By Jude Dry – As networks woke up to the fact that viewers want to see TV that reflects not only their own lives, but the lives of those around them, there has been a massive shift in the kinds of LGBTQ characters and storylines we see on TV. Whether its Showtime writing a recurring non-binary character in “Billions,” or “Steven Universe” broadcasting a same-sex kiss to its audience of kids and adults for Cartoon Network, the explosion in queer representation had delivered more watershed moments than one can count.
As with everything in the era of peak TV, however, it can often feel overwhelming to keep track of every queer TV show. We’re not complaining — this is a problem many of us could never have dreamed of having — but there’s only so much time, even now. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up our favorite LGBTQ TV shows available to watch now.
If you haven’t caught up with Tanya Saracho’s brilliantly entertaining and sizzlingly sexy “Vida,” whatever are you waiting for? The half-hour dramedy is by far the best show about queer women of color on TV, perhaps ever. Even more impressive is how the story tracks the shifting Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights, thoughtfully navigating the difficult choices communities face in gentrification’s unceasing churn. “Vida” is sadly set to end after its forthcoming third seasn, making it all the more urgent for you to catch up now.
“Vida” is available on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Starz.
“Work in Progress”
The neurotic chubby butch finally gets her day in the sun, delivering the smartest, funniest, and most surprising queer show we’ve seen in many years. Starring the hilariously delightful Abby McEnany, a Chicago improviser who co-created the show with Tim Mason, “Work in Progress” packages bold and vital commentary on mentall illness, gender identity, and fatphobia with a Larry David-esque dark sense of humor. The May-December romance between Abby and trans cutie Theo Germaine (“The Politician”) is not only sweet and sexy, but a brilliant way to examine inter-generational divides in the queer community.
“Work in Progess” is available on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Showtime.
In many ways, Julie Klausner’s whipsmart comedy about a pair of charmingly neurotic New Yorkers was ahead of its time. A true sitcom in a TV landscape that never met a dramedy it didn’t like, “Difficult People” is stuffed to the brim with mile-a-minute jokes, pop culture references, and never pulls its punches. Billy Eichner is one of our most beloved gay actors, and as the co-lead he is given the full range of human experiences, including a romance with none other than John Cho. The show also features hilarious turns by Cole Escola, Shakina Nayfack, Andrea Martin, and James Urbaniak. As a staunch supporter of LGBTQ folks and a damn funny woman, Klausner is deeply committed to putting queer stories onscreen, making most “allies” appear paltry in comparison.
“Difficult People” is available on Hulu.
If you crave TV that makes you feel something, like the warm fuzzies of first love or the blush of your first kiss, get down and dirty with “Sex Education.” Packed with a gorgeous array of characters that reflect the real world, beautifully lensed, and brimming with wit, Laurie Nunn’s tender high school comedy is a balm in dark times. The concept is simple yet brilliant: Raised by a therapist mom, a teenage boy begins doling out amateur sex advice to his classmates for a small fee. “Sex Education” is full of characters of all persuasions you’re sure to fall hard for, but Ncuti Gatwa’s Eric is the show’s gay heart and soul. Boasting fabulous style, a supportive religious family, and two incredibly yummy love interests, Eric is the joyous, well-adjusted gay teen character we all deserve. Did we mention Gillian Anderson? She plays the mom. And she almost exclusively wears killer jumpsuits.
“Sex Education” is available on Netflix.
Sally Wainwright, how can we ever repay you for broadcasting the secret history of the good gentlewoman of Halifax, Anne Lister? A dapper dan long before the world even acknowledged the existence of lesbians, the real Anne Lister was a middle-class landowner living a relatively out and easy existence in early 19th century England. In a society that constantly erases LGBTQ lives and history, we know about Lister because she kept an exhaustive diary of her exploits, recording the more lascivious ones in a complex code. HBO’s period drama renders her dazzling persona with requsitite panache, thanks to an outstanding performance by Suranne Jones and Wainwright’s highly researched and witty script. The central romance offers much to enjoy, unfurling its layered chemistry with a tortuously slow burn that doesn’t sacrifice the naughty bits.
“Gentleman Jack” is available on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO.
Greg Whiteley’s addicitive six-part docuseries has done more for the sport of cheerleading than “Bring It On,” “But I’m a Cheerleader,” and “Poms” combined — and it’s just as gay. The series follows the Navarro College cheer team as they prepare for the National Cheerleading Championships in Daytona, or as they call it — Daytona. Wisely focusing on the students for whom cheer offered a way out of tough home situations, Whitely finds a plethora of memorable and compelling characters. Chief among them are Jerry Harris and La’Darius Marshall, two best friends who couldn’t be more different. Who among us cannot recognize ourselves as Jerry sweats over the ellipitical machine, looking on as his ripped teammates pump iron? Or as La’Darius seesaws between pride and frustration that no one on the team is as good as he is? Then there’s coach Monica, who quickly became a gay icon for the ages with her blind ambition and perfectionism, as she pushes the kids to the brink of exhaustion with a firm yet gentle hand. Cheerleading will never be the same.
“Cheer” is available on Netflix.
“The Other Two”
Created by Chris Kelly (“Other People”) and Sarah Schneider, this smart and silly comedy is all too painfully relatable. The concept is killer: Two flailing adult siblings are confronted with their little brother’s Justin Bieber-like rise to fame. Cary (Drew Tarver) is a struggling actor, while Brooke (Heléne Yorke) is a directionless former dancer. Bearing distinct similarities to “Difficult People,” the comedy comes as two ambitious narcisissts are confronted with their failure in increasingly humiliating ways. Molly Shannon is delightfully fabulous as their wacky stage mother, and their situation is made even harder by how impossible it is to hate their baby-faced sweetheart of a brother Chase (Case Walker), AKA ChaseDreams. The Instagay episode, “Chase Gets a Nosebleed,” written by Cole Escola, may be the most searing critique of gay internet culture ever made.
“The Other Two” is available on Comedy Central.
This easily digestible six-episode half-hour follows a handsome comedian in recovery for addicition to cocaine — and straight girls. Mae Martin, who created with series with Joe Hampson, plays a fictionalized version of herself as she falls for the lovely, if closeted, George (Charlotte Ritchie). Lisa Kudrow is pitch perfect as her emotionally withholding mother, easily conjuring that elusive brand of comedy with tragedy lurking just below the surface. Hilariously crafted, thrillingly paced, and brimming with the kind of raw honesty rarely found on TV, “Feel Good” will certainly make you feel, if not necessarily good, then something refreshingly real.
“Feel Good” is available on Netflix.
Created by Steven Canals, Ryan Murphy, and Brad Falchuk, “Pose” is the first television series to feature multiple transgender women of color in leading roles, and has been hailed as a bastion of inclusion and authentic LGBTQ storytelling. Beginning in the ballroom scene of the late-1980s and jumping ahead as its explosion in popularity following Madonna’s “Vogue” coincides with the AIDS crisis, “Pose” boldly portrays the community’s history in all of its pain and glory. For his role as PrayTell, Billy Porter became the first openly gay black man to win an Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series last year.
“Pose” is available on Netflix and FX on Hulu.
David Fincher’s Netflix drama may be primarily about the origins of serial killers, but there’s a less nefarious tension building below the surface of Dr. Wendy Carr’s placid poker face. Anna Torv establishes herself as a master of subtlety playing a closeted psychology professor fighting for respect at the male-dominated FBI. Season 2 of the crime thriller gave Wendy room to let loose a little, as she courts sexy bartender Kay (Lauren Glazier). It’s definitely a B-storyline (they have the Atlanta child murders to solve, after all) but it’s given ample screen time and handled with respect. There are more reasons to watch “Mindhunter,” Fincher’s color palette for one, but Wendy Carr will certainly draw you in.
“Mindhunter” is available on Netflix.
An Emmy-nominated dark comedy about a gay couple and their friends in Silverlake in Los Angeles, “EastSiders” began as a $2,000 self-financed project, and ended with its fourth and final season dropping on Netflix back in December. Writer, director and star Kit Williamson has shared insights from his creative process with IndieWire throughout the years, and his reflections are required reading for any creators out there. For anyone else, it’s a good old fashioned sexy gay comedy, with hot guys, relationship drama, and eccentric character actors. The fact that it exists because of the community’s labor of love is the cherry on top.
“EastSiders” is available on Netflix.
“One Day at a Time”
The beloved Norman Lear reboot became the first show to move from Netflix to a traditional network, all thanks to devoted fans of this big-hearted family comedy. The show follows a Cuban-American family living in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, focusing on a single mother who is an Army veteran, two kids, and grandma played by Rita Moreno. The first season finds the daughter coming to terms with her sexuality, and she is eventually embraced by the family in a moving coming out episode. The second season gives her a non-binary love interest. Nominated for three Emmys and a GLAAD Award, “One Day at a Time” is a wholesome and entertaining queer TV the whole family can enjoy.
“One Day at a Time” is available on Netflix, Pop TV, and Hulu With Live TV.
Starring comedy mainstays Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, and Chris Elliott, and introducing co-creator Dan Levy and Annie Murphy to the world, “Schitt’s Creek” went from underdog to mainstream must-see over its impressive five-season run. The comedy about a rich family adjusting to life in a podunk town after losing all of their wealth found ample opportunity to skewer archetypes and upend expectations. While serving its fair share of zany over-the-top humor, the show proved itself to be one of the most thoughtful, comforting, and charming comedies of the past five years. David won the hearts of viewers, even as he messed up over and over again, becoming one of the most beloved gay characters on TV. And with the show recently completing its final season, now is the perfect time to catch up on the madness.
“Schitt’s Creek” is available on Netflix and Hulu.
PHOTO:PHOTO: DAVID M. RUSSELL/HBO
From its web series roots to its cult status on HBO, “High Maintenance” has always captured the heart and soul of contemporary New York City (or more realistically, Brooklyn) in profound ways — how could it not be gay? The stoner comedy strings humanist vignettes together through the eyes of an unnamed weed dealer, whose delivery service affords him poignant snapshots of everyday life. The most recent fourth season proved that creators Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld have plenty of stories to tell, some of them downright transcendent.
“High Maintenance” is available on HBO Now, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.
“The Golden Girls”
There is never a bad time to revisit “The Golden Girls.” With all seven seasons living on Hulu, let Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia transport you to simpler, happier, gayer times. Though the gay housekeeper didn’t made it past the pilot, “The Golden Girls” broke ground for gay audiences by delivering four hilarious women of a certain age, easy stand-ins for gay men and lesbians alike. Over the years, the show leaned into its gay following with multiple affirming LGBTQ storylines, ensuring its rightful place in the pantheon of queer TV.
“The Golden Girls” is available on Hulu.
Sam Levinson’s provocative teen-drama-for-adults was HBO’s biggest hit of last summer, and its compelling cast of fluid characters is the main reason the series struck such a chord. Zendaya leads the series as cool tomboy protagonist Rue, who is hopelessly in love with Jules (the magnetic Hunter Schafer in a breakout role). Emanating a manic pixie trans girl energy unlike anything seen onscreen before, Jules floats magically through every frame in which she appears. Whether she’s biking giddily through an orchard or reciting Shakespeare in a pool without smudging her killer eye make-up, it’s hard not to fall in love with her. By the end of its debut season, their friendship-turned-romance is either headed toward mutual self-destruction or ignorant bliss. Rue and Jules are Romeo and Juliet for a new generation, even sharing the same initials as the star-crossed lovers in an upside down world.
“Euphoria” is available on HBO, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.
Creator and star Ryan O’Connell delivers a charming coming-of-age comedy about trying to embrace what makes you “special.” Based on his own memoir, “I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves,” O’Connell plays Ryan Kayes, a gay man with cerebral palsy who’s still living with his mother, Karen (Jessica Hecht). Wielding a strong ensemble and addictive pacing, the easily digestible short episodes keep the storytelling focused and the comedy sharp. Bearing similarities to “Shrill” and “Bonding,” “Special” can only grow more confident from its promising start.
“Special” is available on Netflix.
Created by Alena Smith, “Dickinson” stars Hailee Steinfeld as a teenage version of the poet and offers a stylish, humorous, and contemporary portrait of her life in mid-19th century Amherst, Massachusetts. Replete with anachronistic music choices, passionate lesbian sex, an opium party, and a hilarious Jane Krakowski as an anxious Mrs. Dickinson, “Dickinson” shrewdly packages Emily Dickinson as cool for the next generation of poetry fans.
“Dickinson” is available on Apple TV+.
Just in time for the bingeing boom, Showtime’s “Billions” will return with more of the fast-paced dialogue, lovable narcissists, and first-rate performances that helped make it Showtime’s biggest hit. The series charts the rivalry between hedge fund billionaire Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), whose professional ambitions are only half the reason they hate each other. The other is Wendy Rhoades (the luminous Maggie Siff), a ball-busting behavioral psychologist who dabbles in some pretty heavy BDSM. Season 2 saw the inroduction of non-binary character Taylor (Asia Kate Dillion), in a watershed moment for non-binary trans representation. Over the seasons, Taylor has become one of the show’s pivotal characters, and has earned it GLAAD Award nominations and legions of LGBTQ viewers.
“Billions” is available on Showtime, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.
Even before its historic same-sex marriage proposal and kiss, queerness was a key part of Rebecca Sugar’s landmark Cartoon Network series, which broke new ground for its frank portrayal of sexuality and gender identity in children’s programming. Since its premiere in 2013, the critically acclaimed show has wielded zany comedy, drama, and visual metaphors to teach viewers of all ages that sexuality is fluid. Sugar, who is bisexual, spent five seasons building up the same-sex relationship between Ruby and Sapphire, from an onscreen marriage proposal to an uncensored lip-to-lip kiss, a major milestone for LGBTQ visibility in kids’ shows. The show also features both non-binary and polyamorous characters, making it by far one of the queerest shows on TV.
“Steven Universe” is available on Cartoon Network and Hulu.