One of the
examples of an effeminate homosexual-like character was Percy Dovetonsils, a
silly, lisping poet created by comedian Ernie
Kovacs during the 1950s on THE ERNIE KOVACS SHOW
Percy had a mustache, curly bangs, wore a black and white
striped smoking jacket, puffed on cigarettes through a long black cigarette
holder, and sported reading glasses with two sleepy eyelids painted on the
lenses. Percy read poems like "Ode to Spring" from his lace covered poetry
book. With few exceptions to Percy Dovetonsils, the appearances of
homosexual characters were virtually non-existent until the 1970s.
The following is a synopsis of some homosexually-oriented TV movies. series
and TV spots from the 1970s to the present.
made-for-television movie to deal candidly with the topic of homosexuality
was the ABC network film That Certain Summer (11/01/72) about a divorced
father whose teenage son was devastated when he discovered his dad was gay.
The movie starred Hal Holbrook, Martin Sheen and Scott Jacoby.
American feature film about homosexuality was Joseph Mankiewicz's 1959 movie
Suddenly Last Summer. TV movies on this touchy topic include Sergeant Matlovich vs. The U.S. Air Force (8/21/78) starring Brad Dourif, Frank
Converse and William Daniels based on the factual struggle of an Air Force
sergeant who admitted he was a homosexual and then attempted to stay in the
service; and Question of Love (11/26/78) starring Gena Rowlands, Jane
Alexander and Ned Beatty about a Lesbian mother who fought for custody of
her son from her ex-husband.
In 1985, the horror of AIDS made its way to
television on news reports and special movie presentations such as An Early
Frost (11/11/85) which mirrored a family's pain when their lawyer son (who
had kept his homosexuality a secret) announced he had contracted AIDS. The
TV movie walked the rope between condemning the disease and romanticizing
homosexuality so as not to upset the viewing audience. The film's message
emphasized "This is not a gay movie, it is a family tragedy." Ben Gazzara &
Gena Rowland played the parents. Aidan Quenn portrayed their 26 year old gay
The Truth About Alex which aired on the cable channel HBO (2/23/87)
starred Scott Baio in a story about a teenager who found out his best friend
was a homosexual.
THE CBS SCHOOLBREAK SPECIAL. "What If I'm Gay?" (4/2/87)
portrayed the dilemma of high school student Todd Bowers (Richard J. Paul),
the captain of the soccer team with a pretty girlfriend, whose friends find
a male pornographic magazine in his room. Todd tells them he only bought the
magazine for a "great weightlifting article," but his friends were not
convinced. His confusion leads him to the school counselor and a discussion
of his problem.
Producer Norman Lear, the creator of the sitcom ALL IN THE
FAMILY/CBS/1971-83, dealt with homosexuality during a controversial episode
when Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), a blue-collar bigot discovered that
his long-time, seemingly macho friend and former football star was a
It wasn't until the late 1970s that the first recurring gay
character surfaced in the guise of Jodie Dallas (Billy Crystal) on the soap
opera spoof SOAP/ABC/1977-81.
The first running character in a dramatic
series who proudly committed to a gay lifestyle was Hank Eliot who appeared
in November 1988 on the daytime soap opera AS THE WORLD TURNS.
In 1990, the
topics of homosexuality caused a frenzy of controversy (angry mail and lost
ad revenues) when the ABC domestic drama THIRTYSOMETHING featured a bed
scene with two male homosexual characters. The two male characters later
reappeared during the 1991 News Years episode where they sort of kissed and
made up with out the kiss. Later in the series, Peter (Peter Frechetti) whose
bed scene with his lover, Russell in the prior season sent advertisers
running, discovered he was HIV positive.
The sitcom ROSEANNE/ABC/1988-97
featured the friend of Roseanne Conner named Nancy (Sandra Bernhard), who
revealed she was a lesbian on the 11/10/91 episode. Her lover, Marla (Morgan
Fairchild) worked as a cosmetics salesgirl at Rodbell's Department Store.
This breakthrough casting was the first instance of a regularly recurring
lesbian character on a sitcom.
The offbeat drama NORTHERN
EXPOSURE/CBS/1990-95 featured two homosexuals (Doug Ballard as Ron Bance and
Don R. McManus as Erick Hillman) who wanted to buy real estate in the town
of Cecily, Alaska owned by Maurice Minnifield, a former astronaut. However,
when Maurice discovered their sexual persuasion, he referred to them as "two
deviants" whom he had "inadvertently let enter his home."
He later talked to
the town doctor and stated he never "had a indecent thought about a man,"
except for the dream where he was mudwrestling with David Nivens. "Nothing,
of course happened," he cried. Despite Maurice's personal objections to the
two men, the businessman in him decided to take their money for the
property. In May 1994, the two gay men married in an episode touted to be
the first gay wedding on prime time network TV.
On May, 1991, two black gay men got
married on an installment of THE PHIL DONAHUE SHOW,
and later that same evening on THE TONIGHT SHOW, talk show host Johnny Carson
joked about the wedding, saying "I don't want to tell you how they chose the
best man." and "There were a few touchy moments when Phil caught the
bouquet".That same night on another channel, the late night talk show host Arsenio Hall of THE ARSENIO HALL SHOW talked with his audience which
included a group of lesbians who proudly wore tee-shirts proclaiming "Queer
And not to be forgotten, SECRET PASSIONS, a gay oriented soap
premiered on leased-access channels in January 21, 1990. Eighty percent of
the characters were gay, but the majority of the cast was not.
In 1997, ABCs
NYPD BLUE Det. Greg Medavoy (Gordon Clapp) was propositioned by fellow
officer Abby Sullivan (Paige Turco) to be the father of a child for her
In March 1997, the Showtime cable channel aired the
made-for-cable movie The Twilight of the Golds (adapted from a play by
Jonathan Tolins) starring Jennifer Beals and Jon Tenney as expectant parents
who learned through prenatal tests that their unborn son was to be gay.
April 30th 1997, Ellen DeGeneras the star of ELLEN ABC/1994-98 played a young
bookstore owner named Ellen Morgan who finally admitted (with the help of a
counselor) that she was a lesbian thus becoming the first lesbian character
to star in a lead role in a prime time series.
After accidentally announcing
her gayness (to Laura Dern) over an open airport microphone she declared "It
felt so Great! It felt so LOUD!" Ellen DeGeneras had already announced to
the world that she was a lesbian on the front cover of Time Magazine. It
carried the simple declaration "Yep, I'm Gay."
In 1998, the sitcom WILL &
GRACE/NBC/1998-2004 offered the storyline about a straight female interior
designer and a homosexual male lawyer who shared a life, an apartment and a
See also - "Lesbian
In the summer of 2005, MTV network launched LOGO, the first
24-hour digital cable network devoted to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender community. LOGO is targeting viewers 25- to 49-year-olds.
THE L WORD/SHO/2004-2009 featured a group of fictional
lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and men who live. love and work in
the trendy Los Angeles-area city of West Hollywood.
The dictionary defines the term "Homosexuality" as "Sexual orientation to
persons of the same sex." In the early days of TV, characters could not be
openly gay, but they could strut about the stage, talk with a lisp and act
flamboyant as long as they kept up the illusion that they were still
straight. Of the course, the more wiser TV viewers could tell the difference
and gave a quiet wink, wink to the situation.
In the more tolerant days of the 1980s & 1990s a number of
Hollywood actors came out of the "closet" to reveal their homosexual
lifestyle to the general public.
Veteran actor Rock Hudson who
played Police Commissioner Stewart McMillan on the police drama MCMILLAN AND
WIFE disclosed his homosexuality before his death from AIDS in 1985.
Dick Sargent who played Darrin Stephens on the sitcom BEWITCHED publicly declared
his homosexuality in 1991 to protest the veto of a gay rights bill proposed
by California Governor Pete Wilson.
Robert Reed who played the father of six
children on the BRADY BUNCH also was homosexual. He died of AIDS in 1992.