2007 Year in Review: Television

Gay Fantasy: Logo and here!

Following in the footsteps of Ellen, The Ellen Show and Friends, Logo’s lesbian-themed situation comedy Exes & Ohs provided a lighthearted look at lesbian dating and friendships. Set in a Seattle coffeehouse that seemed a bit stuck in the late ’90s, the show nonetheless provided what many lesbian viewers have long been seeking: a fun, humorous world in which being a lesbian is the norm.

Although the straight world and homophobia do insert themselves at times into the world of Exes & Ohs (through Sam’s father and Crutch’s encounter with the conservative minister), those moments only serve to further support and bolster the comfortable gay community of the sitcom.

The fact that Exes & Ohs airs on a gay TV channel, Logo, likely has something to do with the show’s gay-from-the-beginning feel. Unlike Showtime’s The L Word, which launched in 2004 with a story line about a heretofore straight woman discovering her homosexuality, characters on Exes & Ohs — and on other scripted shows on Logo and here! — do not need to provide a straight character to serve as the straight viewer’s tour guide.

In fact, Logo and here!, much more than The L Word, deliver a gay fantasy that, despite its sometimes clumsy presentation, is something that many LGBT viewers have been waiting all their lives to see.

On here! TV’s Dante’s Cove, a supernatural soap opera populated only with gay or extremely gay-friendly characters, queer sexuality is the norm. Somehow even Grace (Tracy Scoggins), a straight woman whose husband cheated on her with a man, has come to seem queer — she is a gay diva through and through, even when she sleeps with a man. In addition, Dante’s Cove has made a clear effort to cast out actors as lesbians; this year, Jill Bennett and Jenny Shimizu joined Michelle Wolff on the series, significantly increasing the show’s lesbian content.

Humor has also been a mainstay of the new gay television. Logo’s animated series Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World pokes fun at potentially explosive stereotypes within the gay community, including a butch/femme lesbian couple who are trying to get pregnant. Although some of the lesbian jokes fall flat because they seem so familiar and tired, the series gives the gay community another dimension by lampooning it with an insider’s eye.

Similarly, The Big Gay Sketch Show, a sketch comedy show on Logo featuring a mixed cast of straight and gay men and women, satirizes gay stereotypes and simultaneously bolsters gay and lesbian identity and community. By providing spaces in which being gay is the norm, these television shows do a greater service to the LGBT community than merely providing entertaining diversions from real life. They not only reflect LGBT life but also create a world in which equality is not merely a possibility — it is a reality.

A Very Special Episode

Several television shows aired single episodes devoted to lesbian story lines this year, and by and large the results were extremely positive.

The Sarah Silverman Show laughed with lesbians on the March 1 episode “The Muffin Man,” in which Silverman decides that she’s gay after meeting a butch lesbian cop. On the second season premiere of The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman, Jackie (Laura Kightlinger) and her best friend Tara (Nicholle Tom) are mistaken for a lesbian couple, and they continue to play gay in order to attempt to break into the Hollywood elite.

A March episode of South Park titled “D-Yikes” also made fun of the lesbian community while showing that the show’s producers understand us. The animated lesbians may have been mulleted and flannel-wearing, but the story — about a lesbian bar being bought out by Persians — reflected a reality (the struggle for lesbian bars to stay in business) combined with sharp political humor. The crude sexual jokes in “D-Yikes” are not for everyone, but do fall in line with the Borat mentality prevalent in comedy today.

In addition to insider humor about lesbians, 2007 also featured a few more typical special episodes about lesbians. In July, the Kyle XY episode titled “Free To Be You and Me” tackled same-sex dating in high school when two girls, whom school administrators assume are a lesbian couple, are denied tickets to the school dance. Though the episode takes a few missteps, including a stunt same-sex kiss and the girls’ declaration that they hate men, overall it oozed gay pride and acceptance.

Similarly, Lifetime’s State of Mind featured a lesbian custody story line in August titled “Helpy Helperpants” in which one half of a divorcing lesbian couple is initially stereotyped as butch and un-motherly, but ultimately winds up being the better parent. Though the actress behind the role didn’t successfully embody the butch character, the moral of the story was ultimately positive.

Finally, Battlestar Galactica: Razor, a two-hour movie spin-off of the Sci Fi series that aired in November, included a same-sex relationship between a lead character, Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) and Cylon Number Six (Tricia Helfer). Though their relationship ended in tragedy, it was one of the most complicated and unique stories told this year.