It’s been 16 years since Ellen DeGeneres came out on ABC, and though we’ve had a number of gay male characters in the sitcom realm, we haven’t seen as many lesbian characters — until, possibly, now.
According to Deadline.com, DeGeneres is set to executive produce a new sitcom now in development at NBC about a lesbian and her straight male best friend who get pregnant — just as he meets (and marries) the love of his life. It’s from openly gay comedy writer Liz Feldman (“2 Broke Girls”).
Though it’s too soon to know if this sitcom will 1) get produced or 2) be funny, it’s surprising to think that, after the success of “Will & Grace,” it’s taken this long for the story to get flipped (“Will & Grace” went off the air in 2006 after eight seasons).
Of course, lesbian-centric storylines aren’t entirely absent from TV. “The L Word” had a six-season run, “Orange Is the New Black” has several gay female characters, and lesbian storylines have popped up on “Mistresses,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Fosters,” “Glee,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “The O.C.” and plenty of other places.
Since none of these shows immediately experienced plummeting ratings after storylines about gay characters were introduced, it’s a head scratcher as to why networks have seemed skittish about lesbian (and, to a lesser degree, gay male) main characters. A lot of people could argue successfully that “Modern Family”‘s Cam and Mitch are one of the best, most relatable couples on TV.
Granted, “Ellen” was canceled shortly after DeGeneres came out — but many felt the show had become unfunny. “The New Normal” limped through one season despite a solid cast, but, again, not funny.
Network executives are remarkably skittish, but they do like success. While no one seemed interested in putting a lesbian sitcom on the air after the success of “Will & Grace,” if this sitcom takes off, there’s a chance more lesbian sitcoms will work their way down the network pipeline. Well, maybe.
Why do you think it’s been 16 years since a lesbian character was front and center in a sitcom?