2019 was something of a watershed year for LGBTQ representation on the small screen. GLAAD’s latest Where Are We on TV report indicated that there were more non-straight characters on TV last year than ever before, and that some of the best shows with mainstream appeal had an LGBTQ focus. These included titles like Pose, Fleabag and Watchmen.
So it looks like 2020 has a hard act to follow. Here, we’ve selected some titles will be essential viewing over the months ahead.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Love Island has become something of an institution among all ages, sexes and sexualities, to the extent that you can even bet on the Love Island winner using online bookmakers. However, the show has come under fire for failing to reflect the real world with its blinkered focus on heterosexual dating. Of course, this is a show that has been franchised across the world, and you can rely on Australia to take any challenge by the horns. Love Island Australia has been the first to introduce same-sex couples, and the rest of the franchise will surely have to follow suit.
It’s not all fluff and fun in the sun. This drama series is from the pen of Russel T Davies, the man who brought BBC classic Doctor Who back to our screens and then broke down the boundaries with the amazing series Queer as Folk. In Boys, he tackles the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s through the eyes of three young gay men living in the UK. The production values are everything you would expect from a Channel 4 production, and the cast includes Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris.
Ryan Murphy has done more to bring LGBT into the Tinseltown mainstream than anyone He’s the man behind Glee, Scream Queens, Pose and lots more. His 2020 project is set in Hollywood’s golden age, and while full most of the details are still under wraps, we know that it will feature Jake Picking in the role of Rock Hudson, a Hollywood legend forced to spend most of his career in the closet.
I am Not Okay with This
Graphic novels are turning into a rich source of material for TV in the Netflix and Amazon era. First we had The Walking Dead, but there are no zombies here. Directed by Jonathan Entwhistle, he of The End of the F****** World fame, I Am Not Okay With This is a parable for our times. It features Syd, a teen struggling to come to terms with her sexuality, her relationship with her best friend and an irritating outbreak of superpowers.
The Barking Murders
True crime more your thing? If so, this compelling BBC docu-drama surrounding the crimes of Stephen Port is something you mustn’t miss. In case you missed the original story, Port was a serial killer and rapist who caused panic in London’s gay community about five years ago, selecting his victims on Grindr before meeting them under a false name and committing grisly crimes in his East London apartment. The more sensational aspects of Port’s crimes have already been discussed at length in other series. This one focuses on the effects he had on those additional victims who so often go unnoticed, the families of those that he murdered.
True crime stories make for compelling TV, but sometimes you want to watch something that lets you just kick back, switch your brain off and be entertained. If you loved Glee back in the days when it was all about the fun and high jinks, then Katy Keene could be just what you’ve been waiting for. The series follows the eponymous Katy, an aspiring graphic designer, along with her three best friends, including Ginger, a would-be drag queen played by Jonny Beauchamp. The show also features Shangela from Drag Race as Ginger’s nemesis.
Stephen King adaptations haven’t traditionally set the world on fire with their representation of LGBT characters. However, the forthcoming adaptation of his apocalyptic epic might just change that, with a crucial update to one of the book’s core characters. Danya Jurgens is set to play a young bisexual who is one of a handful of survivors in an earth decimated by plague. Look out for it on CBS later this year.
Disney has taken an interesting journey of its own, from being something of a conservative bastion of mid-20th century attitudes to taking positive steps in featuring LGBT characters in its most recent original series. Love, Simon is a TV spin-off of the 2018 movie of the same name, and will again feature Nick Robinson as Simon. Watch out for Michael Cimino playing the role of Victor, a newcomer at Simon’s school who is struggling to understand his own sexuality. Who better to reach out to for some help and advice than Simon?
Y: The Last Man
Here’s another comic book adaptation that has been in the pipeline for so long, we wondered if it would ever see the light of day. The story revolves around a world in which there is only one man left alive on the planet. The original comic came out around 20 years ago, and prompted some accusations of being transphobic. Interestingly, transgender author Charlie Jane Anders has been hired to write for the series. It will be fabulous to find out what they have done with this incredible source material when it is released later this year.
AJ and the Queen
If you loved RuPaul on Drag Race then you’ll have the time of your life with the LGBT legend’s latest production. She plays a drag queen who’s down on her luck and touring the less salubrious corners of the USA, accompanied by her worldly-wise 11-year-old traveling companion, AJ. Josh Segarra plays Mama Ru’s love interest, and the series has just been released on Netflix, so you can start bingeing right now.