Gay characters at record high on U.S. television

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - New shows “The New Normal,” “Girls” and comedy “Go On” have helped U.S. television rack up a record number of gay, bisexual and transgender characters, gay rights group GLAAD said on Friday.

Cast member Andrew Rannells speaks at a panel for "The New Normal" during the NBC television network portion of the Television Critics Association Summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California July 24, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

In its 8th annual report tracking gender and ethnic diversity on television, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) said on Friday there will be 111 LGBT characters in regular or recurring roles on scripted shows across U.S. television.

Inclusive TV shows now range from crime and medical series like “Grey’s Anatomy”, to long-running teen dramas like Canada’s “Degrassi” on Teennick and British period favorite “Downton Abbey” with its duplicitous gay butler Thomas Barrow.

GLAAD President Herndon Graddick said the increasing numbers reflect “a cultural change in the way gay and lesbian people are seen in our society.”

“More and more Americans have come to accept their LGBT family members, friends, coworkers, and peers, and as audiences tune into their favorite programs, they expect to see the same diversity of people they encounter in their daily lives,” Graddick added in a statement.

The 31 regular LGBT characters on scripted shows on the five main networks this season mark the highest percentage (4.4 percent) in the organization’s eight years of counting.

GLAAD said regular LGBT characters on cable television are even higher for the 2012-13 TV season, at 35 compared to 29 last year.

Recurring characters - such as Alicia “The Good Wife” Florrick’s gay brother - take the total count to 111 gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender roles in scripted shows on the five main broadcast and dozens of cable TV channels.

Fox high school musical comedy “Glee,” which features two gay teens, a lesbian couple and new transgender choir member Unique, is again the most inclusive show on broadcast television.

HBO’s long-running vampires and witches series “True Blood,” is top among cable programs with six characters.

Last year the number of LGBT characters fell, accounting for just 2.9 percent of scripted series regulars on the five major networks.

But the arrival of new comedies like “Partners”, gay adoption series “The New Normal” and “Go On”, whose cast includes a woman whose lesbian partner has died, pushed up the count.

GLAAD said it counted seven regular or recurring LGBT characters who were black on broadcast television, compared to none at all last year.

On cable, Lena Dunham’s HBO comedy “Girls” about 20 something young women included a gay ex-boyfriend, while Charlie Sheen’s new FX comedy “Anger Management” features three regular or recurring gay characters.

Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Sandra Maler