So, Will and Grace ended last night. I mean, I didn't watch it or anything. (I was at the Laura Veirs show.)
I don't think anyone has really watched it for the past couple of seasons, despite the fact that it really is/was one of the best sitcoms on TV. Ever since Harry Connick Jr. joined the cast, things started falling apart and getting stale. From what I could glean from the few-and-far-between episodes I caught, the writers tried to cope by throwing in some absurd plot twists (doesn't work, see Roseanne season eight) and a ridiculous amount of guest stars.
But, for its eight years on the air, W&G has really made some big strides for "the cause." Now, the idea of a gay leading character on TV isn't really that revolutionary and the success of the show will depend on its quality or, at least, marketability. In any case, we know that it can be done.
I was kind of reminded of how much gay visibility has risen on TV when I was watching BRAVO (the gayest network since Lifetime) and they showed a commercial for the new season of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. At this point, Queer Eye couldn't be less socially relevant. Aside from the fact that no one watches it anymore, the idea that 5 somewhat neutered and (arguably) agenda-free 'mos could give Joe Blow (heh) a makeover is decidedly shrug-worthy.
In fact, right now some of the most visible TV gays are pretty damned cuddly. Ellen's show doesn't get political (not that she hasn't blazed the trail to where we are today), the Queer Eye guys are all still group-huggy, and even the gayest American Idol contestants gloss over their sexuality. This we're-just-like-everyone-else likeability serves a purpose of making the less-advanced portions of America a little more comfortable and is, undoubtedly, part of the gay agenda.
While it's nice that the community has managed to have a plateau of acceptance on TV, I'm anxious to see people start rocking the boat a little bit. TV's a little like the Democratic Party, tacitly in cahoots with the gays but afraid to alienate the public.
There's a long way to go, so I want to start seeing people being made a little uncomfortable.
Two rays of hope:
– Rosie O'Donnell is set to train-wreck on The View. Before, she was the asexual Queen of Nice. Then Isaac Mizrahi grabbed his shears and she became the potty-mouthed scary lesbian from hell. I think she's calmed down a bit, but she's still going to rule that show with an iron fist.
– Alexis Arquette on The Surreal Life. Admittedly, there's not a whole lot of social progress that can be made on a show as sleazy as this, but I love the fact that Alexis is trash-talking, complicated and smart transgender on basic cable. I mean, she's a nut, but she's funny and brave.
To put all this in perspective, I recommend taking a look at GLAAD's Where We Are on TV for 2005-2006. Most of the lead characters are on shows that are a) cancelled b) on cable. There's really a lot less representation than you might think. As GLAAD points out, it's less than 2 percent of all regular roles.
Sorry to get all political, but it was just something I was thinking about .