Pity the poor gay American television viewer. Subjected to
barely there gay characters, characters who don’t kiss for months at a time,
not to mention entire broadcast networks without a single regularly occurring gay character
to be found, it is no wonder gay viewers get frustrated.
In fact, if it weren’t for ABC’s Brothers & Sisters and CBS’ As the World Turns, it’s not an
exaggeration to say that scripted television produced for American audiences
would be a barren wasteland of rarely seen minor secondary characters (Oscar on
The Office), don’t blink or you’ll
miss them gay relationships (Calvin and Michael on Greek, Marc and Cliff on Ugly
Betty) and witty assistants who get a few lines per episode and the very occasional secondary storyline (Lloyd on Entourage).
Where is a gay viewer who wants to see decent scripted gay
characters to go? They might start by checking out what European television has
to offer. Turns out the landscape is shockingly different when one crosses the Atlantic.
What is so unusual when it comes to gay programming from England, Germany,
Spain, France and
elsewhere? Pretty much everything. Curse words aren’t bleeped out. Nudity is
relatively commonplace. And gay characters abound. Real gay characters who have relationships that involve both
romance and sex, and storylines that aren’t just about coming out and getting
For those viewers who haven’t yet discovered these European
shows, we offer this handy guide to each show – plus we rate them on a scale
from 1 to 10 for romance, originality, and, of course, hotness.
Forbidden Love (Verbotene Liebe)
What’s it about?
Airing since 1995, this early evening German soap opera focuses on the lives
and loves of a variety of characters living in Düsseldorf and Cologne.
Who is gay in it?
Currently, the gay characters include Oliver Sabel (Jo Weil) who is actually
bisexual. Olli (as he is more commonly known) originally joined the show in 1999,
but his character was written out when Weil joined the cast of Medicopter 117.
He then rejoined the show in 2007.
Christian Mann (Thore Schölermann) made his debut in 2006 as
the son of Wolfgang Mann, whom Christian went to prison to protect. Christian
was involved with Coco when Olli first reappeared and initially it seemed as if
Olli was interested in Coco. However, it’s Christian to whom Olli is actually
Thore Schölermann (left) and Jo Weil
What is the
storyline? After first fighting his attraction to Olli, the previously
heterosexual Christian finally admits he is in love with Olli and the two
became a couple. Since then, they have had to keep their relationship a secret
due to Christian’s boxing career. However, after Christian won his first big
fight, he publicly declared his love for Olli.
What works? The
best thing about Forbidden Love are
the performances by Weil and Schölermann who bring a believable sweetness to
their storyline. The actors frequently add little touches to their performances
– nuzzles, love nips, etc – that do not go unnoticed nor unappreciated by fans.
What is the
outlook? Forbidden Love is known
for breaking up their couples so viewers shouldn’t expect a happy ever after for Ollian (as fans frequently refer to the couple). Of course, we can always hope!