2010: The Year Gay TV Grew Up

Yes, it was the year of talkative gay teens and the cat-fighting stars of The A-List: New York. It might not seem like it, but 2010 was the year gay TV grew up. Well, at least part way.

Last year, AfterElton.com asked whether gay TV had matured, and this year that question seems to have been answered. More gay characters than ever graced our screens, and with the rising number of networks making reality shows, sitcoms, and dramas, there was something for everybody from daytime to primetime. In fact, it was so good that the gayest shows on broadcast dominated ratings, and cable series upped their game.

Sure, too many of the new shows with gay characters didn’t survive very long – Mercy, Trauma, and The Whole Truth. But most new shows don’t make it, and at least these characters were something different.

And, of course, there were scandals, like Newsweek’s gay actor controversy, and, as usual, not too many transgender or people of color got roles, either. Nothing we’re not used to there, unfortunately.

What made 2010 such an important year? Let’s take a look.

A handful of shows made a big impact

Modern Family and Glee, the two most important shows on TV right now, also happened to be among the gayest ever seen on network television.

What made Glee and Modern Family so big? At a time when almost all shows are hemorrhaging viewers, both have seen their ratings grow by as much as 40% over the last year. That’s huge and this year Glee and Modern Family have seen the biggest ratings gains of any show on television.

Both Glee and Modern Family have shown network execs that gay characters can be flaming, fully-realized and marketable. At the same time, the series are inspiring spin-offs – Oxygen’s The Glee Project – and copycats – CW’s Acting Out and ABC’s failed pilot It Takes a Village. And if there’s been growing interest in comedies on TV, which most people agree has happened, Glee and Modern Family have led the charge.

Modern Family, Glee

Cam, Mitchell and Kurt are without a doubt the most interesting gay characters we’ve seen on network television in a while. While all might be called “sissies” in some way – Cam’s paisley shirts! Kurt’s countertenor voice! – they are also complicated and fully realized. They have fears, quirks, flaws and moments of heroism. Who can forget Fizbo the Clown scaring off Mitchell’s harasser?

The only thing more amazing than the characters themselves is how quickly TV viewers have embraced them. While Modern Family is pulling even bigger ratings than Glee, the Fox dramedy’s Kurt Hummel has truly become a watercooler subject.

Over on pay-cable, the news was just as good

HBO’s True Blood fanned its flame this season with a sexy love interest for Lafayette in the shape of a witch named Jesus, not to mention the devious life partners Russell and Talbot, and even a fantasy flirtation between Sam and Bill.

Sam and Bill in a scene from True Blood

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