- Several of the broadcast series featuring gay lead characters have been canceled
- GLADD spokesman said that for some, the only LGBT people they know are on screen
- This season there will be diversity among gay TV characters
"Will & Grace" star Sean Hayes is leading the way again.
The openly gay Hayes, who played Jack on the NBC series "Will & Grace," is one of the actors credited with helping change perceptions about gay people via that hit show. This fall he is coming back to his former network as the star of "Sean Saves The World" in which he will play a gay single dad of a teen daughter.
But Hayes will not be among as big a crowd of gay leading characters on broadcast television as he would have been had his show premiered last year.
Last fall TV season a plethora of shows burst onto the small screen with leading gay characters in everything from comedies to musical dramas. Many of those series have since been canceled.
Gone are shows like "The New Normal," "Happy Endings," "Partners" "Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23," "Smash," "Go On," and "Southland." And it seems to be a bit of irony that while same-sex marriage support has been gaining ground, this year's fall TV season feels -- at least on the surface -- much less inclusive.
"For a lot of people, even still today, the only LGBT people they actually know are on their screens -- on television or in film," said Wilson Cruz, an actor and spokesperson for GLAAD. "So it's a real opportunity for people to meet LGBT people in the comfort of their homes or the darkness of a theater to have an emotional experience and really understand the lives of LGBT people."
That means that a possible wedding between the characters of Mitchell and Cameron on ABC's "Modern Family" in the wake of the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act this summer could have an affect on those who may be still on the fence about same-sex marriage.
"Hearing our stories makes it harder for people not to support us when it comes to the ballot box or the politicians that they choose to support," said Matt Kane, GLAAD's associate director of Entertainment Media. "It is important that our stories get out there and TV is one of the best ways to do that."
When NBC's comedy "The New Normal" premiered last fall, it was heralded by the LGBT community for its plot about a gay male couple trying to have a baby. David Wiegand, the San Francisco Chronicle's TV critic, noted that while that show didn't catch on with fans, NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour that he didn't believe the gay characters on the show turned away viewers.
Rather, as NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke pointed out, audiences are less patient these days in terms of giving a struggling series time to catch on.
"The takeaway for all of this is that in 2013, there can be a "New Normal" and it can fail, despite brilliant writing and performances, and there can be a 'Sean Saves the World,' which may fail or catch hold," Wiegand wrote.
Kane said there are some bright spots in the upcoming broadcast TV season, including returning LGBT characters on shows like "Glee," the aforementioned "Modern Family" and "Grey's Anatomy." He said there is greater racial diversity among LGBT characters this year, including Aisha Hinds as half of an interracial lesbian couple on CBS' "Under The Dome" and Andre Braugher portraying a gay police captain on Fox's new cop comedy "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" starring "Saturday Night Live" alum Andy Samberg.
"There will also be an increase in the role for Alex Newell on 'Glee' where he plays the transgendered student 'Unique' which we're very excited about as 'Unique ' will become the only trans regular on television, if you don't count Netflix," Kane said.
GLADD recently put out the Studio Responsibility Index, which found that, with the exception of a handful of movies like "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and "Pitch Perfect," most big films lack any significant LGBT presence. GLAAD also produces a report, "Where We Are On TV," which Cruz said acts as a resource for networks. He said the trend this season will be diversity and GLADD would like to see even more of that as well as a greater variety of gay roles in various genres such as sci-fi.
Kane said that is why his organization eagerly awaits ABC's new series "Once Upon A Time in Wonderland," which will feature a gay character. He said diversity of characters goes beyond race and gender and means having gay characters of various ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.
"Our community is as diverse as any other," Kane said. "Telling all of those stories is really important. It's important that we be seen as not just a group of gay, white men."