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Down the Tube: LGBT regulars decline on network series
Cable still setting the standard for inclusive TV

by Damon Romine

Oscar Nuñez plays gay accountant Oscar Martinez on NBC's Emmy-winning comedy ‘The Office.’
Photo credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC Photo
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — With the arrival of the 2007-2008 television season, the number of LGBT representations on scripted network television continues to decline, according to an analysis of the upcoming season conducted by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

The study shows that, despite improved quality, LGBT representations will comprise only 1.1 percent (7) of all series regular characters in the upcoming broadcast television schedule, down from 1.3 percent (9) in 2006, and 1.4 percent (10) in 2005.

For 12 years, GLAAD's “Where We Are on TV” report has analyzed the character makeup of the networks' scripted programming. From information provided by the five broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and The CW — GLAAD examined 87 scripted comedies and dramas announced to air this upcoming season, and counted a total of 650 characters.


BBC America's new sci-fi series ‘Torchwood’ features a predominantly bisexual cast of characters. Openly gay actor John Barrowman (foreground) stars.
Photo credit: BBC America
The seven LGBT regular characters appear on five scripted programs: “Brothers & Sisters,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Ugly Betty,” “The Office” and the midseason series “Cashmere Mafia.” Six of these seven characters are on ABC, with no lead or supporting LGBT characters scheduled to appear on CBS, FOX or The CW.

“While we acknowledge there have been improvements made in how we are seen on the broadcast networks, most notably on ABC, our declining representation clearly indicates a failure to inclusively reflect the audience watching television,” says GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano.

“Striving toward diversity isn’t merely the responsible road to take for broadcasters, but as many of television’s highest-rated programs demonstrate, it’s also good for business. One need only look at the growing viewership of cable networks to see how inclusive programming can attract a wider audience.”

Thirteen LGBT recurring characters are anticipated to appear during the upcoming network TV season. This increase in recurring characters from last year's five suggests that producers and writers are showing a guarded interest in being inclusive. Gay characters on “Ugly Betty” and “Desperate Housewives” first appeared as recurring before being added to the regular cast.
As has been the trend for a number of years, the real advances in LGBT representation are being made in cable programming. A total of 40 series regulars were counted across 21 scripted comedies and dramas scheduled to air on mainstream cable networks this season; 15 more than were counted last year.


Candis Cayne plays William Baldwin's transgender mistress, Carmelita, on ABC's ‘Dirty Sexy Money.’
Photo credit: ABC/Vivian Zink
These numbers in part reflect a continued commitment to diversity effectively demonstrated by mainstream cable networks such as The N, FX, HBO, Showtime, and BBC America. Cable networks LOGO and HERE create additional original scripted programming for a predominantly LGBT audience.

The 12th annual “Where We Are on TV” report marks the third year that GLAAD has analyzed the breakdown of the race, gender and ethnicity of all the 650 series regular characters expected to appear on the broadcast networks in the upcoming season.

Male characters continue to outweigh female characters 374 to 276 in overall numbers, while 77 percent of all series regular characters are white, up 2 percent from last year. African-American representation remains around 12 percent, while Latino/a representation has dropped from 7 percent to 6 percent. Of the 18 Asian/Pacific Islander characters, six are of Indian descent.

The remaining 12 characters are made up of four who are multi-racial, one of Middle Eastern origin, one Tlingit (Native Alaskan) woman, and six characters not considered to be part of the human race (an alien, talking animals and cavemen).

Despite not having any LGBT characters in its scripted programming, The CW actually ranks first in overall diversity, with 32 percent of its series characters being people of color. The FOX network ranks last, with overall diversity at 18 percent.


Teen drama ‘South of Nowhere,’ now in its third season on The N, focuses on the evolving relationship between Spencer (Gabrielle Christian, left) and Ashley (Mandy Musgrave).
Photo credit: The N
The bright side:
bi, trans, youth portrayals
One of the positive developments in scripted programming on both the broadcast and mainstream cable networks this season will be a greater number of bisexual, transgender and youth characters. These groups have been thoroughly underrepresented, but a number of new programs and character developments have improved the situation.

Two characters on ABC will find themselves re-evaluating previously heterosexual identities. The audience of ABC's “Brothers and Sisters” will see the character of Saul dealing with his bisexuality, something he has kept hidden from his family.

Set to debut mid-season, the character of Caitlin on ABC’s “Cashmere Mafia” will experience an unexpected romantic attraction to another woman in the premiere episode, and begin to rethink a life previously spent dating only men.

On cable, there are a number of new characters more clearly identified as bisexual, including one program where they make up the majority of the cast: BBC America’s science-fiction import “Torchwood,” where four of the five regular characters express attractions to both men and women.

Other bisexual characters will be found on FX's “Nip/Tuck”" where Sean’s ex-wife Julia will have an extended affair with a lesbian mom (played by Portia de Rossi); Eddie on USA Network’s “To Love and Die;” recurring character Thomas Tallis on “The Tudors;” several returning “The L Word” characters on Showtime; Ashley on “South of Nowhere;” and Paige on “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” both on The N.

While still a relatively low number, transgender representation this season shows a marked improvement over any previous year.

By far the highest profile addition is the character of Alexis Meade, who was introduced midseason on “Ugly Betty” as a prodigal son returned from the dead as a complex, sympathetic woman whose transgender identity is merely one aspect of her character.

Also on ABC, transgender actress Candis Cayne will join the new show “Dirty Sexy Money” in a recurring role as a transgender woman having a secret relationship with the New York District Attorney.

Over on cable, the female-to-male transgender character of Max will be back for his third season on Showtime’s “The L Word,” after one season showing his journey into his new identity, and another showing him taking that identity into the working and dating worlds. A new season of FX’s “The Riches” will bring the return of Sam Malloy, a young boy with a penchant for crossdressing who is refreshingly embraced by his immediate family.

Depictions of LGBT youth like Sam Malloy have begun to appear with more regularity in recent years, though this is another area in which scripted primetime broadcast programming is playing catch up to cable and daytime television. “Desperate Housewives” continues to feature gay teenager Andrew, though he is the only openly LGBT youth on primetime network programming.

A character that already has a strong connection with the audience is Justin Suarez on “Ugly Betty.” Justin is an energetic and self-assured young man who doesn’t conform to typical gender expectations. Most importantly, the love and support he receives from his multi-generational Latino family presents a strong and positive example of acceptance to viewers.
On cable, the teenage character of Ian on the Sundance Channel’s “Shameless” is gay, while Showtime’s “Weeds” features the young self-identified lesbian Isabelle.

Perhaps the most reliable place to find representations of LGBT youth is on MTV’s teen network The N, which extends to 24-hour programming by the end of the year and features several programs with gay and lesbian-inclusive storylines.

This season, “Degrassi: The Next Generation” features recently reunited couple Alex and Paige, as well as gay character Marco, while “South of Nowhere” continues to examine the lesbian romance between teens Spencer and Ashley.

• • •
Broadcast TV: regular LGBT characters
• “Brothers and Sisters,” ABC
• “Cashmere Mafia,” ABC
• “Desperate Housewives,” ABC
• “The Office,” NBC
• “Ugly Betty,” ABC
Broadcast TV: recurring LGBT characters
• “American Dad,” FOX
• “Dirty Sexy Money,” ABC
• “ER,” NBC
• “Friday Night Lights,” NBC
• “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC
• “Men in Trees,” ABC
• “The Simpsons,” FOX
Cable TV: regular LGBT characters
• “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” The N
• “Drawn Together,” Comedy Central
• “Entourage,” HBO
• “Eureka,” SCI FI
• “Greek,” ABC Family
• “Hotel Babylon,” BBC America
• “Jekyll,” BBC America
• “John From Cincinnati, HBO
• “The Kill Point,” Spike
• “The L Word,” Showtime
• “Mad Men,” AMC
• “Nip/Tuck,” FX
• “Reno 911!,” Comedy Central
• “The Riches,” FX
• “The Sarah Silverman Program,” Comedy Central
• “Shameless,” Sundance
• “The Shield,” FX
• “South of Nowhere,” The N
• “To Love and Die,” USA
• “Torchwood,” BBC America
• “The Wire,” HBO
Cable TV: recurring LGBT characters
• “The Best Years,” The N
• “Brotherhood,” Showtime
• “The Business,” IFC
• “Dirt,” FX
• “The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman,” IFC
• “The Tudors,” Showtime
• “Weeds,” Showtime

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