March 10, 2021 at 8:00 am EST | by Joey DiGuglielmo
TV’s queer explosion
queer television, gay news, Washington Blade
From left: Chase Sui Wonders, Justice Smith and Uly Schlesinger in ‘GENERA+ION.’ (Photo courtesy WarnerMedia)

Although queer representation is down slightly on scripted TV shows this year with 70 (9.1 percent) of all 773 series regular characters out as some form of LGBTQ+, representation has been so vast in recent years, there’s still more queer TV content than any one person could possibly consume. Last year’s record was 10.2 percent according to January’s GLAAD annual report. 

Here’s what’s returning and upcoming. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a thorough start. 

Original dramedy “GENERA+ION” debuts this Friday on HBO Max with three episodes. Look for two more on March 25 and another on April 1. Eight more will drop later in the year. It’s being billed as a “dark yet playful half-hour series following a diverse group of high school students whose exploration of modern sexuality (devices and all) tests deeply entrenched beliefs about life, love, and the nature of family in their conservative community.” It explores sexuality and gender fluidity. Of its 15 writers, 11 are LGBTQ. 

Prisha (Shalini Bathina) came out last year on Apple TV+’s dramedy “Little Voice.”

The current fourth season of ABC’s “The Good Doctor” has introduced Dr. Asher Wolke (Noah Galvin), who’s gay. Not much storyline prominence thus far, though. Mondays at 10 p.m.

Search Party” on HBO Max is in its fourth season (a fifth has been announced) and features Elliott Goss (John Early), a gay narcissist. 

CBS’s “S.W.A.T.” is in its fourth season and features Chris Alonso (Lina Esco), who’s bi and has explored polyamory. It’s on Wednesday nights at 10. 

Josie Totah plays Lexi, a sharp-tongued trans cheerleader on the new “Saved by the Bell” reboot on Peacock. Premiering last November, it’s already been renewed for a second season. 

Netflix’s “Bridgerton,” a period drama, debuted in December and has already been renewed for a second season. Gay content has been minor thus far. Fans were expecting more when a brief gay sex scene was teased in a trailer but didn’t show up until the fifth episode and featured a minor character at that. 

The CW’s “Riverdale” (based on the Archie comics) was renewed last month for a sixth season. Season five is airing now. Despite many LGBTQ characters throughout its run, the show has been accused of queerbaiting by showing same-sex kisses in teasers that turned out to be larks or minor anomalies in the actual storylines. Fans have also balked at the limited attention same-sex couples on the show, such as Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) and Moose (Cody Kearsley) or Cheryl (Madelaine Peetsch) and Toni (Vanessa Morgan) (aka “Choni”) have received. 

Season two of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” on NBC is in the midst of its second season. It moves to Sunday nights at 9 when it returns March 28. Alex Newell (“Glee”) plays Mo, Zoey’s genderfluid neighbor, a DJ. 

The CW’s “Walker,” a reboot of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” debuted in January and has already been renewed for a second season. Keegan Allen plays Liam, the lead character’s gay brother. It airs Thursdays at 8 p.m.

The CW’s “Legacies,” a spin-off of “The Originals” that tells of the adventures of Hope Mikaelson (Danielle Rose Russell), airs Thursday nights at 9. It’s in the midst of its third season and has been renewed for a fourth. Character Josie Saltzman (Kaylee Bryant) is a bi witch. 

NBC’s neverending warhorse “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” continues on Thursday nights at 9 in its 22nd season (it’s been renewed for two more). It was revealed that Kat Azar Tamin (Jamie Gray Hyder) is bi in last season’s finale. It was a big deal for the franchise, which hadn’t featured a gay character in its regular cast (FBI psychiatrist George Huang) since season 12. 

Elite” continues on Netflix featuring the relationship of Omar (Omar Ayuso) and Ander (Aron Piper). This grisly Spanish teen drama has been renewed for fourth and fifth seasons. A Rolling Stone critic said the show “attempts to go places on the sexuality spectrum where few have dared to tread before.”

No date or title yet for season 10 of “American Horror Story” but look for it sometime this year on FX. Kathy Bates, Leslie Grossman, Billie Lourd, Sarah Paulson and more are back. Macaulay Culkin will also be in the cast. The show has been renewed through a 13th season. The gay-helmed series (Ryan Murphy) always features LGBTQ characters. Past seasons “Murder House,” “Asylum” and “Hotel” are fan favorites. 

Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie,” starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as friends whose husbands leave them for each other, was slated to resume shooting its farewell seventh season, postponed by COVID, in June. It’s Netflix’s oldest still-running series. No premiere date has been announced.

HBO’s “Euphoria” season two is in limbo. Cast and crew were ready to start shooting last spring when COVID hit. It’s slated to start shooting in Los Angeles on April 5. No premiere date has been announced. The show has been widely praised for its varied, nuanced portrayal of Gen Z queer life with eschewing of traditional LGBTQ identities and way more fluidity on the sexual orientation and gender identity spectrums. Jules Vaughn (Hunter Schafer, who’s trans) is a trans girl who becomes friends with lead character Rue Bennett (Zendaya). 

Look for the eighth season of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” later this year. The police procedural comedy has drawn fans for its queer characters such as Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) and Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher).

Anissa (Nafessa Williams) made history on “Black Lightning” as the first queer superhero of color on TV. Look for its fourth and final season this year.

Dear White People” wraps this year featuring Lionel Higgins (DeRon Horton), a black queer man struggling with his identity. It’s adapted from gay director Justin Simien’s film of the same name.

Filming began last month for season 11 of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” with 24 episodes slated to air into next year. A spin-off featuring Daryl and Carol is slated to air in 2023. The show drew fan ire when it axed off two queer characters (Tara and Jesus) in season nine in 2019. Character Felix Carlucci (Nico Tortorella), head of security at the Campus Colony, was kicked out of his house for coming out. 

Pose” returns May 2 with the first two episodes of its abbreviated third season. There will be just seven total. This will be the final season for the groundbreaking show that follows the ballroom scene/queer nightlife in the early 1980s. It’s another fan hit from the Ryan Murphy omniverse. The finale is June 6.

Star Trek: Discovery’s” fourth season is slated for release on Paramount+ sometime this year. Filming started last November and is set to end in June. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) became the first openly gay characters in a “Star Trek” franchise series in 2017. Adira (Blu del Barrio) and Gray (Ian Alexander, who is trans in “real life”) were introduced as the first trans and non-binary characters in the show’s third season. It’s set a decade before the action of the original series. 

Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” returns with its fourth season on April 28. It’s also been renewed for a fifth season. Lesbian actress (and D.C. native) Samira Wiley is in the cast again as is Alexis Bledel, who plays lesbian character Emily Malek, an Emmy winner for her work on the show. 

Season five of Showtime’s “Billions” was suspended mid-season last year with five episodes left to air (production — you guessed it — was halted by COVID). Although a sixth season has been ordered, no air dates for the rest of season five has been announced. Asia Kate Dillon, non-binary in “real life” and on the show, stars as Taylor Mason. 

Asia Kate Dillon as Taylor, who’s non-binary, on ‘Billions.’ (Photo courtesy Showtime)

The Conners” is airing its third season now on ABC Wednesday nights at 9. Darlene’s (out actress Sara Gilbert) 13-year-old son Mark (Ames McNamara) is non-binary and likes boys. It evolved out of the “Roseanne” reboot. 

Fox’s “Call Me Kat” debuted in January and features out actor Leslie Jordan as Phil, a newly single gay man and head baker at Kat’s cafe, and out singer/actor Cheyenne Jackson playing straight as Max, Kat’s friend and former college love interest. The season wraps March 18. No word yet on a second season. It airs Thursday nights at 9. Reviews and ratings have been mixed. 

The five-part Brit miniseries “It’s a Sin” finished its run in February on the U.K.’s Channel 4. Olly Alexander (Years & Years) stars as Ritchie Tozer, one of a group of gay men who move to London in 1981. The series follows them through a decade. Creator Russell T. Davies is the auteur behind the original British “Queer as Folk.” It’s streaming in the U.S. on HBO Max. Reviews have been stellar.

Olly Alexander in ‘It’s a Sin.’ (Photo courtesy WarnerMedia)

Sarah Paulson plays the titular role on Netflix’s “Ratched” and Cynthia Nixon co-stars as Gwendolyn, her love interest. It’s a prequel to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the classic 1975 film. No date yet on when season two will be released. 

Amir Bageria plays “Sid” Pakam, a closeted gay Indian-American and high school senior on last fall’s teen Netflix drama “Grand Army.” It hasn’t been officially cancelled but no word yet on a second season either.

Also from last fall is the HBO drama “We Are Who We Are,” co-created and directed by Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name”), a coming-of-age story set on a U.S. army base. Several of the teen characters are figuring out their sexuality and gender identity as the show unfolds. Chloe Sevigny and Alice Braga play same-sex moms to 14-year-old Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer). “Call Me” alums Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer make cameos. No word yet on a second season. 

No LGBT characters yet on “Emily in Paris,” the Netflix dramedy, but it’s from the “Sex and the City” creative team and has been renewed for a second season.

The Real Housewives of Orange County” finished its 15th season in January. Braunwyn Windham-Burke, who joined in the 14th season in 2019, came out as a lesbian in December. Look for season 16 this fall.

Punky’s (Soleil Moon Frye) BFF Cherie (Cherie Johnson) is a lesbian on Peacock’s “Punky Brewster” revival. Its 10-episode debut season is available now. 

The fourth and final season of Netflix’s “Atypical” will premiere sometime this year. It features lesbian duo Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Izzie (Fivel Stewart). 

Fivel Stewart (left) and Brigette Lundy Paine in ‘Atypical.’ (Photo by Beth Dubber, courtesy Netflix)

Peter (Brendan Scannell) is the gay best friend to Tiff (Zoe Levin), a dominatrix, on Netflix’s “Bonding.” Its second season dropped in January. 

Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” wraps this year and has featured a pan warlock romance and a trans character. Its fourth season dropped Dec. 31. 

David Berry plays Lord John Grey who’s secretly gay and has been called “one of the most complex and interesting” characters in the historical Starz “Outlander” books and show. A sixth season is expected. 

Netflix’s “The Haunting of Bly Manor” introduces Dani (Victoria Pedretti) and her girlfriend Jamie (Amelia Eve) against a gothic/thriller backdrop. No word yet on another season. 

Queer Eye” only had one season six episode in the can last year when COVID hit. Production has not resumed but the show will eventually return. 

On Netflix’s “The Politician,” Ben Platt stars as Payton Hobart, a presidential hopeful who finishes high school (season one) and is now a student at NYU (season two). Rahne Jones plays Skye Leighton, his black, gender-nonconforming former running mate now helping with his campaign. Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judith Light and even Bette Midler are in the cast. Another Ryan Murphy production. No word yet on a third season. 

RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 13 airs its 10th episode (of a likely 14) March 12 at 8 p.m. on VH1. That means the finale is about a month away. “All Stars” season six is expected this summer at its new home on Paramount+. A second season of the U.K. edition is airing now on BBC iPlayer. 

Netflix British dramedy “Sex Education” will be back for a third season sometime this year. No date yet. Teen Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) lives with his sex therapist mom (Gillian Anderson) and gay best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa). Anwar (Chaneil Kular) is another out student in the cast. Netflix has said it’s one of its most popular shows. 

Netflix’s “Special” is also in limbo it appears. In December, 2019 it was renewed for a second season but no updates since. It follows a gay man named Ryan Hayes (Ryan O’Connell; the series creator and star who based it on his memoir) with mild cerebral palsy who decides to go after the kind of life he wants. It has strong reviews and ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Tiny Pretty Things” debuted in December on Netflix and features two primary gay characters. Brennan Clost plays Shane, an openly gay ballet dancer having sex with his roommate, Oren (Barton). A second season is likely but hasn’t been confirmed. 

Several characters on the Netflix hit “The Umbrella Academy” are queer and it’s treated as mostly tangential. Klaus (Robert Sheehan), an addict who can commune with the dead, is pan, for one. The fantasy show is a comic book adaptation about a dysfunctional family who each possess superpowers. A third season is underway. 

Canadian sitcom “Letterkenny” just released its ninth season in December and 10th and 11th seasons are planned. It streams on Hulu and tells of residents of a small farming town. Several are LGBT but it’s never treated as a big deal. 

A second season of Hulu’s “Love, Victor” will premiere in June. Michael Cimino plays the title role, a hispanic gay teen. It’s a TV adaptation/spinoff of the hit 2018 gay teen dramedy “Love, Simon.” 

The 2017 “Dynasty” reboot is proving surprisingly resilient. It was renewed for a fifth season last month on The CW. Production on the fourth season resumed last October and will start airing May 7. Steven, the gay son played by James Mackay, will be back. He was written out of the third season. 

Hulu’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay,” from Aussie comedian Josh Thomas, features Matilda, a teen with high-functioning autism, exploring her fluid sexuality and her gay brother’s relationship failures. Its second season drops April 8. 

The CW’s “Legends of Tomorrow” returns for its sixth season on May 2. White Canary (Caity Lotz) is bi. She’s one of the heroines in the Arrow-verse based on characters from DC Comics. 

The CW’s “Batwoman” season two is airing now (regrouping with the absence of Ruby Rose in the title role) and a third season has been ordered. Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie)/Batwoman is now the central protagonist with Kate Kane/Batwoman presumed dead. The new Batwoman is also a lesbian.

Wynonna Earp” returned to finish its fourth and final season this month on Syfy/Netflix. Lesbian side couple WayHaught have become fan favorites. 

Good Trouble,” with multiple queer characters, is in the midst of its third season. It’s on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Freeform and is a spin-off of “The Fosters.” 

A “Gossip Girl” reboot on HBO Max promises “lots of queer content.” No date yet. 

This is Us” is in the middle of its fifth season. It airs Tuesday nights at 9 on NBC and features Tess Pearson (Eris Baker), who came out in season three. 

Good Girls” returned for its fourth season this month. It airs on NBC Mondays nights at 10 and features Isaiah Stannard as Ben Marks, a trans son of one of the main characters. 

NBC’s “New Amsterdam” is airing its third season now and two more have been ordered. Dr. Iggy Frome (Tyler Labine) is gay. It’s on Tuesday nights at 9. 

Martin Scorsese interviews lesbian Fran Lebowitz on the seven-part Netflix documentary “Pretend It’s a City.” 

Max Baker (Sara Waisglass) is a lesbian teen on Netflix’s dramedy “Ginny & Georgia,” which has been generating buzz since its maiden season released on Feb. 24. 

Jesse James Keitel plays Jerrie Kennedy, a transfeminine/nonbinary sex worker on ABC’s crime/thriller “Big Sky.” It’s on hiatus but will return. 

Brian Michael Smith made history as the first out black trans man in a regular series role on network TV as Paul Strickland on Fox’s Ryan Murphy-created procedural drama “9-1-1- Lone Star,” a spin-off of “9-1-1.” Its second season is airing now on Monday nights at 9. There are also gay characters on both shows. 

Safiya Masry (Indira Varma), a warden on ABC’s legal drama “For Life” is a lesbian. It’s in its second season now airing Wednesday nights at 10. 

ABC’s new sitcom “Call Your Mother,” which debuted in January, features Lane (Austin Crute), Jackie’s (Racel Sennott) gay best friend and roommate. It’s on Wednesday nights at 9:30.

Son Ian (Cameron Monaghan) and daughter Debbie (Emma Kenney) are gay on Showtime’s longrunning dramedy “Shameless.” Its 11th season continues through April 11. 

Superstore” ends its sixth and final season on March 25. Mateo (Nico Santos) is gay on the NBC sitcom. It’s on Thursday nights at 8. 

Jackson West (Titus Makin Jr.) is a gay officer on ABC’s “The Rookie,” currently in its third season. It’s on Sunday nights at 10. 

Longrunning Brit soap “Hollyoaks” is teeming with LGBT characters presented multi-dimensionally. Gay character John Paul McQueen (James Sutton) has been on and off the front burner for a decade. Also worth checking out are “Emmerdale” and “EastEnders,” whose current Ben/Callum love story is a fan favorite. 

Also of note:

Tina,” a documentary on the life of rock icon Tina Turner, debuts on Sunday, March 28 at 8 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max. It promises “a wealth of never-before-seen footage, audio tapes … photos and new interviews.”

Aretha Franklin is the focus of the third season of National Geographic’s docudrama series “Genius.” Cynthia Erivo stars as the late soul legend. Its eight-episode arc debuts March 21. 

Other shows with LGBT characters whose networks have said are returning but for which no date has been announced: “Betty” (HBO); “Feel Good” (Netflix); “Gentleman Jack” (BBC One/HBO); “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” renewed in December for four more seasons, a sitcom record (FX); “Killing Eve” (BBC America); “The L Word: Generation Q” (Showtime); “Sex Education” (Netflix); “Twenties” (BET); “Supergirl” (The CW); “Never Have I Ever” (Netflix); “What We Do in the Shadows” (FX); “Motherland: Fort Salem” (Freeform); “Hightown” (Starz); “The Flight Attendant” (HBO Max); “Dead to Me,” whose upcoming third season will be its last (Netflix); and “Insecure” (HBO, for a fifth and final season).

Recently ended shows with LGBT characters include: “The Queen’s Gambit” (Netflix), “How to Get Away With Murder” (ABC), “One Day at a Time” (POP), “The Magicians” (Syfy), “Schitt’s Creek” (CBC/POP TV), “Vida” (Starz), “Work in Progress” (Showtime/Hulu), “Council of Dads” (NBC), “Someone Has to Die” (Netflix), “Trinkets” (Netflix), “Teenage Bounty Hunters” (Netflix), “Tales of the City” (Netflix), “Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts” (animated, Netflix) and “What/If” (Netflix). 

Want a succinct overview of the history of LGBT people on TV? Check out “Visible: Out on Television,” last year’s five-episode survey on Apple TV+ from Ryan White. 

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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