While gay and lesbian characters are increasingly visible on TV, the biggest news of upcoming fall fare is the rare addition of a transgender person — a household name, to boot — on one of the most mainstream programs of them all.
Chaz Bono competes in the new season of “Dancing With the Stars,” airing Mondays and Tuesdays starting Sept. 19 on ABC. Bono was known to millions as Chastity before undergoing surgery to become a man.
Matt Kane, associate director of entertainment media for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, says the inclusion of Bono is a tremendous step forward, especially since there tend to be few transgender characters on the tube.
LGBT highlights of new and returning programs include:
“63rd Primetime Emmy Awards” Sunday, Sept. 18, at 8 p.m. on Fox
Television’s biggest awards night is hosted this year by none other than Jane Lynch, the hilarious openly lesbian actress who stars as cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on “Glee.” Lynch is also a nominee, as are plenty of other gay favorites.
“Dancing with the Stars” Mondays, Tuesdays, 8 p.m. on ABC (Sept. 19)
In addition to out transgender contestant Chaz Bono, there is also gay judge Bruno Tonioli. Atlanta native Nancy Grace is also in this season’s cast.
“The Playboy Club” Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Sept. 19)
What sounds cheeky on the surface could be much deeper and more memorable. The series looks at the members/bunnies of the Playboy Club in Chicago in the early ‘60s. The characters include a lesbian who is closeted and is married to a gay man. They are both part of the infamous Mattachine Society of Chicago.
“Glee” Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox (Sept. 20)
It will be interesting to see how the third season of this musical comedy winds up. Despite having a gay squared second season, much of it revolving around Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), fans groused about the unevenness of the show. Nonetheless, look for Ryan Murphy to get it back on track. Some new cast members should help.
“Modern Family” Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC (Sept. 21)
TV’s funniest comedy returns for its third season, with a joyous ensemble cast including (openly gay) Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell and Eric Stonestreet as his partner, Cameron Tucker. Last season they adopted a Vietnamese baby, Lily, and this year the couple contemplate adding a boy to the family.
“Grey’s Anatomy” Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC (Sept. 22)
Last season saw a major story arc revolving around Callie (Sara Ramirez) and her relationship with Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), now off on their honeymoon and contemplating life together with their new baby girl.
“The Good Wife” Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBS (Sept. 25)
Much more a critical hit than a ratings bonanza, this CBS drama has nonetheless developed a rabid fan base. Gay character Owen Cavanaugh (Dallas Roberts) is returning this year as the brother of the titular Alicia (Juliana Margulies). It is reported that he gets a boyfriend early on. “The Good Wife” also includes a bisexual character – Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma. The actress won an Emmy last year for her work.
“Desperate Housewives” Sundays at 9 p.m. on ABC (Sept. 25)
Apparently “Housewives” creator Marc Cherry is as tired of the shenanigans on Wisteria Lane as the rest of the world. A few months back, ABC announced the series was ending after this season. The show has had numerous gay characters throughout its run – let’s hope some of them have something to do this year.
“Happy Endings” Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. on ABC (Sept. 28)
This relatively young series revolves around a group of friends whose lives are disrupted when the couple that united them breaks up. In its cast is gay Max (Adam Pally), who GLAAD’s Kane praises as “not the standard gay character – he is depicted as sarcastic, schlubby, a sports fan.” Megan Mullally joins the cast this season.
“The A-List Dallas” Monday, 10 p.m. on Logo (premieres Oct. 3)
The gay men of “The A-List New York” have spawned a follow-up, with a cast of six Texans, including one woman.
“Allen Gregory” Sundays at 8:30 on Fox (Oct. 30)
Another freshman offering with potent buzz, this animated series finds a highly intellectual seven year old with two dads who, through financial complications, is forced to attend public school.
“Project Runway” Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Lifetime (ongoing)
After the shock of last year’s finale, the competition is back in fine form, with Nina Garcia scrunching her face magnificently and gay Josh and gay Bert having weekly hissy fits and battles with cast members. Unlike past seasons, no one seems to have a clue who will win this year.
“Anderson” Mondays at 3 p.m. (syndicated) (ongoing)
Anderson Cooper from CNN jumps into the daytime TV fray. We can’t wait for Kathy Griffin to come on and embarrass him until he is beet- red. He’s not out yet but we can hold our breath.