Fox, ABC Family Rank High in LGBT Report, History Stumbles

Modern Family Emmy Comedy

Transgender people still underrepresented in the mix, GLAAD notes

The depiction of LGBT people on the small screen is rapidly increasing and slowly diversifying, according to GLAAD.

Per annual reports released by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media advocacy group GLAAD, primetime broadcast and cable networks are increasing their use of LGBT images. And for the first time in history, there will be an equal number of male and female LGBT characters on TV.

Fox leads the broadcast pack in GLAAD’s Network Responsibility Index; 42% of its primetime programming hours include LGBT characters or storylines. ABC trails behind at 33% and CBS is dead last with 14%. Meanwhile, ABC Family is the most inclusive cable net — half of its original programming included LGBT impressions — followed by FX at 40%. History and TBS both received failing grades.

In fact, History didn’t air any LGBT images last season.

While NRI looks back at the 2012-2013 season, GLAAD’s second survey, Where We Are on TV, looks ahead at this upcoming season. This report also boded well for Fox and ABC, which have the highest percentage of LGBT characters from the five broadcast networks. Despite a drop from a record high of 4.4% last season, 3.3% of scripted primetime broadcast series will have LGBT characters in 2013-2014 — the second highest rate to date.

With the cancellation of the sitcoms “The New Normal” and “Partners,” which were centered around same-sex couples, as well as “Smash” and “Happy Endings,” GLAAD’s associate director of entertainment media, Matt Kane, said there’s a void in the number of LGBT leads, as opposed to minor characters, on TV.

“When a program features an LGBT story line in a prominent way, it really gives the audience a chance to see the character as a fully rounded human being from all sides and not simply as background noise or as sort of a one-shaded character,” he said. “That’s always a good thing from our perspective because we want these story lines to build empathy in a viewer for LGBT people as fellow citizens in general.”

Despite the community’s progress, GLAAD’s national spokesperson, actor Wilson Cruz, said transsexuals as well as people of color and people with disabilities are still underrepresented.

“Television is still having problems telling stories of trans people,” Cruz said. “They still tend to be sensationalistic story lines, which depict trans people as victims or pathetic or deceptive.”

Thanks to shows like “Modern Family,” “Glee” and “Grey’s Anatomy” and cable nets like HBO and Cinemax, the industry has made leaps and bounds since Cruz’s debut as TV’s first scripted gay character on “My So-Called Life” in 1995.

“I do see shows like ‘The Fosters’ as an example of where I would like television to be going, which is a much more diverse cast, really able to tell the three-dimensional stories of LGBT people,” Cruz said. “This is a show that’s not a comedy, we’re not the butt of jokes here. We’re taken very seriously and so are out families.”

The prominence of LGBT people on reality TV may have boosted their visibility on scripted TV, Kane said. Most recently, NBC’s singing competition “The Voice” had four openly gay contestants (two of them were finalists) in its first season, same-sex couple Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge — aka the “Beekman boys” — won the “Amazing Race” last year and MTV’s hit “Catfish” regularly spotlights LBGT relationships.

Kane said TV and film execs alike need to be mindful that their choices in characters and story arcs are capable of creating dialogue about LGBT issues around the world.

“These shows are not only broadcast here, they’re also broadcast around the world in countries in which the rights and acceptances of LGBT people are still far behind where they are in the United States,” Kane said. “These shows have the potential to do a lot of good, simply by telling the stories of LGBT people to an audience that may still not be very familiar with them.”

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  1. Katrina T.L says:

    I love The Fosters!!! Kudos ABC Family!! I have never felt such a connection to a TV series before! Excellent story and characters! Such a deep chemistry between Lena and Stef.

  2. Everyone's GLAAD says:

    But nobody’s HAPPY! Hetrosexuals Are People Perfecly Y0Uniform! Hetrosexuals have RIGHTS TOO!

  3. Kailey says:

    I feel like many TV shows are still making the mistake of playing into the stereotypes of LGBT characters. Also they still aren’t including all of the LGBTQQIP2SAA categories. Many writers are attempting but failing to show these characters as normal people, they define them by their sexuality or gender instead of having it about a person who happens to be gay, lesbian etc.

  4. Emma says:

    “since Cruz’s debut as TV’s first scripted gay character on “My So-Called Life” in 1995”

    Um, what? Anyone remember a show called “Soap” with Billy Crystal as a scripted gay character in 1977?

  5. Chrisez says:

    I agree with Glee Fan Alice. However, Raj on “The Big Bang Theory” seriously needs to find a serious BOYFRIEND — and I’m serious. All the clues are there — he’s gay but doesn’t know it. (I can’t tell you how many viewers have the said the same!) btw: So glad he got rid of Lucy — she wasn’t just weird, she was CREEPY!

  6. Glee Fan Aiice says:

    Seriously, who cares? A show only needs to be loyal to its premise. It doesn’t need to work in the LGBT community angle. If a show fits it, fine, but if you are doing a show and feel a LGBT storyline is a distraction or forced inclusion to the main premise, don’t put any LGBT plots in. It is not a requirement for every show to have LGBT characters or to force them in just to appease anyone.

    Tell your story. Include the characters you think tell your story best.

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