It’s a new year, and considering what the last one was like it’s not surprising that so many of us are breathing a sigh of relief. But that doesn’t mean we’re not still in for a long haul before it’s going to be possible to spend less time on our socially distanced couches, and since most of us have already binge-watched our way through much of the content available on our TV screens over the past 10 months, the pickings are starting to look a little slim.
Fortunately, January also means it’s time for the providers of that content to roll out a new slate. Midseason arrivals are on deck from the networks, and while many of them won’t arrive for a few weeks, there are still a few new options coming our way – including several proudly LGBTQ-inclusive shows that might catch your eye.
Leading the charge this month is Fox, with three debuts poised to hit our screens.
First up, and already here, is “Call Me Kat,” based on the BBC UK original series “Miranda,” which was created by Miranda Hart, the UK writer and actress known and beloved for her work in the long-running fan-favorite series, “Call the Midwife.” The American version, which aired its premiere on Jan. 3, stars Emmy-nominee Mayim Bialik (“Blossom,” “The Big Bang Theory”) as a woman who has spent her entire life savings to open a cat café in Louisville, Ken. Kat is a non-conformist, who struggles every day against society and her mother (Emmy-winner Swoosie Kurtz, “Mike & Molly,” “Sisters”) to prove that she can be happy and fulfilled despite still being single at 39. Helping out Kat at the café are Randi (Kyla Pratt, “One On One”), a confident millennial and self-proclaimed “non” cat person, and Phil (Emmy-winner and LGBTQ fan favorite Leslie Jordan, “The Cool Kids,” “Will & Grace”), who is recently single after a break-up with his longtime partner. Throwing a wrench in the works of Kat’s plans to proudly maintain her single status for life, however, is Max (out actor Cheyenne Jackson, “American Horror Story,” “30 Rock”), a friend and former crush who returns to Louisville to take a job as a bartender at the piano bar across the street, where he works with his friend Carter (Julian Gant, “Good Girls”).
It would be nice to offer a glowing recommendation on this one, especially since it involves the return so many of our favorite small screen stalwarts, but reactions to the pilot episode have been mixed, at best. While critics and viewers have praised Bialik’s ability to shine even when she’s forced to handle sub-par material, they’ve also been less-than-encouraged by much else about the series, with Hollywood Reporter critic Robyn Bahr writing, “Kat’s sparkle […] isn’t enough to illuminate her bland surroundings, which include the topical-in-2014 cat café setting, her gnattish mother and her nondescript barista buddies.” That’s not likely to discourage sitcom fans hungry for something new, however, and any true TV junkie knows that even the greatest shows sometimes get off to a rocky start. Instinct says to give “Call Me Kat” a chance to find its stride; once it does, it might just end up being one of our new favorites.
Fox is also hoping for a double hitter as it steps up to the plate with the return of its #1 drama, “9-1-1,” and last season’s new spin-off series, “9-1-1: Lone Star,” which will have their back-to-back season premieres on Jan. 18. The LGBTQ appeal of these popular shows is a given for their pedigree alone – they come from the entertainment powerhouse that is Ryan Murphy, alongside Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear – but both also wear their queerness on their sleeve with inclusive casting and storylines.
The fourth season premiere of “9-1-1” follows its characters through the aftermath of a devastating Los Angeles earthquake, with Athena (Angela Bassett) trying to shrug off her physical and emotional injuries and jump back into the job, while Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Chimney (Kenneth Choi) prepare for the birth of their baby, and Buck (Oliver Stark) searches for answers in his past to help him face his present. For those keeping track, Stark is one of several actors portraying queer characters on the show, with others played by Aisha Hinds, Ryan Guzman, and Rockmond Dunbar.
As for “9-1-1: Lone Star,” the new season brings Gina Torres (“Suits,” “Firefly”) on board as a new captain, replacing Liv Tyler, who declined to appear in the second season due to concerns about traveling from the UK for the shoot in the middle of a pandemic. She joins returning star Rob Lowe, as well as trans actor Brian Michael Smith, in an ensemble cast that also includes Ronen Rubinstein, Jim Parrack, Sierra McClain, Natacha Karam, Rafael Silva, and Julian Works – with both Rubinstein and Silva playing gay characters. As for the plot, all that can be known for the moment is that it will involve the characters dealing with their personal and domestic dramas as they rescue the citizens of Texas from one emergency after another – in other words, all the things we love about these kinds of procedural dramas.
NBC is also serving up some LGBTQ-friendly fun with the return of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” the hit fantasy/comedy about a smart young tech kid who experiences a strange event that leaves her with the ability to hear the innermost thoughts, wants and desires of everybody around her. The twist (and it’s a twist that makes all the difference), is that she hears them not as thoughts, but as songs. Making things just a little more glorious is the presence of Zoe’s friend and neighbor Mo (Alex Newell), who is gender-fluid. If you missed the boat for season one, you’ll definitely want to take the opportunity to jump on board. You might need to catch up first – but it’s 2021, so there are ways to easily accomplish that.
“Superstore,” another popular and inclusive NBC comedy, returns this month (Jan. 14), too – but since it’s technically a midseason return (the current season began in the fall, albeit for only a handful of episodes), it’s not exactly new. Nevertheless, that’s good news for fans who may have felt cheated by the brief taste they were given a few months ago.
Lastly, if you’re a fan of the CW’s Greg Berlanti-created “Riverdale” (and who isn’t, whether they’ll admit it or not?), the newest season of that candy-colored, deliciously queered reimagining of the “Archie” comic books will drop on January 20 – presumably bringing K.J. Apa’s frequently-flashed abs with it.
Of course, if you’re one of the many people who have come to prefer their entertainment on demand, rather than waiting a week in between episodes to find out what happens next, you already know that the big streamers have their own new offerings waiting in the wings, ready for you to binge your way through January in the style to which you’ve become accustomed. A lot of those shows are geared for the queer eye, too – but that’s a whole different article in itself.