Best. Lesbian. Week. Ever. (April 4, 2008)

This week, NBC announced that the remade Knight Rider (which aired on the network as a two-hour movie in February) will return this fall as an hour-long series. This means that this fall we can count on one (that’s right, one!) lesbian/bi character in a scripted prime-time network show: FBI agent Carrie Rivai, played by Sydney Tamiia Poitier.

At this time, since Cashmere Mafia is no longer on the air and things don’t look good for its return, there are no lesbian/bi characters in scripted prime-time broadcast TV. This has been the case, off and on, for years, so this news is quite welcome — especially because Poitier is also a woman of color. Finding lesbians of color on network TV is even harder than finding lesbians.

Nonetheless, since I’m a lesbian who’s been burned one too many times by network storytelling, I’m a little concerned. In the Knight Rider movie, Agent Rivai’s sexual orientation blasts on-screen within the first few minutes, when she comes back from a morning surf and says goodbye to a woman she picked up the night before. The woman is lying naked in bed, and it’s clear that they had a sexual encounter. The words lesbian or bisexual are never spoken, but it’s obvious that Rivai plays for our team.

This is great, right? Yeah, except for the fact that immediately preceding this scene, there was one involving a straight man waking up with two girls, implying they had a threesome. So the titillation button had already been pushed by the time we saw Rivai and her pretty one-night stand. The rest of the movie — which is clearly targeted toward teenage boys — is a tedious sequence of fast cars, burning rubber and fist fights, along with gratuitous leering at women (Poitier included). Ick. And yawn.

Left to right: Sydney Tamiia Poitier as Carrie Rivai,
Justin Bruening as Mike Tracer, Deanna Russo as Sarah Graiman

I’m not convinced that Agent Rivai’s sexual orientation will have much to do with anything — unless it’s used as a stereotypical turn-on for men. Hopefully, though, I’m just a jaded journalist and suck at predicting the story lines of television dramas. Perhaps Agent Rivai will prove to be a sharp-witted crime-fighter whose heart can only be won by an intelligent woman.

No matter what happens, at least we’ll always have the dream.