The Museum presents “Not That There’s Anything Wrong with That”: The History of Gay and Lesbian Images on Television
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
New York, NY and Los Angeles, CA—The Museum of Television & Radio presents "Not That There's Anything Wrong with That": The History of Gay and Lesbian Images on Television, a comprehensive look at how gays and lesbians, in both drama and comedy programming, have made the journey from invisibility to mainstream prominence over the past forty years. The screening series will run from March 26 to June 27, 2004 in both New York and Los Angeles. Screenings in New York will be Tuesdays to Sundays at 4:00 p.m., with an additional screening Thursdays at 6:00 p.m., and in Los Angeles Wednesdays to Sundays at 3:00 p.m.
Once a forbidden subject that was suggested only in the most coded of terms, homosexuality has become not only an allowable topic on television—as so neatly summed up in the classic line from Seinfeld—but a ubiquitous part of it. "Not That There's Anything Wrong With That": The History of Gay and Lesbian Images on Television, a thirteen-package screening series, will look at daring early attempts to approach the subject in such dramas as N.Y.P.D. and Medical Center, both of which spoke against discrimination, as well as more misguided and insensitive portrayals including those on Marcus Welby, M.D. and the notorious "Flowers of Evil" episode from Police Woman. Once adult situation comedies like All in the Family and Maude showed that stereotyping and prejudice could be exposed and criticized with humor, the 1970s saw the first efforts to add gay characters to weekly series. This evolution is shown in the screening package Gay on a Weekly Basis, which includes scenes from the long-forgotten The Corner Bar, which featured the first gay regular, albeit a stereotypical one; the controversial Hot L Baltimore, which included a gay couple among its cast; and the popular Soap, with Billy Crystal as the first successfully incorporated gay character, Jodie Dallas.
Further milestones that can be seen in this series include both the original pilot, Sidney Shorr: A Girl's Best Friend, and an episode from the subsequent series, Love, Sidney, the latter notable because the gay aspects of Tony Randall's character were virtually eliminated by the nervous networks in the transition; Brothers, cable's first attempt at a sitcom with a gay lead; St. Elsewhere, the first weekly series to feature an episode dealing with homosexuality and the AIDS crisis; and Ryan Phillippe as daytime's first gay teen, on One Life to Live.
Even as it became more common in the 1980s and ‘90s to explore gay life, television found that advertisers and the networks still imposed boundaries. Controversial moments in the struggle to allow a same-sex kiss are explored in the package Kiss the Boy/Kiss the Girl, with scenes of censored and uncensored kisses from such shows as Picket Fences, Roseanne, Melrose Place, and Dawson's Creek. The uproar over these sequences was instrumental in encouraging writers to push the topic closer and closer to the forefront until a genuine breakthrough came in 1997 when both comedian Ellen DeGeneres and her alter ego, Ellen Morgan, came out, thereby giving prime time television its first weekly series headed by a gay character. This led the way for the situation comedy Will & Grace, with not one but two gay main characters, and cable's Queer as Folk and The L Word, set predominantly in the gay community.
The screening schedule follows:
New York: Tuesdays to Sundays at 4:00 p.m., and Thursdays at 6:00 p.m.
Los Angeles: Wednesdays to Sundays at 3:00 p.m.
·Friday, March 26 to Thursday, April 1
Unlocking the Closet: The Early Years
One of prime time television's first known storyline to involve male homosexuality was presented in Espionage (1964), where a diplomat is investigated because someone implies that he's gay; the first self-identified gay character is featured in an N.Y.P.D. episode (1967) about a blackmail ring; and Medical Center (1970) deals with the first plotline about discrimination against gays. (125 minutes)
·Friday, April 2 to Thursday, April 8
Some of My Best Friends Are ...: '70s Sitcoms
The short-lived Sirota's Court (1976; segments) features television's first same sex wedding; Archie (Carroll O'Connor) finds his stereotypes turned upside down when his macho friend (Philip Carey) is revealed to be gay in All in the Family (1971); Hawkeye (Alan Alda) discovers that a patient's bruises are the result of a gay bashing incident in M*A*S*H (1976); and Beatrice Arthur, as Maude (1977), challenges Arthur (Conrad Bain), who objects to the opening of a gay bar in the neighborhood. (85 minutes)
·Friday, April 9 to Thursday, April 15
Time to Act Up: Controversy and Outrage
Protests broke out over these two episodes: Police Woman (1974), in which Pepper (Angie Dickinson) goes undercover to catch killers who turn out to be lesbians, and Marcus Welby, M.D. (1973), in which the good doctor (Robert Young) gives some questionable advice to a patient (Mark Miller) struggling with his sexual identity. (100 minutes)
·Friday, April 16 to Thursday, April 22
Gay on a Weekly Basis: Series Regulars
The Corner Bar (1972; segments) with Vincent Schiavelli as primetime's very first gay character; Soap (1977; segments) with Billy Crystal as the first gay main character to be successfully incorporated into a weekly series; Hot L Baltimore (1975) with the small screen's first cast to include a gay couple (Lee Bergere and Henry Calvert); the unaired Snip (1976) with Walter Wanderman as the shop's homosexual hairdresser; and cable's Brothers (1984) with Paul Regina as the sibling who happens to prefer men. (115 minutes)
·Friday, April 23 to Thursday, April 29
Word Is Out: ‘70s Dramas
Gays hoping to keep their lifestyles to themselves are forced to come out in episodes of Family (1977), in which the PTA tries to fire a teacher (Blair Brown) when they learn she is a lesbian; and Lou Grant (1979), where a closeted cop's (Joe Penny) special knowledge while helping to solve a gay murder makes his patrol partner suspect the truth. (105 minutes)
·Friday, April 30 to Thursday, May 6
Not Ready for Primetime?
Sidney Shorr: A Girl's Best Friend (1981) stars Tony Randall as a lonely gay New Yorker who takes in a young woman who then becomes an unwed mother. It served as a pilot for Love, Sidney (1981), but the network got nervous and all but wiped out any mention of the character's homosexuality. (125 minutes)
·Friday, May 7 to Thursday, May 13
On St. Elsewhere (1983) a popular councilman (Michael Brandon) is told he has AIDS, in weekly television's first examination of the crisis; Harvey Fierstein stars in an HBO adaptation of his short play, Tidy Endings (1988), in which he and the ex-wife (Stockard Channing) of his recently deceased lover confront each other. (105 minutes)
·Friday, May 14 to Thursday, May 20
Young and Restless: Gay Teens
Wilson Cruz, as primetime's first regular gay teen character, is confronted by a girl who has a crush on him in My So-Called Life (1995; segments); Ryan Phillippe, as daytime drama's first gay teenager, comes to the aide of a priest who is displaying the Names Project AIDS quilt in One Life to Live (1992); Scott Baio plays a high school quarterback whose loyalty is tested when his best friend (Peter Spence) comes out, in the HBO special The Truth About Alex (1986). (100 minutes)
·Friday, May 21 to Thursday, May 27
History Is Made at Night
The sight of two men (David Marshall Grant and Peter Frechette) in bed together was so unprecedented that this episode of thirtysomething (1989) caused an uproar; Northern Exposure (1992) offers a rare gay-themed episode to be set in the past, in this story of how two lesbians (Yvonne Suhor and Jo Anderson) brought civility (and a name) to Cicely, Alaska. (95 minutes)
·Friday, May 28 to Thursday, June 3
Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: '80s and '90s Sitcoms
A friend (Lois Nettleton) of Dorothy's falls in love with Rose (Betty White) in The Golden Girls (1986); Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) and George (Jason Alexander) are "outed" by a reporter in Seinfeld (1993); Kelsey Grammer, as Frasier (1994), is shocked to realize that the man he's trying to fix up with Daphne has a crush on him; and Hank's gay assistant Brian (Scott Thompson) threatens legal action because of sexual harassment on The Larry Sanders Show (1998). (100 minutes)
·Friday, June 4 to Thursday, June 10
Outing Space ... and Beyond: The Fantasy Genre
Sam (Scott Bakula) leaps into the body of a naval cadet whose gay roommate has been expelled and whose life is in danger in Quantum Leap (1992); a member of a species with no gender (Melinda Culea) is put on trial for falling in love with Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992). (95 minutes)
·Friday, June 11 to Thursday, June 17
Kiss the Boy/Kiss the Girl
Mariette Hartley and Lynn Redgrave had to make do with a compromised peck on the forehead in the movie My Two Loves (1986; segments); Amanda Donohoe expresses her feelings towards fellow lawyer Michele Greene on L.A. Law (1991; segments); darkness helped placate nervous network execs when two teenage girls experimented in Picket Fences (1993; segments); Doug Savant's long-anticipated first smooch is censored by some cautious editing in Melrose Place (1994; segments); Kerr Smith gives one unexpected kiss and has one reciprocated in these two episodes of Dawson's Creek (2000, 2001; segments); Roseanne and Mariel Hemingway lock lips in this controversial Roseanne (1994) episode; and Topher Grace finds out just how close new buddy Joseph Gordon-Levitt wants to be in That ‘70s Show (1999). (110 minutes)
·Friday, June 18 to Sunday, June 27
Gay Like Me: Leading Roles
Ellen DeGeneres becomes prime time's first gay leading character in this milestone Ellen (1997) episode; the pilot of Will & Grace (1998), contains two male principals (Eric McCormack and Sean Hayes) who are gay; the U.S. adaptation of Britain's Queer as Folk (2001) became the first series set predominantly in the gay community; while The L Word (2004) centers around a group of lesbian friends. (165 minutes)
Partial funding for this series has been provided by E. Blake Byrne and the David Geffen Foundation.
Admission to "Not That There's Anything Wrong with That": The History of Gay and Lesbian Images on Television is included with the Museum's suggested contribution: Members free; $10.00 for adults; $8.00 for senior citizens and students; and $5.00 for children under fourteen. Admission is free in Los Angeles.
The Museum of Television & Radio, with locations in New York and Los Angeles, is a nonprofit organization founded by William S. Paley to collect and preserve television and radio programs and advertisements and to make them available to the public. Since opening in 1976, the Museum has organized exhibitions, screening and listening series, seminars, and education classes to showcase its collection of over 100,000 television and radio programs and advertisements. In 2001 the Museum initiated a process to acquire Internet programming for the collection. Programs in the Museum's permanent collection are selected for their artistic, cultural, and historic significance.
The Museum of Television & Radio in New York, located at 25 West 52 Street in Manhattan, is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 6:00 p.m. and until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays. The Museum of Television & Radio in California, located at 465 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, is open Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 5:00 p.m. Both Museums are closed on New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Suggested contribution: Members free; $10.00 for adults; $8.00 for senior citizens and students; and $5.00 for children under fourteen. Admission is free in Los Angeles. The public areas in both Museums are accessible to wheelchairs, and assisted listening devices are available. Programs are subject to change. You may call the Museum in New York at (212) 621-6800, or in Los Angeles at (310) 786-1000. Visit the Museum's website at www.mtr.org.