Monday, December 14, 2015

LGBT TV 2015: Highs/Lows/Missed Opportunities

Okay, this might not be an entirely definitive list. There are probably some omissions, due to me either not getting round to seeing certain programmes or simply forgetting stuff but without further ado, here's a look at some of the most prominent of LGBT programmes - either for the excellent representation, terrible representation or simply being a missed opportunity.

Starting this off on a good note ....

The Best

Sense8 (Netflix)

There were so many things this excellent summer series had going in it's favour from the makers of both The Matrix and Babylon 5. Some of the most notable was the diversity in it's casting, the fact that it was filmed in eight different countries (which really did translate onscreen) and of course, the fact that a good portion of the cast were LGBT. In the first season we saw the relationship between transgendered hacktivist Nomi (Jamie Clayton) and free spirited Amanita (Freema Agyeman) as well as semi-closeted actor Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) and the rather lovely Hernando (Alfonso Herrera). Both relationships were treated with utter sensitivity throughout the captivating series.

How To Get Away With Murder (ABC/Universal)

If only every second season can be good as this show. I feared that How To Get Away With Murder might have suffered from the cursed sophomore slump but has managed to actually subvert it so far. Not only that but Season 2 is seriously becoming close to edging out Season 1 in terms of craziness too. More importantly, the show's handling of Oliver's (Conrad Ricamora) HIV and his relationship with Connor (Jack Falahee) has developed so wonderfully onscreen. Watching this show, you do have to wonder why can't all LGBT writers get it as right as Peter Nowalk is currently doing.

Empire (FOX/E4)

Has there ever has been a show that has risen so spectacularly? In less than a couple of episodes, Empire went from a surprising rated well mid season series on FOX to becoming literally the most talked about network drama in the last five years and it's easy to see why. It's a modern musical equivalent to Dallas, has been more of a singing monster hit than the ended Glee and upped the soap antics with the Lyon family and the record company. More to the point (and excluding the blip we had with the Skye Summers plot), Jamal Lyon has become one of the most fascinating gay characters on television with Jussie Smollett proving to be a commanding presence and soulful singer.

Cucumber/Banana/Tofu (Ch4/E4/4OD/Logo)

16 years ago, Russell T/ Davies gave UK viewers Queer As Folk on Channel 4 and it certainly changed the landscape of television. In 2015, he went one step further with three interconnecting shows, all airing on connecting channels and while the shows in question might have divided some viewers, they did however provoke discussion. Not only that - they also examined what it meant to be LGBT in the present day, the division between young and older members of the community, the dangers of revenge porn, unrequited love, growing apart from family and friends as well as the ending of a long term relationship. Basically, these shows fucking rocked.

London Spy (BBC2/BBCAmerica)

Recently finished up on one channel and awaiting airing on another, I did a series overview of this five part spy series from writer Tom Robb Smith and starring Ben Whishaw, but covering myself again - there were moments that frustrated me, but the moments that didn't outweighed things. The love story between Danny (Whishaw) and Alistair/Alex (Edward Holcroft) was interesting and tragic but the friendship between Danny and Scottie (Jim Broadbent) and the ongoing quest to find out who killed Alex certainly kept the show watchable at all times.

The Pretty Good/Rather Great

Looking (HBO/SkyAtlantic)

The bad thing about this show was the moment it got it's groove in it's much improved second season, it was also the same moment that HBO decided to call time on the series. While a movie scheduled for 2016 will tie up any loose ends, it's a shame that apart from that, audiences won't get to see any more of Agustin (Frankie J. Alverez) and Eddie's (Daniel Franzese) relationship, which was the best thing about the second season. Far more interesting than seeing Dom and Ritchie just hanging around or the somewhat tedium surrounding Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and Kevin (Russell Tovey). Hopefully the movie should end things on a good note though.

Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)

To be honest, the third season of Netflix's most famous of shows wasn't it's best one but it was still an extremely watchable one as Piper/Alex (Taylor Schilling/Laura Prepon) reunited, got back together and then broke up over the 13 episodes while Ruby Rose made a memorable debut as the intriguing enough Stella. There was also a delving into transphobia with Sophia (Laverne Cox) towards the end of the season and the growing friendship between Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) and Tiffany (Taryn Manning) was pretty affecting.

Glee (FOX/Sky1)

One of three of Ryan Murphy's shows to make this list and while the show's final season wasn't capable of avoiding the odd stinker (mainly the Sue focused ones), it did have Kurt/Blaine broken up and then married (when the latter wasn't briefly with Karofsky) as well as Santana/Brittany. Not to mention the final episode showed us the gang's futures and Beiste's transition was dealt with a good amount of sensitivity, even if it could've been tackled earlier in the show's run.

Boy Meets Girl (BBC2)

BBC2's sweet natured comedy focusing on transgender woman Judy (Rebecca Root) meeting and starting a relationship with younger man, Leo (Harry Hepple) was one of the surprise hits of the last few months and within six episodes we got to see the relationship develop naturally with both Root and Hepple playing off each other extremely well. I do hope a second series is imminent.

Atlantis (BBC1/BBCAmerica)

A surprising addition to this list but a worthy one. Atlantis might have been a show with some of the laziest writing known to man at times and it's cancellation might have definitely been brought on itself but one thing it managed to get right in the second half of it's second season was the blossoming relationship between Pythagoras (Robert Emms) and Icarus (Joseph Timms). It's a shame we only got about five episodes of the two of them together but at least the show ventured where it's predecessor Merlin could never go though.

The Bad

Quantico (ABC)

You had one character (Simon as played by Tate Ellington) pretending to be gay for reasons too convoluted to entertain while the other character, Elias (Rick Cosnett) seemed to suffer various degrees of character assassination and ineptitude within the first half of this show's debut year. Bad form, show.

Scream Queens (FOX/E4)

It's a shame that for his first post Glee project and sticking with FOX, that Ryan Murphy had to resort to one of the most regressive tropes going. While the comedy/horror series could be entertaining at times, it was riddled with problems (not actually being scary, nastiness of main characters, humour trying too hair, pacing etc) and one of them being the irritating plot of Nick Jonas's Boone pretending to be gay. It's 2015 for flip sake. How can any writer think that sort of storytelling is even interesting to watch in the slightest? On the other hand, it's depiction with Chanel 3/Sadie Swenson (Billie Lourd) was marginally better.

American Horror Story: Hotel (FX/FOXUK)

Okay, not gonna lie - I do prefer Hotel that tiny bit more to Freak Show and while there's been a healthy dose of LGBT characters, the actual quality in them hasn't been something to write a glowing letter home about either. Let's be honest, they're either murderous (Lady Gaga's the Countess), revenge obsessed (Angela Bassett's Ramona Royale), not very bright (Cheyenne Jackson's Will Drake) or their relationships have been too brief to really care about (Denis O'Hare's Liz Taylor with Finn Wittrock's Tristan Duffy). Basically we're in desperate need for another Lana Winters, aren't we?

The Wasted Potential

Constantine (NBC/Amazon Prime)

I caught this series months after it's cancellation and mostly in preparation for Matt Ryan reprising his role in Arrow's fourth season (yay Nyssa/Curtis/alive Sara). Constantine as a series itself was actually pretty enjoyable for the most part but the show's decision to literally ignore the character's bisexuality (something which the latest comics have been more proud of depicting) infuriated me to no end and highlighted a horrible pattern with David S. Goyer as well (DaVinci's Demons, anyone?). Not to mention some of Daniel Cerone's comments on the issue were similarly annoying as well as patronising. It's kind of a shame the show only lasted a season but the writers decision not to have John as an openly bisexual character was met with deserved criticism. I can only hope the more the character pops up in the Arrow universe, the more the writers for those shows will go where Goyer/Cerone failed to go with the character.

Now that's my look at some of the highs and lows of LGBT TV in 2015. What are yours?

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