The List: 12 Of The Best LGBTQ+ Shows On Telly

Vicki Notaro on the queer shows that will change your TV life.

 

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Schitt’s Creek

For ages, I didn’t “get” Schitt’s Creek. I couldn’t understand why everyone and their mother was fawning all over it. Then in lockdown, I gave it a good chance and I fell madly, wildly in love. One of the best parts? How nobody makes a big deal about David being pansexual.

He likes girls, he prefers guys, and that’s just how it is. But it’s his relationship with Patrick that’s truly amazing – the most naturally depicted gay relationship I’ve ever seen on screen – and hilarious, too.

RuPaul’s Drag Race

I knew surprisingly little about drag before watching RPDR, but whew, it has been an education! Its format is a sort of mish-mash of America’s Next Top Model (with Ru as Tyra, obv) and the ballroom subculture of the 80s in New York, where queens performed and were rated on their look and panache.

Now the show is a massive success, it’s brought drag to the mainstream in a way that the comedy queens we grew up with (shoutout to Dame Edna!) didn’t manage to. It has its problematic moments, but is as fun and creative as it is utterly enlightening.

Love Viktor

If you watched and loved the movie Love, Simon, then you’ll love this Disney+ show now streaming, because it’s set in the same world. The original Simon narrates, while the series focuses on Victor, a Latino teenager who moves to a new school while struggling with his sexual orientation.

 

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Pose

Glee. American Horror Story. The Politician. As Ryan Murphy himself said, “I made gay sidekicks the leads”, and he’s done it to great effect many times over. Now perhaps the most powerful writer/producer in LA (thanks to his $300 million development deal with Netflix), Murphy continues to put queer characters front and centre. From focusing on the stories of gay people (like Gianni Versace’s murder in American Crime Story) to showing the plight of queer actors forced to stay in the closet in 1940s Hollywood, he’s been pushing boundaries and continues to do so.

Murphy’s Pose deserves a special shout-out, as it made history before it even aired thanks to his casting of five transgender women in the lead roles, and 45 more trans performers in the wider series. It focuses on the aforementioned ballroom battles in New York in the eighties, and the Aids crisis, but Murphy wanted to shine a light on how things truly are today, where queer and non-white people are still ostracised and marginalised.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

You might not think of Buffy as being particularly pioneering when it comes to gay rights, but then you may not know that Willow and Tara were the first lesbian couple on American television ((the UK beat them out with Brookside, what a soap). Creator Joss Whedon has since said that he’d address Willow’s bisexuality if the show had been made now, but felt like he had to choose in the 90s.

“Ok, you can’t make Willow bi, you can’t say this is a phase, because that’s what people do to deny their existence,” Whedon said in 2020. “So, if I did it now, I’d be like yes she can be bi. Because some people are! But back then it was like, no… we’re not ready for that.”

Looking

This is one of my all-time favourite shows, possible because it stars my Forever Crush, Jonathan Groff. He played Jesse St James in Glee and Kristoff (and Sven!) in Frozen, but it’s as Patrick in this San Fransico set dramedy that he really shines – probably because he’s playing a young gay man, a character most like himself.

Like Girls and Sex and the City, the show focuses on a group of friends – in this case, three gay men in their thirties – and the trials and tribulations of growing past that partying, free and easy phase of their lives. It’s gorgeous, and it should never have been cancelled!

Grace & Frankie

The clever concept for this sitcom is easy enough to digest – two female friends in their sixties find out that their husbands have long been in love with one another, and are leaving to be together. But it’s the heart, and the performances of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin that keep you around.

Two pensioners whose lives have been turned on their heads, trying to figure out how to live as their most authentic selves in the 21st century – it’s a little gem.

It’s A Sin

Warning – this show will break your heart. It’s been weeks since I binge-watched it, and I still cannot stop thinking about it. From iconic queer screenwriter Russell T Davies, It’s A Sin tells the story of five friends who meet in London in the early eighties. They’re free of the shackles of their families and small town life, and living it up on the gay scene.

But a mystery illness affecting gay boys is sweeping the globes. It’s a devasting look at the realities of Aids, but has started some much-needed conversation about the current stigma around living with HIV. Davies also wrote Queer As Folk which is very 90s, but also worth a watch.

Queer Eye

Hands up who’d die for Antoni? All he does is make dips in a pestle and mortar, yet I’d watch him do it all day long. The original concept of Queer Eye For The Straight Gut in the early 00s was a bit troublesome, leaning into gay stereotypes hard. But Netflix’s revamp is pure joy – from Jonathon Van Ness’ wonderful personality to Bobby’s interior skills, Karamo’s life coaching and Tan’s French tuck.

It doesn’t matter who the makeover candidates are, these five make them all feel (and look) a million dollars. Truly glorious telly.

 

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Modern Family

This was truly groundbreaking when it aired – a mainstream network sitcom about an extended family that just so happened to feature a gay couple with an adopted child in some of the leading roles. It was never about them being gay, they just were. Of course, it dealt with some of the crap they got as a couple, but more than anything the show depicts Cam and Mitchell in the same way it shows the other families – imperfectly perfect.

Sex Education

By the end of season two of this Netflix original set in the UK, more than half of the teenage characters have had a queer experience that has been dubbed wholly authentic and sensitively handled by the critics. It isn’t about gay best friends or marginalised youths, but portrays hay and fluid teen relationships as they should be shown.

Orange Is The New Black 

Mainstream TV has often made jokes about lads in prison being “gay for the stay” or the “bitches” of more powerful inmates, but when OITNB came along it challenged all the previously held norms about prison dramas. Set in a women’s prison, it wasn’t always stark or serious but darkly humorous and sometimes laugh out loud funny. The womens’ relationships with one another, whether fleeting or long-lasting, are never the butt of the joke, but the whole point.

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