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Plenty of queer storylines headed to the small screen

New TV season offers comedy, drama, horror, and more

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A scene from the third season of ‘Sex Education.’ (Photo courtesy Netflix)

Even though the Age of Streaming has reshaped the television landscape in a way that makes the “New Fall TV Season” more or less a thing of the past, it still feels only natural to take a look at the new shows headed for our home screens each September. And since LGBTQ+ stories and characters are ever more abundant in the mix, that means there are plenty of upcoming offerings worth highlighting. In that spirit, here’s the Blade’s list of LGBTQ content included among the fresh programming making its debut over the next few months.

The Premise (Sept. 16):

This anthology series from FX, created and hosted by B.J. Novak, is a half-hour anthology series of character-driven episodes “about the times we live in.” Promising to “challenge our shared morality” as it “engages with the most relevant and meaningful issues of the modern era,” it blends comedy and drama as it tackles subjects like guns, identity, social justice, sex, capitalism, revenge, love, fame, social media, and butt plugs. It makes our list because one episode, written by Jia Tolentino and Novak, features a lesbian couple (Lola Kirke and Soko) whose relationship is threatened when one of them becomes obsessed with a negative online comment about her appearance. Still, the impressive list of actors appearing in the various episodes – including Lucas Hedges, Kaitlyn Dever, Jon Bernthal, Ben Platt, Tracee Ellis Ross, Daniel Dae Kim, Lola Kirke, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Soko, George Wallace, Jermaine Fowler, Ayo Edebiri, Boyd Holbrook, Eric Lange, Beau Bridges, and the late Ed Asner – makes it worth tuning in for the whole thing.

Sex Education (Sept. 17):

Returning to Netflix for its third season is this queer fan favorite from writer/creator Laurie Nunn about the misadventures of a backward English teen and his bad-girl secret crush as they run a covert sex counseling service at their strict-and-stuffy school. This season sees Otis (Asa Butterfield), while his REAL sex therapist mother (the delicious Gillian Anderson) prepares for the arrival of an unexpected mid-life baby, his gay best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) officially becomes a couple with former bully Adam (Conner Swindells), and a new head teacher (Jemima Kirke) tries to return the school to a pillar of excellence. Meanwhile, his lost voicemail to Maeve (Emma Mackey) still looms over their relationship. Other new cast members include Jason Isaacs, Indra Ové, and recording artist/songwriter Dua Saleh in their acting debut as a new nonbinary classmate. 

The Big Leap (Sept. 20): 

From Fox comes this Liz Heldens-created musical dramedy series based on a British reality show. A modern tale about “second chances, chasing your dreams and taking back what’s yours,” it revolves around a group of diverse, down-on-their-luck characters attempting to change their lives by participating in a potentially life-ruining reality dance show featuring a modern reimagining of “Swan Lake.” Several LGBTQ characters are in the mix. The cast includes Scott Foley (“Scandal”), Teri Polo (“Meet the Parents” franchise), Piper Perabo (“Covert Affairs,” “Coyote Ugly”), newcomer Simone Recasner, Ser’Darius Blain (“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”), Jon Rudnitsky (“Catch-22”), Raymond Cham Jr. (“Five Points”), Mallory Jansen (“Galavant”), Kevin Daniels (“Twelfth Night,” “Modern Family”) and Anna Grace Barlow (“The Goldbergs”).

Our Kind of People (Sept. 21)

Also from Fox is this large-looming new series from writer and executive producer Karin Gist (“Star,” “Grey’s Anatomy”) and executive producer Lee Daniels (“Empire,” “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday”), inspired by Lawrence Otis Graham’s provocative, critically acclaimed book, “Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class.” Set in the aspirational world of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, where the rich and powerful Black elite come to play, it follows a single mom determined to reclaim her family’s name with her revolutionary new haircare line for Black women. When a dark secret about her own mother’s past comes to light, her world is turned upside-down and the prestigious community is shaken forever. A soapy exploration of race and class in America that celebrates Black resilience and achievement, this one gives off serious “Dynasty” vibes, which would be more than enough to give it queer appeal even without the inclusion of several LGBTQ characters and storylines. Starring Yaya DaCosta (“Chicago Med,” “Whitney”), Morris Chestnut (THE RESIDENT), Joe Morton (“Scandal”), Nadine Ellis (“Let’s Stay Together”), Lance Gross (“Hawaii 5-0”), Rhyon Nicole Brown (“Empire”), Kyle Bary (“Ginny & Georgia”) and newcomer Alana Bright.

Dear White People (Sept. 22)

The fourth and final season of this popular queer-inclusive Netflix series, created by writer/producer/director Justin Simien and based on his own 2014 indie film of the same name, threw its fans a surprise by revealing the show’s last volume would be “an Afro-futuristic and ’90s-inspired musical event.” According to the official description, it is set “against the backdrop of senior year at Winchester as well as a not-so-distant, post-pandemic future,” and “finds our characters looking back at the most formative (and theatrical) year of their lives.” The series stars Logan Browning, Brandon P. Bell, Antoinette Robertson, DeRon Horton, John Patrick Amedori, Ashley Blaine Featherson, and Marque Richardson.

Nuclear Family (Sept. 26)

HBO Max brings us this three-part docuseries, which follows filmmaker Ry Russo-Young as she turns the camera on her own past to explore “the extraordinary story of a first-generation lesbian family.” Born to two lesbian mothers through sperm donors in an era when the concept of a gay family was inconceivable to most, Russo-Young and her sister Cade had their childhood disrupted by an unexpected lawsuit attacking their family’s very right to exist. The resulting court battle ended in a landmark legal decision that would change the way gay families were perceived forever. The series not only explores the judicial conflict, but investigates the ambitions and desires of the two moms, the sperm donor, and all their allies and enemies, as it “proposes a way of understanding conflict that resonates with anyone who struggles with issues unresolved within their own families, their own lives, and in our broader world.”

Finally, in honor of LGBTQ History Month, the queer streaming network Revry is offering a slate of must-see LGBTQ-oriented documentaries throughout October. Highlights include: “Happy Birthday, Marsha,” about trans icon and activist Marsha P. Johnson; “Vintage: Families of Value,” a groundbreaking look at queer siblings in families of color; “49 Pulses,” an examination of the tragic mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016; “Light in the Water,” documenting the origins and life of West Hollywood Aquatics, the first openly gay masters swim team; “Call Me Troy,” about Metropolitan Community Church founder Reverend Troy Perry; and “Dykes, Camera, Action,” profiling the work of several pioneering lesbian filmmakers. In addition, they’re offering a fun collection of queer Halloween treats, including the short film “Magic H8 Ball,” in which a heartbroken nice guy burned by a cheating boyfriend risks his soul when he turns to a Magic 8 Ball for answers, and “Sinful,” a horror movie about a newlywed gay couple who commit a horrific crime and find themselves trapped in a mysterious house. Given the woeful shortage of queer Halloween programming, these titles alone make it worth signing up for the service.

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Arts & Entertainment

Amy Schneider becomes first woman $1M Jeopardy! winner

Schneider, 42, commenced her winning streak in November hitting the million mark during her 28th game this past Friday

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Amy Schneider (Courtesy of Sony Television & Pictures Corp.)

Amy Schneider, the Transwoman software engineering manager from Oakland, became the first woman and fourth $1 million Jeopardy! winner since the game show first aired on March 30, 1964.

 Schneider, 42, commenced her winning streak in November hitting the million mark during her 28th game this past Friday. “It’s not a sum of money I ever anticipated would be associated with my name,” Schneider said. “To be good at Jeopardy!,” Schneider added; “you just have to live a life where you’re learning stuff all the time.”

The New York Times reported that the other three $1 million Jeopardy! winners, Ken Jennings who went on to compete in a record 74-game run, won in 2004 after his 30th game. In 2019 the distinction was also won by James Holzhauern and this past Fall, 2021 by Matt Amodio.

GLAAD’s director of transgender representation, Nick Adams, in an emailed statement said; “Amy Schneider’s incredible run on Jeopardy! allows families all over the country to get to know her as someone who is great at word puzzles, has in-depth knowledge on a range of topics, and who also happens to be a transgender woman. Amy is using her history-making appearances and new platform to raise awareness of transgender issues and share a bit of her personal story too.”

After her early successes last November, Schneider told Newsweek that she had been trying to get on the show for over a decade. 

“I’m not sure quite how long [ago I first applied], but I remember trying out when I still lived in Ohio, and I’ve lived in Oakland since 2009, so it has to have been at least that amount of time,” she said.

Schneider also explained how her transition in 2017 might have helped her finally get a spot on the show. 

“The reality is that for the first few years of that, when I was trying out, I was, as far as any of us knew, a standard white guy,” she told the magazine. “And there’s just more competition for those slots on Jeopardy! They’re making a TV show, they don’t want everybody to look the same, and I looked a lot like many of the other contestants, and I think that definitely made it a little tougher for me at that time. I would have got on eventually — I was never gonna stop trying!”

In the post-Alex Trebek era, multiple trans contestants have appeared on the show, including Kate Freeman, who became the first out trans champion in “Jeopardy!” history last December. 

Schneider, who became the first trans contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions in November, was robbed at gunpoint over the New Year’s weekend in her home city of Oakland. 

“Hi all! So, first off: I’m fine. But I got robbed yesterday, lost my ID, credit cards, and phone,” she said. “I then couldn’t really sleep last night, and have been dragging myself around all day trying to replace everything,” she wrote in a tweet about the incident.

According to the Associated Press, Oakland police said they are investigating the armed robbery that occurred on Sunday afternoon. No arrests have been made. 

The robbery took place just days after Schneider won her 21st consecutive game, surpassing Julia Collins as the most winning woman in the show’s history. 

In an email statement to NBC News, a “Jeopardy!” spokesperson said, “We were deeply saddened to hear about this incident, and we reached out to Amy privately to offer our help in any capacity.”

Schneider, an engineering manager from Oakland, has been an inspiration to many during her historic run on the show. 

“Seeing trans people anywhere in society that you haven’t seen them before is so valuable for the kids right now that are seeing it,” she told ABC affiliate KGO-TV in November, adding: “I’m so grateful that I am giving some nerdy little trans kid somewhere the realization that this is something they could do, too.”

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Arts & Entertainment

Musicians Jim & Sasha Allen on the ‘Perfect’ timing to tell their story

Jim & Sasha Allen, a father/son duo who made history on “The Voice” as Sasha became the first openly Trans person to compete on the show.

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Sasha Allen appearing on The Ellen Show (Screenshot via YouTube)

Ellen welcomed musicians Jim & Sasha Allen, a father/son duo who made history on “The Voice” as Sasha became the first openly Trans person to compete on the show. Sasha talked about how he hopes his story can help others going through a similar situation, and Jim shared his important role as the parent, and how now was the perfect time for Sasha to tell his story.

TheEllenShow:

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Arts & Entertainment

Smithers gets a boyfriend on episode of ‘The Simpsons’

“And what I think I was really excited about, with this episode, we get to see of how gay people date, how they meet, what it’s like”

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Waylon Smithers (left) kisses his first boyfriend, fashion mogul Michael De Graaf (Photo courtesy of The Simpsons ™ & © 20th Television)

HOLLYWOOD – Rob LaZebnik, 59, one of the creative writers and co-executive producer of the longest running cartoon comedy in American television history, ‘The Simpsons,’ teamed up with his son Johnny, 27, also a television creative writer to produce an episode that gives the character of Waylon Smithers a boyfriend.

The episode set to air on Sunday, November 21 the start of the Thanksgiving holiday week is titled ‘Portrait Of A Lackey On Fire.’ The synopsis for the episode reads: “Smithers finds true love with a famous fashion designer, but will his new relationship destroy Springfield?

The long-suffering assistant to the show’s Über wealthy and twisted maniacal character of Montgomery Burns, falls in love with fashion designer Michael De Graaf, voiced by four time Tony award and six time Emmy award nominated Out actor Victor Garber. Smithers is voiced by Emmy award winner Harry Shearer.

The 2016 season episode of ‘Tom Collins’, had Smithers come out as gay after years of speculation. For the elder LaZebnik, who wrote that episode, his inspiration was his son Johnny who is gay. For the writing duo, this up coming episode brings the storyline full circle as they explore a gay relationship.

In an interview with the New York Post published Thursday, the elder LaZebnik told the paper; “To be able to work with Johnny on this was, like, such a dream and to be able to see how truly funny and talented he is was just, you know, super fun and rewarding.”

His son noted, “I know my dad is a comedy writer. I grew up with him — obviously, I know he’s a funny guy,” Johnny, 27, told The Post. “But actually getting to sit down and write jokes with him was so much fun. And there were some moments where I was like, ‘Dad, that’s disgusting — we can’t put that on television,’ which I didn’t expect to be saying because I’m usually the disgusting one.”

“We now have this piece of content that we put into the world together that is a combined brainpower of the two of us.” 

The Simpsons” writer Rob LaZebnik, right, with his son Johnny
Courtesy of Rob and Johnny LaZebnik

The younger LaZebnik also told the Post; “So often, gay romances are a subplot or alluded to or shown in some kind of montage or as a punchline.

“And what I think I was really excited about, with this episode, we get to see – without spoiling too much – the beginning, middle and who knows how it ends of a gay relationship, of really getting into the nitty-gritty of how gay people date, how they meet, what it’s like.”

He added: “That was really special to me to get to highlight characters who are not punchlines, who are fully formed.”

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