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Reader’s Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Television Series

Reader's Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Television Series

June is Pride Month, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall riots and asking all of us to remember how we got where we are today. So we thought it might be fun to start up an annual Pride Month poll here at /bent, asking our readers to tell us the films, television shows, songs and people (both fictional and real) that have been important to them in the past 45 years. 

Check out all the results for every poll here.

Seventy-two people responded, and we’ll be sharing the results over the next few weeks, with the third up today: The most important LGBT television series of the last 45 years. Now, before we get to the results: We do realize doing this kind of thing is highly subjective, which is why we’re going with “most important” and not “best.” We hoped that what resulted was eclectic mix of TV series that have helped shape the queer cultural landscape. And we think it really is. But here are some interesting things to note before you go through the list: 

  • The “points” listed next to each film refers to the way we tabulated things. People voted in top 10 lists, so if the film was #1, it got 10 points, #2 got 9 points, etc. 
  • Newer shows likely fresher in people’s minds placed higher than you might expect but overall, it was across the board. Most shows on the list started their runs in the 2000s (11), followed by the 1990s (8) and then the 2010s (4)
  • ABC and HBO tied with the most shows on the list, with 6 each. Showtime was next with 4. CBS was the only of the big 4 networks to not have a show on the list.
  • And in case you’re curious, the 10 runner-ups, in order of votes, were: The Wire, Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As The World Turns, Orphan Black, Family, The Normal Heart, Little Britain, Sex and the City and The Outs 

So without further adieu, we present the 25 most important LGBT TV series, according to you. Definitely use the comments section to discuss your thoughts and/or your own choices, but remember – these were your picks – do don’t blame us if your offended about their quality or lack of diversity through the LGBT spectrum.

25. Pretty Little Liars – 37
Network: ABC Family
On Air: 2010-present
Note: Read this essay for more on the queer content of “Pretty Little Liars.”
24. Noah’s Arc – 38
Network: Logo
On Air: 2005-2006
Note: One of the few (the only?) shows to ever feature a primary cast entirely made up of African-American or Latino LGBT people. It also spun off a movie, “Noah’s Arc: Jumping The Broom”
23. An Early Frost – 40
Network: NBC
On Air: 1985
Note: This TV movie was the first — made for television or otherwise — to deal with AIDS. It had massive ratings (34 million people), and was nominated for 14 Emmys, winning 3. Really it should be higher on this list in our opinion, but the fact that it’s 30 years old probably hurt it. 
22. Oz – 46
Network: HBO
On Air: 1998-2003
Note: The first one hour dramatic series to be produced by HBO (and one of many on this list), the prison-set “Oz” featured multiple gay characters and was absolutely a pioneering series with regard to its explicitly sexual content.

Check out all the results for every poll here.

20 (tie). Skins – 49
Network: E4 (in the UK)
On Air: 2007-2013
Note: This very popular British teen drama followed the lives of dozens of folks over its six year run, with the cast changing every two years or so — with many of them playing LGBT characters. There was an American adaptation that briefly aired on MTV, though the British version was clearly the more important of the two.
20 (tie). Shameless – 49
Network: Channel 4 (UK); Showtime (US); 
On Air: 2004-2013 (UK); 2011-present (US)
Note: Save a couple votes, there wasn’t clarification as to which version of “Shameless” — the UK original or the US adaptation — was being noted here, so we figured it was worth  including both. Unlike “Skins,” the US version proved pretty popular in itself, and both dealt frankly with the homosexuality of primary character Ian Gallagher.
19. Looking – 55
Network: HBO
On Air: 2014-present
Note: Perhaps somewhat prematurely, HBO’s “Looking” made the top 20 after one eight episode season. Don’t get us wrong, we’re big fans of the show… But it might be a season or two more before its “importance” is made clear.
18. The Rachel Maddow Show – 56
Network: MSNBC
On Air: 2008-present
Note: Left-leaning political commentator Rachel Maddow brings us the only news-related show on this list, the first primetime news program ever to feature an openly gay anchor.
17. Orange is the New Black – 60
Network: Netflix
On Air: 2013-present
Note: Given votes were in before season two started, this — like “Looking” — is a little premature (it feels a bit shameful to have “Oz” place below “Orange”), but hey — being current clearly helped the prison-set Netflix series, and we can’t say we aren’t in love with it too.
16. Tales of the City – 61
Network: PBS/Showtime/Channel 4
On Air: 1993, 1998, 2001
Note: This adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s novels aired as three miniseries over a near decade, the first on PBS and the next two on Showtime. Fun fact: HBO originally acquired the rights in 1982, but reportedly ending up feeling that the book’s celebratory attitude toward homosexuality, casual sex and marijuana usage would not be deemed acceptable by the viewing public.

14. (tie) Modern Family – 64
Network: ABC
On Air: 2009-present
Note: A major winner at the Emmys (its won best comedy series for all five of its seasons) and in the ratings, “Modern Family” brought the gay relationship of Mitch and Cam significantly into the mainstream. 
14. (tie) Dynasty – 64
Network: ABC
On Air: 1981-1989
Note: Primetime soap “Dynasty” wasn’t the most progressive series to feature a primary gay character, but it was one of the first in Steven Carrington (Al Corley), and clearly voters remembered that.

13. Glee – 67
Network: Fox
On Air: 2009-present
Note: With multiple LGBT characters and a few seasons of intense popularity (though not so much anymore), “Glee” definitely warrants consideration for the representation and exposure it’s given the LGBT community, particularly youth.
11 (tie). My So-Called Life – 68
Network: ABC
On Air: 1994-1995
Note: Here’s one show we don’t mind being high on this list despite only having one season: ABC’s remarkable teen drama “My So-Called Life,” which 20 years later has still given us one of the most layered and interesting LGBT characters ever on television: Rickie Vasquez. 
11 (tie). Soap – 68
Network: ABC
On Air: 1977-1981
Note: A parody of daytime soap operas, late 1970s sitcom “Soap” was extremely controversial when it aired, in large part for being the first primetime series to feature an open gay character, Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Even though many gay activists felt Jodie reinforced negative stereotypes and was handled poorly by the writers, there’s no denying “Soap” was important.
10. The Ellen DeGeneres Show – 70
Network: Syndicated
On Air: 2003-present
Note: After a sitcom that you’ll find later on this list, Ellen DeGeneres rose from the ashes of a challenged career (in part due to homophobia resulting from her epic coming out) to essentially become the new Oprah on her extremely popular and influential talk show. Though we’d like to note “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” played a similarly important role and didn’t even place in the top 40.
9. RuPaul’s Drag Race – 72
Network: Logo
On Air: 2009-present
Note: Say what you want about recent controversies surrounding alleged transphobia on the show, but you can’t deny how influential and popular “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has been. It made stars of dozens of drag queens over the years, in a way no other media outlet has ever done before.
8. Roseanne – 74
Network: ABC
On Air: 1988-1997
Note: The highest ranked series without a primary LGBT character, “Roseanne” undeniably deserves to be here anyway. With multiple supporting and recurring gay characters (Nancy, Leon, eventually Bev), “Roseanne” put LGBT issues on the map in a way no other show ever had: Sensitively, thoughtfully, hilariously, and as one the top 5 rated shows on primetime television.
7. The Real World: San Francisco – 79
Network: MTV
On Air: 1994
Note: There were a few votes for “The Real World” in general, but most (65) singled out its landmark third season, which the depiction of Pedro Zamora’s struggle with AIDS, and the  season is also notable for featuring the first-ever same-sex commitment ceremony on TV, between Zamora and his partner, Sean Sasser. 
6. The L Word – 85
Network: Showtime
On Air: 2004-2009
Note: For 70 episodes, this Los Angeles-set lesbian soap opera was an addiction for many folks (lesbian and otherwise) as we watched Bette, Tina, Jenny, Alice, Kit, Shane and the rest of them go through a whole lot of drama and give television its first predominantly lesbian dramatic series ever.

5. Ellen – 99
Network: ABC 
On Air: 1994-1998
Note: The importance of Ellen DeGeneres’ 1990s sitcom and the epic coming out that came via its 4th season “Puppy Episode” doesn’t need much explanation. It was a huge landmark in the history of LGBT representation that we’d argue might be a space or two too low on this list.
4. Will & Grace – 107
Network: NBC
On Air: 1998-2006
Note: “Ellen” arguably paved the way for “Will & Grace” to become as long-running and successful as it was, though credit is definitely due to the series itself, which won buckets of Emmys and made every woman in America want a gay best friend (for better or worse).
3. Six Feet Under – 114
Network: HBO
On Air: 2001-2005
Note: We’re actually a little surprised this placed quite so high, if only because its “importance” regarding its LGBT content feels a little muted compared to the shows also up here on the list. But people clearly adored “Six Feet Under” (and so did we), which did give us an incredibly unique representation of multiple LGBT characters, including co-protagnist David Fisher.
2. Angels in America – 117
Network: HBO
On Air: 2003
Note: This $60 million HBO miniseries brought Tony Kushner’s AIDS-themed play to life as brilliantly as any of us could have hoped. With an incredible cast that featured Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Patrick Wilson, Justin Kirk and Mary-Louise Parker, and perhaps career-high work from director Mike Nichols, “Angels in America” is one of the most important miniseries of any kind.

1. Queer as Folk – 232 (106 for UK version; 80 for the US version; 46 did not differentiate)
Network: Channel 4 (UK); Showtime (US)
On Air: 1999-2000 (UK); 2000-2005 (US)
Note: Alright, we are huge fans of the UK version of “Queer as Folk,” and admittedly not so much big fans of the American adaptation. But both versions got boatloads of votes, and some of you didn’t differentiate which version you were voting for… So we’ve packaged them together and they are indeed the #1 most important LGBT series according to you. 

Check out all the results for every poll here.

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