September 24, 2007 / 6:44 AM / 11 years ago

Gay characters disappearing from broadcast TV

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Gay people are becoming an endangered species on network television. A new report says a total of seven series on the five broadcast networks feature regular lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) characters this season, down from nine last season.

Cast member Matthew Rhys accepts the award for best drama series for "Brothers & Sisters" at the 18th annual GLAAD Media Awards in Hollywood, California April 14, 2007. A new report says a total of seven series on the five broadcast networks feature regular lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) characters this season, down from nine last season. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

The number has dropped for the past three years, according to the annual “Where We Are on TV” study by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

The only non-heterosexual regular character appearing on a new show is Bonnie Somerville’s bisexual Caitlin Dowd on ABC’s drama “Cashmere Mafia,” which premieres in December.

ABC continues by a mile to be the most inclusive of LGBT representation. The network accounts for six of the seven characters in its series “Brothers & Sisters,” “Ugly Betty,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Cashmere Mafia.” (The seventh regular LGBT character is Oscar Martinez on NBC’s “The Office,” the only one such character of color on broadcast TV.)

“Brothers” is singled out as “the bright spot on primetime network dramas” with its three gay or bisexual characters.

The highest-profile new addition of gay characters is on “Desperate Housewives,” which will introduce the first gay couple on Wisteria Lane, played by Kevin Rahm and Tuc Watkins in recurring roles.

“Cashmere Mafia,” “Brothers & Sisters” and “Desperate Housewives” come from openly gay producers.

In the recurring character count, ABC has six of the 13 on broadcast series next season: “Brothers,” “Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Men in Trees” and the new drama “Dirty Sexy Money.” Fox features four (all on animated series, “The Simpsons” and “American Dad!”), and NBC has three on “ER” and “Friday Night Lights.”

According to the report, CBS and sister network the CW have no representation of LGBT characters on their scripted series, but the two networks earn points for including gay contestants and judges on such reality shows as CBS’ “Survivor: China,” “The Amazing Race” and “Big Brother,” and the CW’s “Crowned” and “America’s Next Top Model.”

“While we acknowledge there have been improvements made in how we are seen on the broadcast networks, most notably on ABC, our declining representation clearly indicates a failure to inclusively reflect the audience watching television,” said GLAAD president Neil Giuliano.

On the other hand, LGBT representation on the mainstream cable networks is skyrocketing with 57 characters this year, including 40 regular, up from a total of 35 (regular and recurring) last year.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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