Amidst the onslaught of fall TV returning to the screen momentarily, there are over 20 shows with LGBT characters. These shows span many genres with queer characters in roles large and small. While I’ll definitely be watching the “Grey’s Anatomy” premiere on September 22nd with a tinge of sadness to see where Shonda Rhimes picks up after the end of CalZona, and I’m still missing my LGBT-TV summer favorites “OITNB” and “EJNYC,” here are a few of new LGBT offerings in the fall TV lineup that I’m particularly excited about.
“Finding Prince Charming” (Logo & VH1 – Thursdays 9/8c)
I am going to admit here publicly for the first time that I am a member of #BachelorNation. To the uninitiated, this means that I enjoy the company of the long running TV franchise “The Bachelor,” “The Bachlorette,” and yes, even “Bachelor in Paradise.” So you can imagine how excited I was to check out this new Logo show where thirteen gay suitors compete to win the heart of the “nation’s most eligible gay heartthrob.” This reality dating show stays true to the genre where getting-to-know-you mixers, pool parties, and much alcohol help the hunky single bachelor choose his mate. But this is So. Much. Gayer. This show simultaneously upends some gay stereotypes (e.g. one man talks about how he is always in monogamous relationships) while solidly re-enforcing others (e.g. Robert says he is “into a guy that’s a guy”). But overall I think this show has a lot to offer and touches on many of the ongoing conversations happening in and about the LGBT communities (e.g. gay suicide). Even though it sure has some issues, I will definitely keep watching. So bring on the “gay bachelor show” where the men in the house are as likely to fall for each other as they are for the prince and where prince charming gives out black ties instead of roses.
“Strut” (Oxygen – Series Premiere September 20)
Oxygen’s new reality show “Strut” follows Slay Model Management, the world’s only all transgender modeling agency. It features the lives and work of five models at the agency — four transgender women and one transgender man. I’ve seen a bunch of reality shows about modeling (“ANTM,” “Make Me a Supermodel,” etc.) and “Strut” has definitely piqued my interest. Models Ren, Dominique, Arisce, Isis, and Laith are shown going to casting sessions, getting camera ready, doing photo shoots, and talking the audience through what it’s like to be a model and what it’s like to be trans. It reveals ways that being transgender impacts relationships with their parents, tests their religion, pushes up against changing societal norms, and influences their social media followers. There are some real “trans teaching moments” in this show — like when Laith is shown boxing with his father and says, “Every once in a while my dad says he misses his little girl and I tell him he never really had one.” Or when Ren, a very young model, wonders “What if I don’t want to be a role model, what if I just want to live my life?” — an opportunity afforded to her, perhaps, because of trans models who have come before her like the older, experienced Arisce. But if you think this show is all about teaching trans 101, and you think you’re going to miss out on the typical reality TV tropes, fear not. In the first episode, one model asks another if she’s going to “come for me” and a drink is thrown soon after. When a show is the first of its kind, it can often be shot down as being “not enough” of one thing or “too much” of another. And “Strut” may fall prey to those critiques, I think it’s a good step towards trans visibility on television and I’m eager to keep watching this season.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (FOX – October 20th)
Now while I won’t exactly call myself a connoisseur of the recent spate of live television musicals, I have seen them all and would rank them in the following order as my most to least favorite: “Grease: Live” (FOX), “The Wiz Live!” (NBC), and bringing up the rear “Peter Pan Live!” (NBC) tied with “Sound of Music Live!” (NBC). Some people say never to mess with a classic. And while I agree in some circumstances (see this summer’s Ben-Hur reboot, or rather…don’t), I am really looking forward to FOX’s upcoming “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Transgender actress Laverne Cox stars as Frank-N-Furter, the “sweet transvestite From Transexual, Transylvania” the role made famous by Tim Curry. My initial instinct was that it was a bit problematic for Laverne Cox, a transwoman, to play the role of a transvestite — that audiences would somehow conflated the two as interchangeable. But Cox has spoken in interviews about the positive influence the film and this gender non-conforming character have had on her and this makes me even more excited for her to play this role! I’m a big fan of Cox’s work on Orange is the New Black and I’m thrilled to see her don the fishnets and corset. I’m getting my toast ready now for the October premiere!