Adapted from the high-concept play by Jonathan Tolins (b. 1966), this family drama is about a young mom-to-be (Jennifer Beals, b. 1963) who discovers, through genetic testing, that her son will be born gay. Her husband (Jon Tenney, b. 1961) wants her to abort the baby, and her gay brother, David (Brendan Fraser) is incensed that she would even consider it. Their conservative parents (Garry Marshall, 1934-2016; Faye Dunaway, b. 1941) have never accepted David, let alone would they welcome a gay grandson. Out director John Schlesinger appears in the film, as does then-closeted Rosie O'Donnell (b. 1962). In the TV version, aired March 23, 1997, on Showtime, the woman keeps her baby but gets a divorce. In the play, she has an abortion that renders her barren. Worth noting: The play's West End run included Jason Gould (b. 1966), the son of Barbra Streisand (b. 1942) as David. Also worth noting, the playwright, Tolins, later wrote the show Buyer & Cellar (2013), a one-man show about a gay actor hired to curate the basement shops that are said to exist underneath's Streisand's Malibu home. Golds receive negative reviews. Full movie here.
1997 Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: This western series set in the 1860s and 1870s starred Jane Seymour (b. 1951) as the titular character, Dr. Mike. The April 5, 1997, “The Body Electric” episode features the small town welcoming famed poet Walt Whitman (Donald Moffat, b. 1930) — then becoming disenchanted once rumors swirl that he is whatever they called gay back then. His poetry reading is canceled, there is suspicion when he takes a teenage boy (Shawn Toovey, b. 1983) under his wing, and his lover Peter Doyle (Steven Culp, b. 1955) must stay in a spare room at the clinic. He winds up giving a poety reading outdoors — with only a few open-minded souls in attendance. Full episode here.
1997 Fired Up: NBC aired this sitcom from April 10, 1997-February 9, 1998. It deal with a promoter (Sharon Lawrence, b. 1961) and her sassy assistant (Leah Remini, b. 1970) who lose their positions and become a team. The assistant's brother (Mark Feuerstein, b.1971) was employed by a bar owner (Jonathan Banks, b. 1947) whose son, Ashley Mann (Mark Davis, b. 1965) is a female impersonator.
1997 In the Gloaming: Directed by Christopher Reeve, this HBO drama (April 20, 1997) is about a young man (Robert Sean Leonard, b. 1969) dying of AIDS who comes home to be with his family, played by Glenn Close, David Straithairn (b. 1949) and Bridget Fonda (b. 1964). His nurse is played by Whoopi Goldberg (b. 1955).
1997 Married ... with Children: The “Lez Be Friends” episode (April 27, 1997) introduces Marcy's (gay actress Amanda Bearse, b. 1958, who also directed episodes) identical cousin, who is a lesbian. Full episode here.
1997 Ellen: “The Puppy Episode” two-parter (April 30, 1997) found Ellen DeGeneres's (b. 1958) character Ellen, who had not been presented as a lesbian up to that point, coming out as gay. After telling her therapist (Oprah Winfrey, b. 1954) the only person to whom she's ever felt a special bond is a woman (Laura Dern, b. 1967) she's just met, she awkwardly comes out as gay — accidentally announcing it over a loudspeaker. The episode is star-studded, including gay rockers Melissa Etheridge (b. 1961) and k.d. lang (b. 1961). “The Puppy Episode” changed TV for LGBTQ people and issues forever, and scored 42 million viewers. DeGeneres herself came out as gay on the April 14, 1997, cover of Time Magazine. Part 1 of episode here.
1997 NYPD Blue: On April 22, 1997, the cop series aired “I Love Lucy,” an episode on which two sex workers identified as “transvestites” — Angela (out actor Alec Mapa, b. 1965) and Peaches (Jazzmun) — show up in the precinct looking for protection from a man (Clifton Collins Jr., b. 1970) who has beaten Angela. The suspect is warned to stay away from her, denying he is a “fag” before insinuating he may not be able to quit her because she's “deep inside me.” Detective Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) refers to Angela as a woman, for which Detective Simon commends him, eliciting the response, “I take 'em as I find 'em and try not to look between their legs.” Sipowicz also, however, sternly tells Peaches not to touch him. Full episode here.
1997 Oz: This groundbreaking HBO series (July 12, 1997-February 23, 2003) depicted gay sex — situational and otherwise, consensual and otherwise — throughout its run, usually with graphic nudity. Series leads Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen, b. 1965) and Christopher Keller (Chris Meloni, b. 1961) have a volatile affair, and Alonzo Torquemada (Bobby Cannavale, b. 1970) is also depicted as gay. Forced gay sex is a constant. There are too many other gay characters and moments to zero in on them all.
1997 Suddenly Susan: This sitcom was a vehicle for model-turned-actress Brooke Shields (b. 1965), airing from September 1996-December 26, 2000. “A Boy Like That” (April 24, 1997) features the younger brother (Bruno Campos, b. 1973) of macho Luis (Nestor Carbonell, b. 1967) coming to to the U.S. from Cuba after a 12-year separation — and coming out. Luis can't handle this revelation (did I mention the show took place in San Francisco?!), admitting the only gay person he knows is the office mailboy (Billy Stevenson, b. 1969), so Susan suggests a night out at a gay country bar, apparently a way of meeting in the middle. Once there, Susan is taken for a drag queen. The brothers later patch things up.
1997 The Real World: Boston: Season 6 (July 15-December 10, 1997) of the MTV reality series featured Genesis Moss (b 1976), a lesbian from a background of poverty who is shown partying it up with her drag queen bestie (Adam, no info). More importantly, when a child at a daycare center blurts out that she hates gay people, Genesis reacts emotionally. A fellow castmate, Kameelah Phillips (b. 1977)) explains to the child that it's not good to hate.
1997 Any Mother's Son: Lifetime TV movie (August 11, 1997) based on the true story of U.S. Navy Petty Officer Allen Schindler (1969-1992), murdered for being gay by shipmates while on shore leave in Japan. Bonnie Bedelia (b. 1948) plays Schindler's (Paul Popowich, b. 1973) mom, who fights for justice while fighting against her own perceptions of homosexuality. (Image via Lifetime)
1997 South Park: This Comedy Central series (August 13, 1997-present) hit the gay button with episode #4, entitled “Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride” (September 3, 1997). Stan's (Trey Parker, b. 1969) dog Sparky (George Clooney, b. 1961) turns out to be gay, fails conversion therapy and winds up under the wing of Big Gay Al (Matt Stone, b. 1971). Al appeared throughout the series. The series also features a Satan character (Parker again) who is characterized as gay.
1997 Hey Arnold!: The beloved Nickelodeon animated series (October 7, 1996-June 8, 2004) introduced Mr. Simmons (Dan Butler, b. 1954) on the September 21, 1997, “Save the Tree/New Teacher” ep. While it was implied he was gay, he was never officially IDed as such — until after the series was long over.
1997 The Nanny: The October 8, 1997, ep “First Date” involves Fran (Fran Drescher) having to hide from Elton John (b. 1947) while on her first real date with Mr. Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy) because of a previous not-so-smooth encounter with the pop legend. John and real-life parter David Furnish (b. 1962) are portrayed co-hosting a party. Full episode here.
1997 Cosby: The October 13, 1997, “Older and Out” episode of this sitcom finds Bill Cosby's character accidentally joining a gay baseball league for old-timers at the invitation of his new friends — both gay — Chuck (Joseph Bologna, 1934-2017) and Larry (André De Shields, b. 1946).
1997 Living Single: “Misleading Lady” (December 11, 2017) finds Synclaire (Kim Coles, b. 1962) trying to pass as a man in order to land a part in a play. Partial episode here.
1997 NYPD Blue: On “Remembrance of Humps Past” (December 16, 1997), an old pal (Herb Mitchell, 1937-2011) of Det. Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) implores him to try to intervene in a volatile situation involving his daughter Carla (Kelly DeMartino, b. 1972), who's got an odd, “mannish” roommate with “a complex,” Margo (Viveka Davis, b. 1969), and is apparently dating a potentially violent guy, Tony (Silas Weir Mitchell, no info). Sipowicz pays a visit to the apartment, discovering that Carla and Margo are romantically involved, Carla and Tony are romantically involved, and Margo disapproves of Tony as much as Carla's dad does. As an added twist, Margo is trans, saving money for SRS. Margo is then brutally murdered with a sledgehammer by Tony, who is unrepentant for slaughtering his “sex freak” rival. Full episode here.
1997 Grace Under Fire: On the “Riverboat Queen” episode (December 30, 1997), Grace finds out a man (Charles Rocket) who is investing in her business is gay when he comes on to Grace's boss (D.C. Curry, b. 1961), who is so macho he thinks eating a Cobb salad is something a real man wouldn't do. Full episode here.
1998 Homicide: Life on the Street: On the “Closet Cases” (January 2, 1998) episode, Bayliss (Kyle Secor, b. 1957) — who began the series as a choirboy, and who over time was established as being secretive about his private life — comes out as bisexual. “I'm not gay,” he says. “I'm not, uh, strictly heterosexual either, it seems. He goes on to say, “Keepin' things secret is no good, doesn't help anybody, really.” In the same episode, he is asked out by guest star Peter Gallagher (b. 1955) — and says yes. Below, on “Just an Old Fashioned Love Song” (October 23, 1998), Bayliss describes himself to a potential female love interest, Rene Sheppard (Michael Michele, b. 1966), as, “Interested in the beauty and wonder of the universe, um, open to all the various complexities and possibilities of existence. Bicurious.” His proclamation is welcomed when Sheppard replies that she's bicurious herself. Bayliss was he first bisexual lead character of a U.S. series.
1998 Buffy the Vampire Slayer: This cult-classic dramedy (March 10, 1997-May 20, 2003) about a vampire-killin' she-ro (Sarah Michelle Gellar, b. 1977) first touched on homosexuality as a theme with “Phases” (January 27, 1998), an episode in which Xander's (Nicholas Brendon, b. 1971) bully, Larry Blaisdell (Larry Bagby, b. 1974), comes out as gay in explaining why he felt the need to torment him.
1998 Gia: This HBO biopic (January 31, 1998) about bisexual supermodel Gia Carangi (1960-1986) offered a star-making role for young Angelina Jolie (b. 1975). In the film, Carangi's affair with a female makeup artist (Elizabeth Mitchell, b. 1970) is vividly depicted. Carangi, a heroin user, contracted HIV and died of AIDS in 1986. This story of her live-fast-die-young life led Jolie to her first Golden Globe Award, and won the same prize for Faye Dunaway for her performance as the head of Wilhelmina Models.
1998 Sex and the City: The classic HBO sex dramedy ran from June 6, 1998-February 22, 2004, spawning two later feature films in 2008 and 2010. Based on the memoirs of Candace Bushnell (b. 1958), the series starred Sarah Jessica Parker (b. 1965), Kim Cattrall (b. 1956), Cynthia Nixon (b. 1966) and Kristin Davis (b. 1965) as tight friends who share all the intimate details of their love and sex lives. Over the course of the series, there were many LGBTQ moments, one-offs and situations. Most notably, recurring characters Stanford Blatch (Willie Garson, b. 1964) and Anthony Marantino (Mario Cantone, b. 1959) were gay (they eventually wed) and Cattrall's character had an affair with a woman (Sônia Braga, b. 1950) across three episodes in 2001.
1998 More Tales of the City: The sequel (June 7-21, 1998) to the first installment, which aired on U.S. TV four and a half years earlier, was as LGBTQ-cenric as the first. It aired on Showtime.
1998 The Real World: Seattle: Season 7 featured Stephen Williams (b. 1977), a black man raised Muslim who had converted to Judaism. Throughout the season, Williams made anti-gay remarks, culminating with a notorious moment in which Irene McGee (b. 1975) point-blank accuses him of being gay, resulting in Williams smacking her face (September 22, 1998). In 2008, Williams came out as gay and announced he was engaged to a man — but was accused by castmate Nathan Blackburn (b. 1976) of never having apologized for striking McGee.
1998-2006 Will & Grace: For over 200 episodes, Will & Grace (September 21, 1998-May 18, 2006; September 28, 2017-present), this classic NBC sitcom has followed the screwball antics of gay lawyer Will (Eric McCormack, b. 1963) and his, you should pardon the dated expression, fag hag Grace (Debra Messing, b. 1968), with detours to focus on their rich-broad friend Karen (Megan Mullally, b. 1958) and their flamboyant mooch of a neighbor, Jack (Sean Hayes, b. 1970) — Just Jack! Every episode was gay, honey, and history was made.
1998 Felicity: Airing from September 29, 1998-May 22, 2002, this teen drama on The WB starred Keri Russell (b. 1976) as a typical college student in NYC. Her boss at Dean & Deluca, Javier (Ian Gomez, b. 1965), was presented as gay. His partner Samuel (Austin Ticheor, b. 1960) popped up in three episodes.
1998 The Powerpuff Girls: The children's animated series (November 18, 1998-March 25, 2005) boasted a bizarrely rendered, presumably trans or genderqueer villain known as HIM (Tom Kane, b. 1962). HIM first appeared on “Telephonies/Tough Love” (December 23, 1998), popped up in 71 episodes over the series run and was apparently inspired by the Blue Meanie (Paul Angelis, b. 1943) from Yellow Submarine (1968).
1999 Family Guy: Beginning with its January 31, 1999, debut episode, Family Guy (January 31, 1999-present, off and on) has been in part characterized by the drily effeminate, probably bisexual, infant character of Stewie (Seth MacFarlane, b. 1973).
1999 Dawson's Creek: On the February 17, 1999 “... That Is the Question” episode of this The WB drama, Jack (Kerr Smith, b. 1972) corrects his dad, who has just said, “You are not gay,” by saying, “Yes, I am!”
1999 Felicity: The February 23, 1999, episode “Love and Marriage” reveals that the brother (Eddie McClintock, b. 1967) of Felicity's (Keri Russell) on-and-off BF Noel Crane (Scott Foley, b. 1972) is gay.
1999 Futurama: On the April 6, 1999, “I, Roommate” episode of this cult-classic animated series (March 28, 1999-September 4, 2013, off and on), the well-adjusted gay recurring character Randy Munchnik (John DiMaggio, b. 1968) is introduced.
1999-2000 Strangers with Candy: This outrageous Comedy Central comedy (April 7, 1999-October 2, 2000) starred Amy Sedaris (b. 1961) as hopeless Jerri Blank, who was established to be bisexual. Two supporting characters (Paul Dinello, b. 1962; Stephen Colbert, b. 1964 — also writers of the show) were having secret gay relations. Paste sums up the show's gay element:
In the hands of the show, though, no topic was more hideous than sex and sexuality. Jerri may no longer be turning tricks (at least until the season finale), but she’s still as sex obsessed as ever. Even the episodes that aren’t focused on sexual lessons are usually rather sexual, to some degree. This is partially because of Jerri’s predilections, but also because of the saga of Chuck Noblet and Geoffrey Jellineck. Noblet, played by Colbert, and Jellineck, played by Dinello, are both teachers at Flatpoint High, and they are also having a torrid, secret gay affair. In these modern times, such a storyline would be treated as tragic, or it would be leading towards some feel-good moment where they come out and everybody is happy because now these two gay lovers can live their truth, or whatever. But Strangers with Candy just wanted to make a bunch of jokes about two guys secretly banging, and how obvious it should be to everybody, but it isn’t.
1999 The Real World: Hawaii: Season 8 included Ruthie Alcaide (b. 1977), a bisexual Filipina student whose alcoholism and violent behavior was documented and explored before she went off to rehab. On the same season, Justin Deabler (b. 1977) was an out gay student who clashed with everyone, objected to being asked if he's gay and left the season early due to what he called a family emergency.
1999-2000 Beggars and Choosers: This Showtime series was developed by Peter Lefcourt (b. 1946) and Brandon Tartikoff (1949-1997) shortly before Tartikoff's untimely death. It was a funny, behind-the-scenes take on the network TV game, and included the character Malcolm Laffley (Tuc Watkins, b. 1966), an exec who came out to disprove a woman's claim that he had sexually harassed her. The show also included a torrid affair between Laffley and an actor (Bruce Campbell, b. 1958) who is conflicted about being gay. The series ran from June 19, 1999-December 12, 2000.
1999 Undressed: This MTV series (July 26, 1999-September 5, 2002) featured nearly 20 gay storylines and plenty of male flesh, all aimed at the channel's then-young demo.
1999 Oh, Grow Up: Oscar- and Emmy-winning actor Alan Ball (b. 1957) created this sitcom starring Stephen Dunham (1964-2012). John Ducey (b. 1969) played a married man who left his wife upon realizing he is gay, and Ed Marinaro (b. 1950) played the lead's gay boss. The show ran from September 22-December 28, 1999.
1999 Wasteland: This Kevin Williamson (b. 1965)-created series (October 7-21, 1999) featured Dan Montgomery Jr. (b. 1969) as Russell Baskind, a closeted soap star. Only three episodes aired on ABC before it was yanked, but not before a pretty yummy butt shot in a lockerroom. Ten more episodes eventually aired on Showtime in 2001.
1999 King of the Hill: This animated series (January 12, 1997-May 6, 2010) about rednecks introduced, on the November 14, 1999, episode “A Beer Can Named Desire,” Gilbert Dauterive (David Herman, b. 1967), a man heavily implied to be gay thanks to casual references to men he's known ... briefly. He was based on Tennessee Williams.
1999 Execution of Justice: On November 28, 1999, Showtime aired this adaptation of the play by Emily Mann (b. 1952), which focuses on the murders of Harvey Milk (1930-1978) and George Moscone (1929-1978) in the '70s by deranged fellow politician Dan White (1946-1985). The play was described as an ensemble piece, while the Showtime movie was more about the innerworkings of White's (Tim Daly) mind. Peter Coyote (b. 1941) plays Milk, with Stephen Young (b. 1939) as Moscone.
2000 Common Ground: Gay playwrights Paula Vogel (b. 1951), Terrence McNally (b. 1938) and Harvey Fierstein wrote this Showtime TV movie about how gay people were accepted — or not — at various times in recent U.S. history. Directed by lesbian filmmaker Donna Deitch (b. 1945), the film contained three segments, one set in the '50s, one in the '70s and one in present day (2000). Brittany Murphy (1977-2009) and Jason Priestley (b. 1969) play young service members expelled for being gay; Steven Weber (b. 1961) plays a closeted high school teacher who is torn about coming out to a clearly gay and struggling student (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, b. 1981), but who comes out to his class on the advice of his partner (Scott McCord, b. 1971) after the kid is sexually assaulted by bullies; and James LeGros (b. 1962) plays a young man who plans a commitment ceremony in his hometown, only to have to deal with protesters — including his own dad (Ed Asner, b. 1929). Mimi Rogers (b. 1956) and Andrew Airlie (b. 1961) are also on hand as LGBTQ characters in the film, which aired January 29, 2000.
2000 If These Walls Could Talk 2: On March 5, 2000, HBO aired this sequel to If These Walls Could Talk (1996). The first film was a trilogy of stories about abortion, each taking place in the same home but in different decades, and the second a trilogy about lesbianism, also set in the same dwelling across the '60s, '70s and the year 2000. The most potent episode was directed by out director Jane Anderson (b. circa 1954) and starred Vanessa Redgrave (b. 1937) as an elderly woman disallowed from visiting her partner (Marian Seldes, 1928-2014) as she lay dying in the hospital in the '60s. The role won Redgrave an Emmy. Martha Coolidge (b. 1946) directed a sequence starring Michelle Williams (b. 1980) that deals with gender roles as well as lesbianism and feminism in the '70s. Chloë Sevigny (b. 1974) plays a butch lesbian taunted for wearing traditionally male garb while Nia Long (b. 1970), Natasha Lyonne (b. 1979), Heather McComb (b. 1977), Amy Carlson (b. 1968) and Lee Garlington (b. 1953) also play lesbians. Anne Heche (b. 1969), who at the time IDed as a lesbian but now does not, and who was then the partner of Ellen DeGeneres and now is not, directed DeGeneres and Sharon Stone (b. 1958) in the third installment, about a lesbian couple trying to conceive via sperm donors and/or artificial insemination.
2000 Grosse Pointe: Darren Star (b. 1961) created this satire (September 22, 2000-February 18, 2001) about the BTS goings-on at a fictional nighttime soap. On the “Boys on the Side” episode (November 19, 2000), a very young Thomas Dekker (b. 1987) plays a gay kid who wins a contest to meet hunky heartthrob Johnny Bishop (Al Santos, b. 1976). Nat Faxon (b. 1975) and Jonathan Del Arco (b. 1966) also play characters who are gay or have gay tendencies.
2000 Dawson's Creek: The first passionate same-sex kiss between men on a non-cable network was shared by Kerr Smith and Adam Kaufman (b. 1974) on the classic “True Love” (May 24, 2000) episode of this teen-targeted soaper. Kerr's character Jack went on to kiss other dudes on the show.
2000 Survivor: The long-running reality series (May 31, 2000-present) featured an openly gay man on Season 1 (Survivor: Borneo, May 31-August 23, 2000). Richard Hatch (b. 1961) was both the season's biggest villain and its cunning victor.
2000 The Real World: New Orleans: Season 9 (June 14-November 8, 2000) featured cast member Danny Roberts (b. 1977), a gay college grad who dates Paul Dill (no info), an active member of the military during the Don't Ask, Don't Tell era; Dill's face was never shown, for his own protection. (Image via MTV)
2000 Veronica's Closet: The June 20, 2000, “Veronica Helps Josh Out” episode of this Kirstie Alley-led sitcom (September 25, 1997-December 7, 2000) finds Josh (Wallace Langham, b. 1965) — whose nebulous orientation had been the butt of jokes for the entire series run — coming out as gay. At his own wedding, instead of “I do!” he blurts out “I'm gay!”
Brad is now a professional designer. (Video still via FOX)
2000 American High: Airing on FOX (August 2-September 11, 2000) in 2000 and the following year on PBS, this reality series documented the lives of 14 students at Highland Park High School in Illinois in the '99-'00 school year, making use of home video diaries. Among the subjects was Brad Krefman (b. circa 1972), a recently out student. First part of episode 3 here.
2000 The Truth About Jane: Airing August 7, 2000, on Lifetime, this TV movie is about a teen girl's (Ellen Muth, b. 1981) coming-of-age as a lesbian after sharing a kiss with a classmate (Alicia Lagano, b. 1979), and the mother (Stockard Channing, b. 1944) who is dragging her feet on accepting her. The film has a lesbian teacher (Kelly Rowan, b. 1965) and RuPaul as the mom's gay friend.
2000 Dark Angel: This sci-fi FOX series (October 3, 2000-May 3, 2002) starred Jessica Alba (b. 1981) as a genetically enhanced soldier. Valarie Rae Miller (b. 1974) played Original Cindy, a lesbian.
2000 Normal, Ohio: From November 1-December 13, 2000, FOX aired this sitcom about a bear named Butch (John Goodman) who returns to his Midwest home. It lasted all of seven episodes.
2000 Frank Herbert's Dune: This Sci-Fi Channel adaptation (December 3, 2000) of Frank Herbert's (1920-1986) masterpiece features as assassination plot against grotesque Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Ian McNeice, b. 1950) that involves a poisoned needle embedded in the body of one of his male concubines.
2000 Queer as Folk: The U.S. version of the UK drama produced 83 episodes and earned a rabid fan following. The American-Canadian production was unflinching in its depiction of gay love and even gay sex, something many critics had noted was missing from most gay stories on TV. The series ran from December 3, 2000-August 7, 2005. The UK original, created by Russell T. Davies (b. 1963), followed three gay men living and loving and lusting in Manchester. Noteworthy for being unapologetically, as the title implied, queer, that 10-episode series ran from February 23, 1999-February 22, 2000, and launched Charlie Hunnam (b. 1980) as a star.
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