Back to IndieWire

Reader’s Poll: The 50 Most Important LGBT Television Series

Reader's Poll: The 50 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 in our second  annual Pride Month poll here at /bent, we asked 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 46 years. 

Check out all the results for every poll here.

127 people responded, and we’ll be sharing the results over the next few weeks, with the third list out today: The most important LGBT TV series of the last 46 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: 

-Newer shows likely fresher in people’s minds placed higher than you might think warranted but overall, it was across the board. Most shows on the list started their runs in the 2000s (18), followed by the 2010s (14), 1990s (12), 1980s (4) and 1970s (3).

-HBO had the most series on the list with 9, followed closely by ABC (8). Showtime and Netflix each had 4 (impressive given how new Netflix is). Of the major networks, CBS was the lowest with just 1.

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.

1. Queer as Folk 
Network: Channel 4 (UK); Showtime (US)
On Air: 1999-2000 (UK); 2000-2005 (US)
Note: No surprise here. 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. 
2. Angels in America 
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.

3. Ellen 

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. Six Feet Under 
Network: HBO
On Air: 2001-2005
Note: 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.
5. Will & Grace 

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).

6 (tie). Roseanne 

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.
6 (tie). The L Word 

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 (until “OITNB” at least).
8. RuPaul’s Drag Race 
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.

9. Looking 

Network: HBO
On Air: 2014-present (we still have the movie coming!)
Note: It may have been cancelled, but the legacy of “Looking” clearly struck a cord with those polled, shooting into the top 10. Which may be a little premature, but as big fans of the series here at /bent, we aren’t going to complain.

10. The Real World: San Francisco 
Network: MTV
On Air: 1994
Note: There were a few votes for “The Real World” in general, but most 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. 
11. Orange is the New Black 
Network: Netflix
On Air: 2013-present
Note: Like “Looking,” this might seem a little premature, but as the third season of the prison-set drama continues to attest, “Orange is the New Black” is definitely a landmark series when it comes to portrayals of queer women, trans women and women in general. With a dozen or so LGBT characters in its ensemble, no series with such mainstream popularity has been quite so queer.

12. My So-Called Life 
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. 
13. Transparent 
Network: Amazon
On Air: 2014-present
Note: Only one season of Jill Soloway’s award-winning portrayal of a family adjusting to its patriarch coming out as a trans woman has aired (though thankfully more is coming), but its impact is already clear. “Transparent” has been a major part of a recent wave of mainstream exposure for stories about transpeople and we can’t wait to see what’s next.
14. Dynasty 
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.

15. Tales of the City 
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.
16 (tie).  Modern Family 
Network: ABC
On Air: 2009-present
Note: A major winner at the Emmys (its won best comedy series for all six of its seasons) and in the ratings, “Modern Family” brought the gay relationship of Mitch and Cam significantly into the mainstream (even if its a wee bit too heteronormative for our liking). 

16 (tie). Soap 
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 (and should arguably be higher).

18. Glee 
Network: Fox
On Air: 2009-2015
Note: With multiple LGBT characters and a few seasons of intense popularity (though not so much the last few), “Glee” definitely warrants consideration for the representation and exposure it’s given the LGBT community, particularly youth.

19. The Normal Heart

Network: HBO
On Air: 2014
Note: This HBO adaptation of Larry Kramer’s landmark play “The Normal Heart” gave Ryan Murphy two projects in the top 20, this one tackling the onset of the AIDS crisis through the eyes of a group of New York City activists. 

20.  The Fosters

Network: ABC Family
On Air: 2013-present
Note: A blended family of biological, adopted and foster children (including an openly gay tween) raised by an interracial lesbian couple on a family-oriented network? Important, indeed.

21. Empire

Network: Fox
On Air: 2015-present
Note: One of the most popular first seasons of a network TV series ever, Lee Daniels and Danny Strong’s “Empire” brought openly gay Jamal Lyons (played by openly gay Jussie Smollett) onto the screens of millions and millions of viewers with refreshingly little controversy. 
22 (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.
22 (tie). The Ellen DeGeneres Show 

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.

24. An Early Frost 

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. 

25 (tie). Queer Eye For The Straight Guy
Network: Bravo
On Air: 2003-2007 
Note: Hugely popular for a couple years, you can say what you want about “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy” in retrospect — but it still was a major moment for gay visibility.

25 (tie). Cucumber/Banana/Tofu
Network: E4/Logo
On Air: 2015-present
Note: We still don’t know if we’ll get any more of Russell T. Davies’ fantastic, innovative trilogy of LGBT content series, but we’re happy enough voters saw it to place it this high up on the list. 

27. Oz 
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.
28. As The World Turns
Network: CBS
On Air: 1956-2010

Note: In 1988, the serial made American television history by introducing gay male character, Hank Elliot. Then in 2007, when Luke Snyder and Noah Mayer shared a kiss and formed a relationship, becoming the only gay male couple on daytime television. 

29 (tie). Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Network: WB/UPN
On Air: 1997-2003
Note: Beloved by many, the cult series brought us one of our all-time favorite TV lesbians in Willow Rosenberg. 

29 (tie). Noah’s Arc 
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.”

31. True Blood

Network: HBO
On Air: 2008-2014
32. Degrassi: The Next Generation
Network: The N/TeenNick/Netflix
On Air: 2001-present
33. Ugly Betty
Network: ABC
On Air: 2006-2010
34 (tie). Orphan Black
Network: BBC America
On Air:  2013-present

34 (tie). Please Like Me

Network: Pivot
On Air: 2013-present

36 (tie). Sex and the City

Network: HBO
On Air: 1998-2004
36 (tie). Skins – 49
Network: E4 (in the UK)
On Air: 2007-2013
38. The Kids In The Hall
Network: CBC
On Air: 1988-1994
39. The Rachel Maddow Show 
Network: MSNBC
On Air: 2008-present
40 (tie). Little Britain
Network: BBC
On Air: 2003-2006
40 (tie). The Wire
Network: HBO
On Air: 2002-2008

42. An American Family

Network: PBS
On Air: 1973 
43. Lip Service

Network: BBC
On Air: 2010-2012

44 (tie). House of Cards

Network: Netflix
On Air: 2013-present

44 (tie). Friends

Network: NBC
On Air: 1994-2004
46. Family

Network: ABC
On Air: 1976-1980

47. American Horror Story

Network: F/X
On Air: 2011-present
48. The Outs

Network: Online
On Air: 2012-2013
49 (tie). Game of Thrones

Network: HBO
On Air: 2011-present

49 (tie). Grace & Frankie

Network: Netflix
On Air: 2015-present

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox