With a statewide vote on same-sex marriage a month away, an advocacy group says the number of gay and bisexual characters on TV shows is at its highest level in the season ahead.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) today released its 17th-annual “Where We Are on TV” report. It finds that 4.4 percent of actors appearing regularly on prime-time network drama and comedy series during the 2012-13 season will portray gay, lesbian or bisexual characters. This is up from 2.9 percent last season.
The group says ABC leads the networks in gay representations, with 10 regular characters out of a total of 194.
The study reviewed 97 scripted TV programs scheduled to air in the upcoming season on the broadcast networks, counting a total of 701 series regular characters.
Gay and lesbian characters on cable television have also risen to 35, up from a total of 29 last season.
The study found that among cable networks, Showtime leads with 12 characters. The HBO drama “True Blood” remains cable’s most inclusive series, featuring six LGBT characters.
“This yearâ€™s increase of LGBT characters on television reflects a cultural change in the way gay and lesbian people are seen in our society,” says GLAAD President Herndon Graddick in a statement. “More and more Americans have come to accept their LGBT family members, friends, coworkers, and peers, and as audiences tune into their favorite programs, they expect to see the same diversity of people they encounter in their daily lives.”
Compared to last year, African-American representation has grown from 9.9 percent to 12 percent, while Hispanic representation has decreased from 5.6 percent to 4.1 percent.
TV’s first gay character came charging out of the closet in 1972 with the premier of “The Corner Bar,” which was similar to “Cheers.” Played by Vincent Schiavelli, the character of Peter Panama portrayed what most of us would consider an over-the-top gay. Billy Crystal furthered the movement in 1977 with his character of Jodie Dallas in “Soap.”
Gay characters have since given way to entire gay shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Will & Grace.”
In “New Normal” on NBC, Andrew Rannells, near right, and Justin Bartha are a gay couple who arrange a pregnancy with a surrogate played by Georgia King. NBC photo
By LINDA THOMAS