AFTER binge-watching the entirety of The L Word earlier this year, it hit me just how few shows have LGBTI characters that are actually fleshed out, developed and interesting.
As a result, I’ve taken to keeping tabs on shows that fulfil my need for decent representation. The following are shows I’m particularly excited about, and ones I think deserve way more Australian fans than they currently have.
Full disclosure: Empire is a musical TV show, but it’s nothing like Glee. It’s one of those shows that has something for everyone: murder, romance, infidelity, crime, hot-button political issues, catchy R&B songs produced by Timbaland, an amazing and diverse cast that includes the gorgeous Jussie Smollett, a gay actor and singer whose character, Jamal Lyon, is also gay.
Jamal struggles against other people’s definitions of him; people try to define him as a black man, or a gay man, but rarely as a black, gay man, and the way this struggle is presented is more realistic and nuanced than anything I’ve seen on American prime time before.
Season 1 of Empire is available on Presto now.
Like Orange is the New Black, Easy is an original show produced by Netflix, and it was just released at the end of September. Each episode is its own self-contained story, following young people as they navigate love, sex and relationships in Chicago; think Love Actually for millennials.
Big names starring in the show include Orlando Bloom, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jake Johnson, Dave Franco, Malin Akerman, Hannibal Buress and Marc Maron. For our purposes, I’d like to draw your attention to the second episode, Vegan Cinderella, which revolves around two women, played by Jacqueline Toboni and Kiersey Clemons. It’s funny, it’s cute, but above all it’s realistic – it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a stylised production of a fictional romance, it feels more like you’re watching a relationship between two friends of yours unfold before your eyes.
Easy’s debut season is available on Netflix now.
The Get Down
At first, Baz Luhrmann and a show about the emergence of hip hop in late 70s South Bronx sound like a bizarre match, but after finishing the first six episodes of the Netflix-produced series, it made sense. The show premiered in August, and stars Jaden Smith and Jimmy Smits.
As is to be expected from a Luhrmann creation, the costumes are particularly beautiful, as is the cinematography. What finally made me an enthusiastic supporter of the show, however, was the scene in episode six where Jaden Smith’s character attends a ball, where “the free people run free”. The scene culminates in Smith’s character sharing his first gay kiss, surrounded by queens vogueing and lip-syncing to an original Christina Aguilera song while others in the crowd also kiss and celebrate their chance at freedom. It is by far the most glamorous and dazzling scene in the entire show, and I can only hope that the second half of the season includes more like it.
The first six episodes of The Get Down are available to watch on Netflix now.
Season 3 of Charlie Booker’s cult show Black Mirror launched on Netflix late last month, and it’s already hugely popular on social media. All three seasons of the show are well worth watching, but the one episode that stood out to me was season three’s San Junipero. It stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis as Kelly and Yorkie, two young women who meet in an 80s nightclub in the party town of San Junipero.
I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a wonderfully moving episode and one of the show’s best, in my opinion. Note: I may be biased as a huge fan of this episode – so huge that I dressed up as Kelly for Halloween – but if you only watch one thing on this list, make it San Junipero.
Season 3 of Black Mirror is available on Netflix now.