Matt Baume On The History Of Gays In Sitcoms [VIDEO]

“When did TV first permit joking while gay? I’ve been combing through sitcoms to figure out when queers stopped being a scary threat, and were allowed to be real people with love lives and funny punch lines. Here are just a few of my favorite early gay characters on sitcoms.”

  • Gene

    1) love what you do Matt
    2) thanks for showing that again…if you remember, the scene from MASH was one of the pivotal moments in my life. Again, thank you
    3) how anyone thought Paul Lynde was hetero….it…boggles…boggles..the mind

    • LonelyLiberal

      3) There was a tradition of funny, sissy men in movies and on TV at the time. I’m sure the ignorant simply didn’t think about whether they were breeders or not, they simply assumed so. The rest…well, it just wasn’t discussed in polite company.

      • JW Swift

        My grandmother LOVED Lynde and would watch H-Wood Squares as much to wait for one of his witty remarks as for any other reason. She didn’t laugh out loud and with abandon hardly ever, but would do so for Lynde, howling “He’s SO witty!”

        She also loved Liberace. It really was just accepted that they were that flamboyant and/or outrageous. It wasn’t really ever talked about, but I just assumed that it was a way to get themselves noticed and it was acceptable because they were on TV, or something.

        • Joseph Miceli

          Was that the reason for Flip Wilson’s “Geraldine?”

          • TJay229

            Shh… They ONLY want to remember the White gay/drag characters… Not the ones that people actually TALKED about for day’s at work or those with legendary catch phrases.

            It’s like the remake of Stonewall. They know people of color are there but whitesplaining is much better.

          • hey–would you be interested in doing an article on this topic with me? I’m a POC (American Indian) and participated in a project looking at American Indian images in film. You probably would not be surprised to discover how often actors who were Caucasian portrayed people like me. I’d really like to reach out to others to appreciate what I assume are examples I might have missed myself. You can contact me directly at: Eagledancer4444 at gmail.

          • Joseph Miceli

            I’m not going to say you don’t have a point, because you do…but I still love Paul Lynde the best. I used to wait for his appearances on “Bewitched.” Well, that and Endora of course!

          • TJay229


            I Liked Paul too… And Endora of course. But, they didn’t carry on like others did.

    • Gene

      reading the posts below (all good reading), I was struck by something. Here we are, a group of men and women who, as a rule, have a seen a bit of life. I am closer to 50 than 40 myself. and I can remember an episode of a sitcom. an entertainment show, and how I committed it to memory, and held it close like a starving child who had found a piece of bread. It was about all I had to go on for a while. I was not under attack like many here were, but, I was UTTERLY alone.
      Everyone here seems to have an almost encyclopedic memory of such rare moments…all of us.
      We sit now in a nation (or, save any Australian here) or one of that nations allies like Canada or England or Spain, even Mexico, that now has marriage equality. if a bigot in one county out of 120 in KY refuses to treat us equally, the governor, chief judge executive, local politicans and Chamber of Commerce run from her. the county says “we aint paying this fools legal bill”. the Judge executive apologized to the men, shook their hands, and wished them well and said he hoped they got the license soon. the local papers, and the statewide papers, excoriate her. Most comments on said papers side with us. not her. Local writers make references to gay local boys who are fighting in Afghanistan, and others just write about their favorite aunts, cousins, friends from school. a kid in Betsy Layne is dissed by his school (his teammates were all cool with his being gay…his coach was cool, just the administration was not supportive) and it makes national news, and the bigots are mocked on late night TV. Lexington has a gay mayor, Louisville presents itself as a GLBT marriage destination, and small appalachian coal towns pass anti discrimination ordinances to protect GLBT rights.
      Thats…Kentucky. Its my home state, and I love it, but, yeah…its Kentucky. I look at a story about a Gay basketball player proudly holding his own in a coal town in the mountains, and cannot BELIEVE that just a few decades ago, I had to be excited to see one instance on a tv show that made me feel like the whole world was against me. How far, how far, how far we have come. ways to go yet, but, wow…how sad we had to feel happy to get just scraps. and how wonderful that those days are GONE and will NOT return!

      • LonelyLiberal

        Hear, hear!

        Crumbs were, at the time, all we had and the best we could expect. Our memories are as encyclopedic as they are because, simply, the number of such crumbs is few.

        I don’t think there was a single one of the episodes that Matt showed that I hadn’t seen, and didn’t intimately remember. I can tell you where I was when I saw it, who I was with, and so on.

        In the last two years? I can’t tell you the number of gay and lesbian references (positive) that I’ve seen on TV and in the movies. The number is too large and it’s no longer a remarkable occurrence. In real life, the references are myriad.

        Reading JMG tends to give you more of the down side of things, so it’s nice to get the occasional thread that reminds us of the way things used to be. And won’t be again–good riddance!

      • yetanotherLaura

        As a straight ally, I met my first out gay friend in 1972 at college. Phil was a delightful guy, and it broke my heart to learn he’d died of AIDS in 1985 (which, bless his family, they were willing to publicly acknowledge, which a lot of people weren’t in those days). I think because I came from a very, very liberal family and went to a very, very liberal school, it simply didn’t occur to me that folks like Phil faced such appalling discrimination out in the non-very, very liberal world.

        I’m sorry it had to happen, and I can’t imagine what you guys went through. I mean, growing up as a woman, I faced a certain amount of discrimination, but it just wasn’t in the same ballpark! Now, the way things have changed in public attitudes, recognition, and acceptance? It gives me real hope that our kids are beginning to live in a completely different world. My kids are adults now so they really appreciate the changes (and it was my daughter who turned me on to JMG, so clearly I raised her right!).

        And like you, Gene, I am also glad that those days are GONE! I honestly never understood what got people’s panties in such a twist about two people loving each other, and it makes me incredibly happy that so many young people today also feel that way, and not just the super-liberal ones. Acceptance of people whoever they are has gone from being a hallmark of liberals to a hallmark of the mainstream, and I for one couldn’t be happier!

        • David Walker

          Thanks for marching with us, yetanotherLaura. We’d still have a discouragingly long way to go without you and our other allies.

        • KQCA

          OMG.. your comment here left me bawling like a baby. I wish I could hug you just now.

          30 years later and I’m still not over the loss of my friends. I had to hide my sorrow back then and work a job where I would have been fired had they known why I was sad. Life was so different.

          You made a difference back then, just as you have now.

          • yetanotherLaura

            Hugs back to you, KQCA. I know your losses make mine insignificant, and I’m still ashamed of our society for the way you guys were ignored so badly. Not to mention the sheer ignorance of so many people about the facts. There are a lot more allies who cared about you even then. I’m glad that mainstream society is finally recognizing that we ALL matter, and when one group is marginalized, it hurts us all.

            And to be briefly on topic, I think the allies in TV and movies have had a huge impact on broader acceptance.

            But I still don’t know how anyone could think Paul Lynde was straight, either!

        • Gene

          thank you Laura…for so many things..what you wrote, and the daughter you raised, and the person you are.
          thank you

      • David Walker

        Well said, Gene. I grew up in the sticks and know what you mean. And this year we’re all able to marry. My life has been a great run in many respects, but good news about my sexuality after so many decades of being put down and laughed at and brutalized and denied and having ministers and friends and, saddest of all, family turn on me…and now to be treated pretty much like everybody else by most people just boggles my mind. And TV helped. Absolutely. Thanks for reminding us, Gene. How can one appreciate where we’re going if we forget where we came from?

        • Homo Erectus

          I never thought it was even remotely possible that I could live as an openly gay man, much less get married. I wonder how my life would have been different if I had allowed myself to fall in love. To all the young’uns on this web thingy: Live, Love, and Be yourself. When I see you unafraid and holding hands in public I am content to know humanity has advanced to a better place.

    • sfbob

      Lynde also played a married, presumably hetero, dad (Ann-Margaret’s father if you can believe it) in both the Broadway and movie versions of “Bye Bye Birdie.” Early 60’s and I was maybe 12 or 13 years old when I saw it. I actually took his character at face value.

      • Dean

        I got to see him play it in summer stock when I was a kid. I don’t recall him being real swishy on stage.

        • David Walker

          But the way he said “How’ll we ever beat the RUH-shians” and “I didn’t know what puberty was until I was almost PAST it” in “Kids” and made deep impressions on me. And his delivery of the line at 1:30 on “Hymn for a Sunday Evening” always did me in.

    • Homo Erectus

      My mother died at the age of 93 in 2007. She refused to believe that Liberace was gay. He was so handsome, and all the women swooned over him. Go figure.

  • Yalma Cuder-Zicci

    What struck me the most about those clips is how easily Matt’s first example, from “All in the Family” would still work today as far as the gist of it goes, but the fag/queer/fruit language could not be used today.

    I never liked Jody on “Soap”. Something about that character always bugged me.

    • LonelyLiberal

      Me too, actually. Jody always seemed kind of smarmy and fake. There was something plastic and unlikable about him.

      We should point out that Billy Crystal’s not one of my favorite actors (although in The Princess Bride he did a perfectly creditable job as Miracle Max), so that may have some influence on it.

      • Yalma Cuder-Zicci

        I agree about Billy Crystal. That probably had a lot to do with my not liking the character. I just checked the wiki entry for Jody Dallas, and saw this: “Gay groups were concerned about the character’s portrayal as an apparent conflation of a gay man, a transvestite and a transsexual.” I think that is probably what bugged me about him, too. He was also depressed and suicidal. Having an out gay character on TV was a big deal, but there was little I could relate to with that character.

        • JW Swift

          I was also a bit bugged by the Matt Fielding character on Melrose Place. It never rang true to me somehow, and even though I wasn’t entirely “out” and didn’t have all that many openly-gay role models to know what an “out” character should act like, the portrayal still didn’t seem relatable to me. Plus the plot-lines were so over-the-top that I had a hard time watching the show, period.

          • TampaDink

            Matt seemed to be openly asexual but identified as gay. While the writers found every opportunity for everyone else to find sex & love, poor Matt was always flying solo.

          • JW Swift

            Yeah, but more than that, I found the portrayal of the character to not really ring true. It seemed like either the character wasn’t entirely comfortable with being gay and was always monitoring himself and his actions and reactions to everything, or the character had masculinity issues and was always trying to maintain some kind of “butch” facade, or maybe just that the actor didn’t quite know how to get into the skin of an authentic gay man. I couldn’t ever quite put my finger on exactly what it was that bothered me, but the character and how it was portrayed just always seemed kinda’ “off” to me.

          • TampaDink

            Doug Savant seemed much more comfortable in his role on “Desperate Housewives”, maybe because Tom was straight or maybe because he’s improved as an actor since M.P..

          • The problem for gay characters on soaps is that every new romance involves introducing a new character, as opposed to the straight characters who could (and did) play musical beds throughout the run of the series.

        • BobSF_94117

          Part of it was the character. Part of it was the actor (a straight man). But mostly it was the show. Where there any likeable, identify-with-able characters? No, of course not. It was a farce on steroids.

          Given what he had to work with, Billy Crystal did us a lot of good.

          • Yalma Cuder-Zicci

            If straight women and men didn’t see anyone likeable or relatable in the Tate or Campbell family, there were plenty of other shows where they could look for a character to identify with. But Jody Dallas was the first and *only* openly gay, regular character on television, so that character held importance none of the other quirky, unrelatable characters held. Up until that point, there had been a void, so it was a big deal, especially for young gay people wanting to see someone like themselves on TV. Before “Soap”, I remember seeing the Rod Steiger movie, “The Sergeant” on TV, one of the rare occasions of seeing a gay person on screen. I related to the sergeant, I wanted to kiss John Phillip Law, too! But what a tragic price to pay for that kiss! And dammit if the much ballyhooed First Gay TV Character, on a comedy, no less, wasn’t suicidal too!

          • BobSF_94117

            Oh, I agree it was a big deal. In a better universe, the character would have been better and the show would have been better. I just mean Crystal tried, within the boundaries set.

            As for The Sergeant, that movie almost put me over the edge… of the apartment building roof.

            Difficult, very difficult, years…

          • Someone has to be first. Rarely is that first the best example. (I think there were gay characters before this like Hot L Baltimore but nothing this popular and Soap was a huge hit the first couple of years.)

          • David Walker

            That’s what makes it a horse race. I LOVED “Soap” and the eccentric characters. I wasn’t all that interested in Jody, although I liked that he was there. For me, it was Chuck and Bob, Jessica, Benson, and Mary.

            Stay with this to the end. The punchline is worth getting through the pig Latin.


          • William

            Burt could have been based on one of my cousins.

        • popebuck1

          That, and because as time went on he got less and less gay. He started off with a closeted football player boyfriend, but then had a one-night stand with a woman, became a single father, and all mention of his sex life disappeared.

      • TampaDink

        Crystal as “Miracle Max” and Carole Kane as his wife Valerie are perfect & priceless in those roles.

        • Totally off topic but I adore Carol Kane. Especially as Latka’s wife on Taxi but also in a guest shot as the eccentric (and divorced!) aunt on Brooklyn Bridge. (that was a great show, btw. And well worth seeing. The episode when Carol Kane shows up to take the young guy who narrates the series to Greenwich Village to meet Jack Kerouac is my favortie.)

          • pablo

            You need to watch The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

          • I binge-watched that when it first came out.

          • TampaDink

            I’ll have to check out Brooklyn Bridge….she is so funny. (And I apologize for earlier adding an “e” on the end of Carol.

          • It was a sweet, nostalgic show about growing up Jewish in Brooklyn in the early 50s. It was obviously a labor of love on the part of Gary David Goldberg (Family Ties, Spin City) that never really caught on so it only ran a season and a half. Nevertheless there were quite a few awards and nominations. Marion Ross played the grandmother and there were several wonderful guest stars.

          • TampaDink

            I am sad that the series isn’t (yet) available on Netflix or youtube. I wasn’t a huge fan of “Happy Days” but Marion Ross’ performance in the sequel to “Terms of Endearment”…..”The Evening Star” was amazing. Sadly, “The Evening Star” is also not on Netflix. I’m glad that I have it on VHS.

          • I loved Evening Star but mostly for the many Houston in-jokes that I’m not sure were funny to anyone who never lived there. Miranda Richardson did a flawless impersonation of local socialite Carolyn Farb (so much so that it couldn’t have been an accident) and they even mostly got the accent right.

          • TampaDink

            I didn’t catch the Houston references since I’ve never lived there but so much of Aurora’s story is believable. Another excellent (in my opinion) Shirley MacClaine movie that was not a box office success….and isn’t even available on Netflix or through our library is “Used People”…the cast included Kathy Bates, Marcia Gay Hardin, & Jessica Tandy.



    • Duh-David

      Do all gay men wear women’s clothes?
      but we do it to be silly,
      straight men do it to be sexy.

    • Jody on Soap and Stephen on Dynasty were problematic characters. They pushed as far as ABC would allow and the networks and audiences pushed way back. Gays a minor guest characters or plot twists (finding out at the end of an episode that a guest character was gay like on MTM) were one thing. A regular character? No. Another show that struggled with this in the early 80s was Love, Sydney in which Tony Randall played a gay man who is never allowed to mention that he’s gay. it’s unspoken (although not a secret in press coverage).

      • leastyebejudged

        Soap saved my life. “Problems” aside, Jody was a likable character and a departure from the almost exclusively tragic gay characters that dominated the media up to that point.

        The media made being gay look like a depressing and inevitably tragic thing. Add living during the arms race and wondering if there was even going to be a future for anyone only aggravated the despair of the era.

        As a middle school kid in a rural community, Jody was literally the only beacon of light.

        And I still love Jessica Tate.

        • I adore Katherine Helmond. She’s always funny and outrageous.

          I can’t disagree. Those rare gay characters, even as guests, were a rare ray of light into my suburban right-wing Evangelical hell-hole of a childhood. I block most of it out. A lot of those characters and the writing that surrounded them are embarrassing now but when that’s all there is, you cling to it for dear life. The great thing about Jody was that he was fully accepted by his extended family. Yes, they made jokes about him but they were no more offensive than jokes about his stupid brother or his sexually promiscuous cousins.

  • ScottJ

    You completely missed the Showtime series “Brothers” that ran from 1984 to 1989. It presented us in a normal light, especially considering the time period.

    • JW Swift

      Ah, yes. I had recently moved into my own apartment for the first time and remember forking-over some extra bucks to add Showtime just so I could watch that show.

    • Bj Lincoln

      I remember that show! I was a single mom aloneIin the world and spent my last dime to get showtime just to watch that show. Showtime did run a movie at 4 am that was my first lesbian film. Patty Duke in ” By Design”. It will never be rereleased but I did find a VHS Iin the box. I don’t have a machine to watch it on but it 8 a prize possession.

      • Homo Erectus

        Although there are plenty of companies that will convert your VHS tapes to DVDs, your local 2nd hand store usually has lots of VHS players they are willing to part with for a dollar or two. Nobody wants them. Buy two in case one doesn’t work.

      • RoFaWh

        Ask around and find out who in your area does a good job of transferring VHS to DVD, then have it done. Make plenty of copies for your friends and acquaintances.

        Important to get this kind of thing into the digital domain whre it’s more nearly permanent.

    • EdmondWherever

      Hooray! Glad someone remembered that show, I loved it and it was very pivotal for me.

    • ozbrad

      All seasons are on youtube

    • SockMikey

      Many of the episodes of Brothers are viewable at:

      Episodes of Brothers
      (Click Videos tab – Click “Load More” at bottom of page)

  • LonelyLiberal

    Probably the most defining episode for me was from The Golden Girls, the one where Dorothy’s lesbian roommate comes to visit. Sophia’s gentle wisdom was actually pretty comforting to me at a time when I needed that.

    So that one reigns supreme in my book.

    • Then she ends up hitting on Rose…

      • LonelyLiberal

        Who, let’s face it, was sending seriously mixed signals from her Minnesota Nice approach!

        Besides, it was a comedy. There have to be laughs somewhere, although I didn’t particularly appreciate Rose’s initial response.

        • 30 years ago, during the height of the AIDS crisis…anything even close to partially positive was a win.

          • David Walker

            Good observation. It certainly wasn’t the happiest of times, so the fact that “The Golden Girls” tackled this and Blanche’s brother or challenging hate in any way through laughter was very welcome. The fact that the comedy on the series is enduring is icing on the cake.

      • Ginger Snap

        And Blanche being pissed that she liked Rose and not her.

        • David Walker

          That was so perfectly Blanche. We still laugh when we see that episode.

          • Ginger Snap

            I laugh myself to tears every time I see it.

          • Homo Erectus

            Bea Arthur has always been my favorite drag queen.

          • Prixator

            Coloured phones with spiral cords – what’s that??

          • Ginger Snap

            It had to be posted.


          • David Walker

            Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!

  • Brian in Valdosta

    I never but NEVER missed an episode of ‘Soap’. I was always skeptical about the ways in which they represented the gay character that Billy Crystal played, but I was so drawn to his storylines.

    And to the storylines of the demon-possessed baby, but that’s another story.

    • Polterguest

      Well if that slut Corrine hadn’t seduced Father Tim their baby would have been fine!

    • William

      I watched Soap for Peter. They killed him off far too soon.

  • JoeMyGod

    Most memorable for me was the All In The Family episode in which Archie unknowingly gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a drag queen.

    • JoeMyGod

      “Beverly LaSalle was portrayed by Lori Shannon. Lori was born Don Seymour McLean, an openly gay female impersonator from the San Francisco Bay area. (1938-1984). He stood 6’5″ in heels & was a regular at
      Finocchio’s with rapid fire one liners. Lori Shannon died of a heart
      attack at the age of 45 at Mission Emergency Hospital in San Francisco
      on February 13, 1984.”

      • Gene

        I have said it before, I believe it, so I will say it again…in terms of who as had the most influence on American society in the last half of the last century, we are, ALL of us, Norman Lear’s Children

        • LonelyLiberal

          Y’know what? There are far worse legacies. We could all have been
          Phyllis Schlafly’s sociological get.

          • Octavio

            We missed a bullet there!

        • The episode where Edith morns for Beverly is one of the best for that series. Characters rarely had crises of faith before Norman Lear’s shows.

          • David Walker

            I remember that well.

    • LonelyLiberal

      Yeah, but they had to kill off Beverly to give Edith a crisis of faith.

      A hundred percent positive, no. But the show was still far ahead of its time…and in some ways, still is.

      • JoeMyGod

        I don’t think half of the All In The Family episodes would get past the network censors today.

        • CanuckDon

          Funny how the only shows that get away with societal/ political analysis and criticism today are animated.

        • LonelyLiberal

          That’s undoubtedly so! Although given the language (and situations) seen on cable these days, I don’t think it would have much trouble there. Sure, some group would get their knickers in a knot over the word “fag,” but that’s life.

          Popularity is another issue. America’s now so polarized that I’m not sure how many eyes it would attract unless it were as funny as Modern Family.

          • I even hear the n-word sometimes recently.

          • Homo Erectus

            The 1st use of the n-word was on All in the Family.

          • David Walker

            The OMM outrage would be if CBS now showed it (as if). Knickers in knots? And a couple of wedgies, too.

        • danolgb

          It would sure keep 1 Million Moms busy.

        • Or Maude. When was the last time a regular female character had an abortion? Maude wasn’t the first (Erica Kane holds that honor but that was in daytime), but I can’t think of one since. They don’t dare.

        • David Walker

          You’re right. The series is on one of the retro channels and I’m truly amazed by it. It makes me uncomfortable sometimes, but that was its mission statement.

        • Homo Erectus

          Or the One Million Moms boycotts.

      • CanuckDon

        The Cousin Liz episode was the best. Edith dealing with her dead cousin’s lesbian partner and learning about same sex loving relationships. Heartbreaking and heartwarming.

        • LonelyLiberal

          I liked that one too, especially with Edith firmly stating that they were married for all intents and purposes. And Archie finally backing the hell off.

          • CanuckDon

            It also brought up the serious dilemma of her being a teacher and being outed. Groundbreaking and sympathetic…Lear was a good friend to us.

  • I can’t watch this song from Mulan without crying. If only I had of had this as a young trans boy to know I wasn’t alone with my mirror confusion.

  • eyechart

    The funny thing about that All in the Family episode is the character Archie accuses of being gay is played by the still-not-out Anthony Geary.
    I also remember a Barney Miller episode where a cop admits he’s gay; I think he appeared in more than one episode, so it wasn’t just a one-off. And no, it wasn’t Ron Glass or Max Gail, considering the rumors I’ve heard.

    • JohnJay

      Barney Miller also had a recurring middle aged gay couple, but I can’t find any YouTube clips of them. That must have been the in mid 70s.

  • Larry Larson

    “Playing Gay: How America Came Out On Television” is a KickStarter campaign for a documentary on this subject.

    • Larry Larson

      From the webpage:
      Playing Gay: How America Came Out on Television is a documentary film that needs the support of the LGBT community and its allies in order to be made. The film will tell — for the first time — the story of how television changed the way America views LGBT people.
      There has been a major shift in the hearts and minds of America over the past four decades. Television has been both the catalyst for and a powerful reflection of Americans’ views on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
      We are lining up interviews with actors and directors who have played key roles in the history of LGBT people on TV. But in order to shoot and edit this film, we need you.
      Back this project now and your pledge will be matched!

  • Jamie Brewer

    Thank you for posting this. It really shows the progress made in the past 40 years. For a more historical overview, “The Celluloid Closet” is hard to top.

    • Octavio

      Oy! The Killing of Sister George! I remember seeing that at the little “art” cinema and getting a serious chubby when Susannah York got her luscious breasts stroked by Beryl Reid. But I’ve long outgrown that strange phase. πŸ™‚

      • Jimbot

        I thought I was the only little gay boy who used to get excited at lesbians. My sisters “Our Bodies/Ourselves”. was my titillation.

  • (We got the last laff!)

    “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

    Mahatma Gandhi

  • Matt Baume is a national treasure and this video was kickass.

  • Jamie Brewer

    I have lived without a television since the mid 1970s. It was in the early 2000’s in the “skill center” of my plant, a “Jesus lady Christian” went on a rant of how she hated to turn on the TV because she might have to see a HOMOSEXUAL. Those I was out to gave me a look of “Please don’t make a scene”. I kept quiet, but that woman has been “dead in the flesh” to me since that day. It was not till 2004 when I had to live in a Residence Inn for a month I actually saw my first episodes of “Will and Grace” being shown as reruns. I had no idea the progress that had been made.

  • TJay229

    Besides Billy Crystal, no other character(s) were more prominent and influential than “Blaine & Antoine” Men on Film

    But, my bad.. He was whitesplaining Gay history on TV.

    • Octavio

      “Clutch the pearls! What a sneaky thing to do!”

  • ok, i watched it and read the comments. main complaint: Matt, Honey. there is TV after 1985. you should watch some of it. i grok that you titled this “70s & 80s” and that is ‘historical’ stuff. but if we’re talking about modern legislation and court cases? these shows are like the cumin and garlic in a really good shrimp and pasta dish. they are the base, but not what makes the voter go, “Wow! I can vote for this!”

    laying the base was important work and i salute all hollywood that actually fought that battle. but i confess to being more interested in the more modern stuff. i guess i find pre-L vs TX gay characters a little embarrassing. it’s like watching movies from the 30s and 40s, with black characters. you laud and honor the nobility of the intelligent black actors, trained in the finest of the acting arts, reduced to taking roles as servants and clowns. what more could they do? and they did it with dignity.

    still, i’m not setting “Gone with the Wind” on permanent loop on my Roku player, just b/c i know what an awesome feminist, atheist, and liberal Butterfly McQueen was in real life.

    • danolgb

      Well, since the whole premise was when were gay people first being featured on television and how they were portrayed, it makes sense that he would focus on the earlier shows. He also wasn’t talking about modern legislation and court cases at all, so I’m not sure why that applies.

      • i know. but i’m in the “younger than average” JMG commenters here. it’s hard for me to relate to all the folks for whom ‘Soap’ was a seminal show. to me that was stuff the babysitter had on when she was making dinner. i barely remember it.

        i’ll confess, it was always the sci fi and fantasy shows that did it for me. i guess the older folks didn’t get so much of that. these days, it’s almost a cliche. gay vampires? of course there are! and het girls making out in clubs, and boi-man relationships that are illegal on cops shows, and on and on…

        like i said, gay TV from this period makes me uncomfortable. i’m sorry yall had to suffer it. i was lucky. i got “Buffy” and “Star Trek,” and even if the latter didn’t have any explicitly gay characters, i can list all the eps where anyone with a brain knew what they were saying. which was simply, “different is OK. including gays.”

        • danolgb

          This was merely a history lesson and that the gay people were often the butt of the joke was part of his commentary.

        • Gustav2

          We eldergays say “Harrumph!”


        • RoFaWh

          Don’t worry, CD, that “younger than average” problem will disappear on its own. Give it time.

          • I’ll cover for her. I’m the younger gay who loves the old crap πŸ˜€

            Give me Archie and Match Game over any of this new dreck anyday.

  • Michael Rush

    I believe Nancy Walker lived with a very effeminate gay man on a short lived ” Nancy Walker show ” 1976 , I couldn’t find a clip . Remember the drag queen on All In The Family ? I always wondered if that was Divine but it wasn’t .

  • DaveySF

    HBO had a wonderful sitcom called Brothers one of whom was gay as was his flamboyant friend. Did it ever get to video?

  • Good Shot Green

    Never did “Three’s Company” make fun of gay people – it made fun of homophobes’ reactions to gay people.

  • Will Kohler

    Wheres the gay marriage news?

  • David Walker

    I suggested on YT that Matt get the “Mary Tyler Moore” episode in which Rhoda dates Phyllis’s brother who, unknown to Phyl, is gay. Rhoda did us proud and Phyllis’s reaction was perfection. It starts at 19:25, although 17:30 is a fun scene, too.

    • David Walker

      I remember a show from the ’50s called “Mr. Peepers.” Wally Cox played a teacher and was never so much as hinted at being gay, but I watched that series faithfully. I just got a vibe and it was comfortable. I never liked Milton Berle and, even at…what? 6?…thought his drag was more vicious than comic.

      And while I don’t recall any specifically gay skits, but you knew that nearly everyone involved with “The Carol Burnett Show” were either gay or were gay-friendly. Carol herself always seemed accepting of damn-near everyone she came in contact with. And then there were the singers/ dancers…be still my heart. Saturday nights…my friends and I either made sure we were home by 9 for Mary or we’d wait to go out until 11, post-Carol. Well, both. In between Mary and Carol was Bob Newhart with the wonderful Marcia Wallace and Suzanne Pleshette.

      • Marcia was quite the bitch on “That’s My Bush”…she played Maggie well πŸ™‚

    • CanuckDon

      I just discovered this major GEM on the spinoff “Phyllis”…. the episode “Out Of The Closet”. I vaguely remember seeing this. What a treat and very gay-positive for the time.
      Phyllis: “Scott, this is the 1970s. Being gay isn’t something you have to hide anymore”

      • David Walker

        I’d forgotten about this. Thanks so much. Part 2 resolves especially well. And I loved the supervisor’s change at the end. How flipping typical. Also, I’d forgotten the theme song. Thanks for that, too.

        • CanuckDon

          Isn’t that funny! I had forgotten about the theme song too but once it started, my memories came flooding back,. In fact, I remember my school friends being bewildered when I mentioned watching “Phyllis”…lol. I would have been 13 or 14 at the time. I do recall seeing this particular episode because I remember her Grandmother needlepointing the naked image of Charles Bronson and wishing I could see it!

  • Homo Erectus

    Great piece! I wish Charles Nelson Reilly was mentioned, though.
    Worth watching if you’re gay and of a certain age:

    • David Walker

      OMG. He was one of the few reasons I watched “Match Game.” And I remember him showing up here and there and I was happy to see him.

      • CanuckDon

        I found Match Game itself was helpful during my teens. Its continued popularity was due to the constant sexual innuendos that suggested a very fun sex-positive attitude rather than any hints of shame. Naive as it sounds, I got the sense that most adults were open-minded and laissez faire. I figured wrongly but it did make things much easier for me personally.

        • Still on at 9:00 AM on GSN πŸ™‚

  • chris10858

    I always watched and appreciated Matt’s videos about marriage equality but it seems he really shines in his videos on gay history like this one. I would enjoy seeing him do an international version on this topic.

  • Julian (UK)

    Agony (LWT 1979)
    was the show that helped me along. I was 15, and for the first time on TV, there was a gay couple who were functional, happy and in love – unlike all the straight couples who’s lives were a mess. The lead in it – Maureen Lipman, still has a special place in the hearts of lots of gay men for that show.