The New Season: Straight and Narrow

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation released its annual report on the number of homosexual characters in the new TV season yesterday and found just nine characters depicted in broadcast series -- down from last year's 10.

"After a landmark year of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender representation in films such as 'Brokeback Mountain,' 'Capote' and 'Transamerica,' the broadcast television networks continue to underrepresent their LGBT audience," said GLAAD, which appears not to pay much mind to pesky box-office results. Broadcast network suits, on the other hand, probably do.

Dr. Kerry Weaver of "ER," Andrew Van De Camp of "Desperate Housewives" and Oscar of "The Office" are the only returning gay characters on TV this fall, and just six new characters are being added to the television firmament, at least in scripted prime-time broadcast shows. Out of 679 lead or supporting characters on scripted broadcast series in the new season, just 1.3 percent are gay, lesbian or bisexual, the alliance announced. But while you might look at this year's nine compared with last year's 10 and see a glass half full, GLAAD does not. With "Will & Grace" kaput this coming season, not to mention the short-lived sitcoms "Out of Practice," which featured a lesbian doctor, and "Crumbs," which featured a gay screenwriter (on CBS and ABC respectively), this year's crop of homosexual roles aren't as high profile as they used to be.

GLAAD analyzed the 95 new prime-time series that have been announced so far by ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW and MyNetworkTV. The nine characters the study found appeared on eight different scripted programs.

On the other hand, cable and reality programming have taken up the slack. The group found 25 LGBT regular-series characters scheduled to appear in the upcoming TV season; GLAAD also cited cable networks Logo and here!, which provide programming themed for sexual minorities.

"It's clear that the broadcast networks have a long way to go before they accurately reflect the diversity of their audience and our society," GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano said in a statement that accompanied the report.

On that note, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Unattractive People put out its latest report on the number of plain, ugly and sporting-a-face-only-a-mother- could-love characters in starring roles on scripted broadcast series for the new TV season. This year's tally came in at one -- the lead character of ABC's new series "Ugly Betty" -- which, SPCUP notes, is an all-time high.

The tally very nearly hit an astounding two; Rachel Dratch had been signed to play the star of "The Girlie Show" in Tina Fey's show-within-a-show show, "30 Rock." Only NBC thought better of letting Dratch be the star of even a show-within-a-show -- and one viewers were hardly ever going to actually see for more than a couple seconds a week. Nonetheless, NBC has standards. So while Dratch will continue to be a cast member of "The Girlie Show," she's been replaced as the star of the fake series "The Girlie Show" by "Ally McBeal" hottie Jane Krakowski.

Meanwhile, People for the Ethical Treatment of Flat-Chested Women put out its latest report, on the number of FC women starring in broadcast series scheduled for the new season. That number stands at zero, which, PETFCW optimistically noted, is on par with last year.

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The annual orgy of excess known as the Primetime Emmy Awards got underway over the weekend with a ceremonial dismissing of the infamous "Trapped in the Closet" episode of Comedy Central's "South Park" that lampooned Scientology and its celebrity cheerleader, Tom Cruise.

The slight came during the so-called Creative Arts portion of the trophy-spewing marathon. "Creative Arts" is TV academy-speak for "no live telecast," which is just as well since this portion of the marathon is mostly for things like best makeup, best makeup for a series: non-prosthetic, and best single-camera picture editing for a drama.

But there are a couple of glam categories mixed in to keep reporters who are covering the event awake during the four-hour non-televised ceremony. Categories like best animated series that's shorter than one hour in length.

This particular competition is often called the "Simpsons" category by reporters, since the long-running Fox sitcom often takes the trophy. As it did, for the ninth time, over the weekend. Now maybe some of you think that show's "Seemingly Neverending Story " episode was better than the searingly meta-referential "Trapped in the Closet" spoof. Academy members apparently did. Or maybe more of them just recognized the name "The Simpsons. " Academy voters are sometimes like that; they like to check off names they recognize on the Emmy ballots.

Names like Ellen Burstyn, whom they've nominated for best supporting actress in a TV flick for her 14-second, two-line, 38-word tour de force performance in HBO's "Mrs. Harris."

Names like Cloris Leachman, who over the weekend pocketed her record-breaking eighth Emmy for a guest spot on the Fox sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle," which beats out former record-holder Mary Tyler Moore. Leachman may actually extend her streak on Sunday; she's competing against Burstyn for best supporting actress in a TV flick -- as is Shirley Jones. See what we mean?

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