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Fox leads midseason charge with LGBTQ inclusion

New and returning shows include queer characters, storylines

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Mayim Bialik and Leslie Jordan star in ‘Call Me Kat.’ (Photo courtesy Fox)

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.

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Television

Mj Rodriguez first trans performer nominated for a Lead Acting Emmy

“Rodriguez’s nomination is a breakthrough for transgender women in Hollywood, and a long-overdue recognition”

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Mj_Rodriguez in 2019 (Photo by kathclick via Bigstock)

LOS ANGELES – “Pose” made television history once again on Tuesday morning with the announcement that Mj Rodriguez, who played the role of house mother Blanca through all three seasons of the beloved FX series, has received a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series at the 73rd Annual Emmy Awards.

It’s the first time in the history of the Television Academy’s prestigious awards body that a transgender performer has been recognized with a nomination in one of the leading actor categories.

The Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk/Steven Canals-created series, which follows the lives of several characters involved in the New York Ballroom culture during the 1980s and 90s, has been an Emmy contender since its first season, when it was nominated for Primetime Emmys as Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

It won the latter award for actor Billy Porter, who was nominated again for the show’s second season, and on Tuesday snagged his third nomination in the category.

Porter’s win in 2019 made him the first openly gay performer to receive the award in that category.

In addition to the two acting nods, “Pose” was nominated for the second time as Outstanding Drama Series. The show also received nominations for its hairstyling, makeup, prosthetic makeup and costumes (categories included in the Primetime Creative Arts Emmys, which are presented in a separate ceremony), bringing the total nominations for the show’s three-season run to 20.

“Pose” was also honored with a special Television Academy Honors award at the 2019 Emmys, for “impactful” television.

In response to Rodriguez’ nomination, GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis released a statement:

“Michaela Jaé (Mj) Rodriguez’s Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series is a breakthrough for transgender women in Hollywood, and a long-overdue recognition for her groundbreaking performance over the past three seasons of ‘Pose.’

Additionally, the show’s nomination for Outstanding Drama Series, as well as Billy Porter’s third nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, mark a historic show that undoubtedly raised the bar for trans representation on television and changed the way viewers around the world understand the trans community.

As over 40 leading LGBTQ organizations pointed out in our open letter about POSE to Emmy Award voters, representation matters. Congratulations, Michaela Jaé, Billy Porter, and the entire POSE team – the world is standing with you and applauding your talents.”

The letter mentioned by Ellis refers to an open letter released by GLAAD in June, signed by 40 leading LGBTQ organizations encouraging Emmy Award voters to show their support for “Pose,” and specifically for the transgender and nonbinary actors – Michaela Jaé (Mj) Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, Hailie Sahar, and Angelica Ross – who lead the groundbreaking show.The complete list of nominees for the 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards can be found here.

"Rodriguez's nomination is a breakthrough for transgender women in Hollywood, and a long-overdue recognition"
The city of Grozny in the Russian republic of Chechnya. Authorities have sent gay men in the semi-autonomous Russian republic to secret prisons that have been described as “concentration camps. (Photo by Alexxx1979; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Also groundbreaking was an Emmy nomination for David France‘s “Welcome To Chechnya,” the human rights documentary that explores a genocide campaign being waged against LGBTQ people in the tiny Russian satellite nation of 1.4 million people.

Since 2017, Chechnya, led by Russia’s Ramzan Kadyrov, has executed a campaign to “cleanse the blood” of LGBTQ Chechens, overseeing a government-directed campaign to detain, torture and execute them and enlisted their families to kill some.

The documentary follows a group of Russian LGBTQ activists who, at great peril to their own lives, take matters into their own hands, creating an underground railroad to something like freedom.

The documentary uses groundbreaking technology to protect the anonymity of its subjects while exposing Kadyrov’s evil.

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Television

“How much has changed,” Secretary Pete Buttigieg on ‘The Late Show’

Secretary Pete Buttigieg talks about the message he wants to send as America’s first out gay cabinet member

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Screenshot via YouTube)

NEW YORK – U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stopped by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to talk about the message he wants to send as America’s first out gay cabinet member.

WATCH:

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Television

AIDS @40- “It’s a Sin”: Drama at the beginning of the AIDS crisis

The show, which features a largely LGBTQ cast, shines a light on a dark chapter that’s been fading from memory.

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Graphic via CBS News Sunday Morning

LONDON – CBS Sunday Morning reports on the acclaimed HBO Max series, “It’s a Sin.” Produced by the originator of the hit British series ‘Queer As Folks,’ “It’s a Sin” tells the story of a group of gay men and their friends who live and love in London in the early 1980s, at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

The show, which features a largely LGBTQ cast, shines a light on a dark chapter that’s been fading from memory. CBS Correspondent Imtiaz Tyab talks with the show’s producer-writer, Russell T. Davies, and with two of its stars: Neil Patrick Harris and Lydia West.

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