TV’s Power to Change Lives


Empire Jamal Jussie Smollett


Pictured: Jussie Smollett as Jamal in the ‘Empire’  finale | Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX

LGBT-inclusive shows have been trending for years, but that two of the season’s biggest hits—Empire and How to Get Away with Murder—featured gay characters in sexual scenarios on Fox and ABC has defied typical ratings logic.

The former, created by award-winning director Lee Daniels (alongside straight writer Danny Strong), channels Daniels’s childhood experiences with homophobia in the African-American community into a melodrama about gay R&B star-in-training Jamal Lyon as he fights his family for power while looking for love.Daniels told Out that working on the show has also already changed mega-producer Timbaland’s “opinion on how he feels about gays.”

“He really had this epiphany,” Daniels said. “It was beautiful, and it deepened our friendship.”

Murder comes from Shonda Rhimes’s protégé Pete Nowalk, who made headlines by having gay character Connor rim a man in the pilot. “Putting out the character on network TV, especially someone who’s young and confident, is very important to me,” Nowalk explains. As for the racy sex, Nowalk says the scene made it into the story because it shows part of who Connor is. “He’s sexual, and he can use that to his benefit, but it’s also just one of the ways that he lives and feels good.”

For years, gay men and women toiled in the shadows of Hollywood, crafting funny and heartbreaking narratives for mainstream America. Alan Ball (Six Feet Under), Darren Star (Sex and the City), and Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives) were among those who ruled the airwaves in the late ’90s and early aughts, but with content focused largely on women and families. Now, similar creatives are openly discussing their personal lives and translating them into stories for the rest of the world. American Horror Story was created by Power List regular Ryan Murphy, whose groundbreaking Glee ended this year. Arrow and its hit spin-off, The Flash (with a gay villain played by openly gay actor Andy Mientus), have Greg Berlanti at the helm. Brad Bredeweg and Peter Paige, along with executive producers Greg Gugliotta and Joanna Johnson, have made The Fosters a mainstay. And when it comes to HBO’s The Comeback and Looking, there’s practically a gay man at every level of production, including Dan Bucatinsky, Michael Lannan, and Andrew Haigh.

Considering that Berlanti had to threaten to quit his job to get the first gay prime-time kiss on Dawson’s Creek just 15 years ago, TV has come a long way in terms of the real, open, sexual, complicated (and sometimes boring) LGBT characters now found on nearly every network, as well as the streaming sites Netflix and Amazon.Berlanti has made it a point to include gay characters in everything he’s done and has seen a cultural evolution. “It’s rewarding when you talk to younger writers and directors who say that they saw something that you did and that it had an impact on them,” he explains. “I like to think I’ve played a small, small part in some of that.”

Dafydd from BBC Wales Playhouse Series

Reviewed in ‘upstart

  • Actors: Richard Harrington, William Thomas
  • Directors: Ceri Sherlock
  • Producers: Gareth Rowlands


BBC Cymru/BBC Wales – Wales Playhouse TV Series

the problem with this 55 minute long program/video/movie (directed by Ruth Caleb, distributed by Pride Video [Currently unavailable] is that it attempts too much and too little.  Dafydd, from Pontypridd, meets David Davies in Amsterdam.  Dafydd is a rent boy (how he got to Amsterdam, why he is a rent boyand not a druggie like the rest of the boys is not explained.  His only characteristic, apart from being Welsh-speaking, is a love of opera).  Davies (William Thomas) is something in music, he tells Dafydd he is a teacher, but appears to be in Amsterdam on administrative business.

Davies’ brutal death, apparently at the hands of a (female) prostitute and her pimp ends the drama.  It doesn’t ring true, nor do a lot of other incidents in this movie, not even as dramatic devices.  The pimp, earlier, sems to have been asking Dafydd for (at least) physical comfort.  The “real” Gay boys in this drama are quite effeminate.  They are seen hanging about the quays and toilets.

Richard Harrington (Dafydd) is the psossessor of the most eloquent nostrils since Kenneth Williams’ heyday.  He’s playing against type here.  David Davies is described in the blurb as having problems with his sexuality.  This is demonstrated by showing images of (her) SM.  In “real life” he’d be bisexual.  It seems that bi’s are going through the grisly murder/pathetic suicide cycle (like lesbians and homosexual men) before being absorbed into drama as characters in teir own right.

This little drama has all of the Beeb’s virtues and failings.  There are brilliant production values, photography and acting.  There is also timidity.  Sex is not a cheerful subject.  The cheeriest scene is where Dafydd and two sissy boys break into a disco and dance – and drink and take drugs – with their kit all the way off.  This video breaks no new ground, other than to put Welsh intto the mouths of the protagonists, and to introduce Richard Harrington to a wider audience.  (He is very comely in the buff, as smooth-skinned and hairless as an Irish boy).

Well, then |NorIrl Beeb and UTV, when are we getting an Ulster spin on matters Gay?  How about a wee (Gay girl from the Shankill meets a wee similar from the (Short) Strand in ’72 and live in connubial bliss in Sunnyside Street?Dafydd (1995) Poster


Reviewer:  Sean McGouran


Further reading:

Ballet Boyz

Television Review – Ballet Boys


BalletBoyz is the brainchild of Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt who founded the company in 2001.

BalletBoyz is the brainchild of Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt who founded the company in 2001.

Germane to the review on ‘The Short History of a Prince’ was a 3-part series on Channel 4 early in 2000.  It was Ballet Boyz videotaped by Trevitt and Nunn, two fairly senior dancers with the Royal Ballet.  The series was quite interesting for the balletomane, but the real drama (whereby Trevitt, Nunn and three other premiers danseurs went off to form a company in Japan) was largely left camera.  There was a shot or two of the celebrations on the contract signing.  Trevitt (24 at the time) said it was the first adult act of his life.

The most interesting aspect of this series was the attitude taken to it (and to Trevitt and Nunn) by the television critics.  The Indy’s man thought that the spelling “boyz”, and Trevitt’s being called ‘Billy’ meant that we were getting a “butch” message.  (They don’t get out often enough, poor dears:  too much telly).

The Grauniad man “puzzled over why ballet-master Christopher Carr should be nicknamed ‘Vicki’.  Mr Carr was not as camp as the proverbial row of tents, so much as a full-scale International Jamboree.  Both these reporters (and John Lyttle in the Daily Express) made an issue of these two men “rush[ing] out [to] record evidence that they are both married with children” [Guardian].  It was largely a few shots of Trevitt’s beautiful children, as they learned how to use the video equipment.  And surely everybody points their camera at the family on first getting one?

The most dramatic moment in the series was when Anthony Dowell, Director of the Royal Ballet, led them into the refurbished Covent Garden opera house. (The opera and ballet companies had led a nomadic life for three or four years).  This was the point where they had decided to fly the nest.  Dowell, a great dramatic dancer for a quarter century, looked directly through the camera-lens into Trevitt’s eyes: he knew.


Reviewer: Angus CAMERON


Controversy Over That Gay Teen Kiss

There’s Controversy Over That Gay Teen Kiss On ‘The Fosters’

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ABC Family made history when two 13-year-old characters shared a same-sex kiss on the show “The Fosters.” However, with broken ground came angry tweets from those who disapproved of the scene.

“The Fosters,” which is currently in its second season, focuses on the story of a lesbian couple and their family of biological and fostered children. Last week, friends Jude (Hayden Byerly, 14) and Connor (Gavin MacIntosh, 15) kissed after a build-up around their blossoming relationship. It was the youngest gay kiss in TV history. While some were thrilled with the progressive and powerful message, others took to Twitter and bashed the show, calling it a “sin” and “cultural suicide.”

Show co-creators Peter Paige and Bradley Bredeweg defended the scene while speaking with TheWrap.

“When people question the scene my response has been: ‘Everyone has a first kiss and you remember it. How old were you?’ Ninety percent of people who have an answer come back and say, ‘I was 12, 13 and 14 years old,’ and I say, ‘Exactly. It was time to see this, time to put this up for the world,'” Bredeweg said. “Then people understand, they’re able to wrap their heads around it.”

“I would say its very easy to balk at or sensationalize the headline, but its hard to deny the truth or the integrity of the whole story,” Paige added. “We are here to tell the true stories of what it is to grow up and these are true stories of what it is to grow up as a young, potentially gay person. It’s the truth and that’s all.”

Although he admitted his hesitation as a straight male, Byerly told the Daily Beast he came to terms with filming the gay kiss because of the impact it could have for viewers of the show, particularly for the LGBT community.

“It was very important to portray a character that is going through a struggle that so many people go through,” he said. “I want people to watch the show and see the struggle that Jude goes though and feel more comfortable about themselves; to feel like it doesn’t matter whether you are gay or straight or bisexual or transgender or whatever you are, that you are happy with who you are, and that you are accepting of yourself. My hope is that people watch the scene and they are happy to see something on television that represents them.”

Watch the scene from “The Fosters” below.

‘Cucumber’ And ‘Banana’, Queer Dramas, To Air On Logo TV

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‘Cucumber’ and ‘Banana’ – vegetable or fruit hitting your screens soon

Are you ready for your new favorite queer television shows?

From the writer of the iconic “Queer As Folk” and the much beloved “Dr. Who” comes “Cucumber,” “Banana” and “Tofu,” three interlinked gay dramas that are already receiving buzz for their unapologetic portrayals of queer life. “Cucumber,” “Banana” and “Tofu” will premiere across Channel 4, E4 and 4oD in the UK in 2015.

Logo TV will run “Cucumber” and “Banana” on Logo TV in early 2015 in the U.S. The network has not announced plans regarding “Tofu.”

“Whether he’s reinventing Doctor Who for a whole new generation, or creating riveting gay and lesbian characters on the original ‘Queer as Folk,’ Russell T Davies always pushes television forward,” Stephen Friedman, President of MTV and Logo TV, said in a statement sent to The Huffington Post. “’Cucumber’ and ‘Banana’ are groundbreaking for the way they show intertwined narratives from two generations’ different perspectives. Even more importantly, the shows tell hilarious, incisive and very human stories.”

“It’s an honour and delight to team up with Logo for these brand new dramas,” Davies said in a statement. “It’s 16 years since I created ‘Queer As Folk,’ which means I’ve had 16 years to build up new characters, new stories, and new insights into our lives. Across both series, we explore gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender stories, as well as love beyond labels – this is 50 shades of gay, and beyond!”

Check out the trailer above.