Every fall season, GLAAD issues a report about LGBT characters on the main networks’ scripted series, and whether that indicates an improvement from years past. This year’s report notes a “significant increase” in gay characters, according to the study — the most, in fact, ever.
ABC leads the pack with 11 of 152 lead or supporting characters (7.2 percent), helped by shows like Modern Family and Brothers & Sisters. Fox has 5 of 100 (5 percent), including Kurt from Glee, pictured, animated character like Smithers on The Simpsons. NBC marked a decline from last year (only three of 143) and CBS was again in last place with one of 125 (Emmy winner Archie Panjabi from The Good Wife).
The study has its flaws. For instance, the report claims zero gay characters on Fox in 2007, yet one listed now includes Smithers, who has been on the show since 1989 but is considered “recurring” (the study doesn’t including recurring characters in the main figures). And it doesn’t account for, frankly, quality — Brothers & Sisters has never been good, but this season has swan-dived into especially odious melodrama with gay stereotypes.
A separate report counts basic cable series, where gay characters (often with more interesting and frank storylines than on broadcast) are more common and realistically portrayed. I mean, True Blood: Who doesn’t watch that for the hot bodies? The study also doesn’t include reality shows, which really dominate the TV landscape. With Dancing with the Stars judge Bruno Tonioli swishing up the most popular show on TV right now, as bisexual comedian Margaret Cho dances, you’d think that would warrant a mention, as would Jeff Lewis, Jackie Warner and half the contestants on Bravo’s competition series. That would paint a fairer picture. But it’s still nice to see progress.