Fall TV Is Back!

This is such a great time of year for people who get amped up on good TV, and since this is the Fall Arts issue, let’s tackle the beauty and the power of the small-screen. In this Golden Era of TV, it’d take an entire issue for a definitive list. We hope, though, you can see yourself lazing on the couch or kicked back in the recliner for some of these LGBTQ-centric shows that’re about to drop into our living rooms and give us a reason to love what’re normally mundane weeknights.
Doctor Who
Well well well! Fans of the show are (mostly) stoked about this season’s lineup in which, for the first time ever, the Doctor takes the form of a woman. There’s been a bit of controversy over it, but it died down pretty quickly. For the uninitiated, the Doctor is a time-traveler who takes on a different iteration each season in his/her quest to fix certain situations that were bound to go wrong without an intervention. Jodie Whittaker, an English actress whose work has mainly revolved around shows popular in the UK, is now the 13th Doctor. Some cast members have hinted that she’s bi and finds herself in a same-sex relationship. Perhaps. We’ll be watching, regardless. You’d think that a show in which the protagonist is an extraterrestrial being from the planet Gallifrey who travels through time in what appears to humans as an English phone booth would have some viewers with a healthy suspension of disbelief, right? Apparently, the being taking the form of a woman was just too much of a stretch. “It’s time for a culling in Who fandom anyway,” said my progressive pal who can’t get enough of the show. Let the whittling of the misogynists begin.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse
Out writer Ryan Murphy is back with the darkness of his acclaimed series “American Horror Story.” This installment revolves around, apparently, the apocalypse. If you want to see some crazy imagery for what’s in store, you really gotta peep out the trailers. Sarah Paulson resumes her character from the “Coven” series (Cordelia Goode, the daughter of “The Supreme,” a witch played by Jessica Lange) and we all know Paulson’s a badass actress who’s into the ladies in real life. Cheyenne Jackson, also gay, makes a return, but let’s face it: The show is just cool. It’s inclusive of lots of LGBTQ themes and is super-socially aware of everything from income disparity to racial divides. The eye candy and cliffhangers are major icing.
With “Empire,” we’re taken behind the scenes of the hip-hop industry and all its inner workings (and dysfunctions that make for quite the roller coaster of “Who has the power now?”). This season, we’re watching that very question come into play when Jamal Lyon (played by Jussie Smollett) takes over as CEO of the family’s music-industry dynasty. Trouble is, he’s gay, so he has to seriously earn the respect of his powerful, homophobic father. Seems like there’s progress, but with “Empire,” you never know which backstabber’s head could end up with the crown.
Will & Grace
It’s not often a beloved show is revived to such success (lookin’ at you, “Roseanne!”), but audiences are still all about the antics of one of the gayest shows to hit primetime. This season, viewers are promised the drama of marriage and divorce, and guest-stars like Adam Rippon (seriously) and Matt Bomer (omg, bring it). We’ll see if the hijinks stay on point. We’re talking about a show and a cast that’s been together since 1998 (with a little break inbetwixt). It’s highly unusual to keep audiences rapt for 20 minutes, much less have ’em in stitches after 20 years.
Murphy Brown
Speaking of revivals, the newsroom that revolved around the whip-smart wisecracks delivered by none other than Candice Bergen is back. The show ran from 1988 to 1998 and gave us some of the best political satire ever captured in 24fps. So why’s the show back now? According to an interview with Bergen, “an election happened.” If the revival’s anything like it used to be, prepare for an intimate look at the fast-paced world of broadcast and a continual roast of the administration.
Modern Family
Now this is one of the greats, in my opinion. You’ve got Sofia Vergara, whose comedic timing is always a scene stealer, set among a myriad of characters with one-liners so fast and sharp, you have to rewind a bit to hear the joke that ran while you were laughing your ass off. (“30 Rock” did that, too, and they’re similar in their mockumentary style.) Main players in the show are Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) raising an Asian daughter who’s about as deadpan and unlike her fathers as they come. It made for a slowburn among the more conservative viewers who, if my family is evidence, came around after realizing that not only is the show a riot, but it actually shows the normalcy of broad family dynamics. Sadly, this is the final season.
The First
Sci-fi lovers, prepare for takeoff. “The First” is perhaps the most progressive show to hit the airwaves this fall, showing the struggles of a near future in which a queer, black, female astronaut (played by LisaGay Hamilton of “The Practice”) is on a mission to Mars. Tracie Thoms (of “Rent”) plays Hamilton’s love interest as our troubled astronaut butts heads with the powers that be to accept just how important funding for social programs and the environment is.
I’m stoked to report that “Shameless” is making its return soon, but also bummed that this is Emmy Rossum’s final season. (She plays Fiona Gallagher, who’s kept a highly dysfunctional family glued together through so many personal sacrifices that she wound up goin’ off the deep end herself. Understandable.) If you’ve ever watched the show, you know it lives up to its name. The stakes keep climbing for every character, whether it’s drug and alcohol addiction, having a child way too early, being a mentally unstable gay veteran dating a transman, or running a bar as an essential hostage to a hot Russian woman who likes to get it on with her interracial underlings, both male and female. Trust: The show has so much going on. Perhaps Rossum’s departure won’t hurt that bad. The writing is solid, so we’ll see how it works.
There’s no shortage of sexy in this dark, PNW-oriented take on the classic Archie comics. (I know — Archie, sexy?) But I wouldn’t lie to you! Not only do we have the brooding Jughead (played by a marvelously aged Cole Sprouse), we’ve got Archie as a hot ginger athlete who’s also really sensitive and kind (played by K.J. Apa). Within the noir-genre spin, we’re in a world where murder, mystery, and same-sex relationships abound against a backdrop of a mostly rainy and somewhat sinister town. Though its popularity lies with the younger crowd, I feel this is another slowburner that’ll take root with the 30-somethings, given a chance.
Madam Secretary
Can you hang with a bisexual woman with a side-shave and impeccable suits? Good, because “Madam Secretary” is dropping like a bomb this Fall and it’s bringing some heat. Known for being the longest-running bi character on television, real-life bisexual actress Callie Torres (of “Grey’s Anatomy”) plays Kat Sandoval, a political advisor to Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, played by Téa Leoni, who is absolutely delicious.
“Dude, if I’m not really black, can somebody please tell my hair and my ass?” This, from our light-skinned female protagonist from which the show’s title originates. (Well, among a few other socio-political nuances, but in general, the sitcom’s pilot established the ribbing at the “ish” of her skin — and had me guffawing the entire way through.) The acting is absolutely fantastic and, at times, has an improvised feel that makes you a fly on the wall of a black family’s home in American suburbia. The camera work is sharp, the writing is gut-busting, and the show’s inclusion of a gay character (real-life lesbian Raven-Symoné) doesn’t feel contrived. Last season got a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not an easy feat and well deserved.