2021 has been an exceptional year for LGBTQ+ storytelling on the small screen. In just six months, we’ve been treated to a plethora of returning fan-favourite queer dramas and comedies, as well as big-budget standalone projects that reflect on some vital moments in LGBTQ+ history.
Read ahead for our top 10 LGBTQ+ shows of the year so far, which we’ve listed here in alphabetical order. And stay tuned for the final entry on the list, which we’ve hailed as, not only the best queer show of 2021 (so far), but one of the greatest LGBTQ+ dramas in history.
9-1-1: Lone Star (Season 2)
Cast: Rob Lowe, Ronen Rubinstein, Rafael Silva, Sierra McClain, Jim Parrack, Natacha Karam, Brian Michael Smith, Julian Works, Gina Torres
The second season of Ryan Murphy’s breakout procedural drama continued to solidify its status as one of the most diverse and inclusive shows on air, thanks to Ronen Rubinstein and Rafael Silva’s queer characters Tyler Kennedy “TK” Strand and Carlos Reyes – who continue to be fervently championed on social media with the Brangelina-esque ‘ship’ name ‘Tarlos’ – Brian Michael Smith’s trans male firefighter Paul Strickland and Natacha Karama’s devout Muslim hero Marjan Marwani. Season two added even more emotion and chaos into the mix – as well as lava! -and managed to separate itself from Angela Bassett’s parent series with an eclectic roster of diverse personalities and storylines.
Elite (Season 4)
Cast: Itzan Escamilla, Omar Ayuso, Arón Piper, Miguel Bernardeau, Claudia Salas, Georgina Amorós, Manu Rios, Carla Díaz, Martina Cariddi, Pol Granch
The fourth season of Netflix’s acclaimed Spanish teen thriller is the series at its queerest, with fan-favourite couple Omar (Omar Ayuso) and Ander (Arón Piper) – known affectionately as ‘Omander’ – becoming a throuple with the arrival of Manu Rios’ bold new character Benjamin. Although we had reservations about the departures of series mainstays Mina El Hammani, Danna Paola Lucrecia, Ester Expósito, Álvaro Rico and Jorge López, our fears were put to rest with the arrival of some more highly attractive, drama-filled teens – played by Rios, Carla Díaz, Martina Cariddi, and Pol Granch – who challenge the status quo at Las Encinas.
Feel Good (Season 2)
Cast: Mae Martin, Charlotte Ritchie, Lisa Kudrow, Phil Burgers, Adrian Lukis
Mae Martin continued to receive universal acclaim for the second and final season of Feel Good, a semi-autobiographical dramedy based on their life experiences in contemporary Manchester. Following on from the events of season one, Mae is admitted to rehab and confronts their traumatic past after receiving a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, while coming to terms with their non-binary identity. Season two is a stunning depiction of sexuality, gender identity, addiction and will leave viewers wanting more from the incredible Mae Martin.
Generation (Season 1)
Cast: Justice Smith, Nathanya Alexander, Chloe East, Nava Mau, Lukita Maxwell, Haley Sanchez, Uly Schlesinger, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Chase Sui Wonders, Martha Pimpton
With an ensemble cast led by Detective Pikachu’s Justice Smith, HBO Max’s Generation (stylised as Genera+ion) follows a group of Gen-Z high schoolers exploring their sexualities and identities in a conservative Orange County community. Due to similar themes, the series was (unnecessarily) compared to other shows of its kind, such as Euphoria. Generation, however, is a lot sillier and boasts a more carefree (and accurate) approach to teenage life. It’s messy and cringy – but whose teen years weren’t? – and thankfully, queer as hell. Bring on season two!
Halston (Limited Series)
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rory Culkin, Rebecca Davan, Sullivan Jones, David Pittu, Krysta Rodriguez, Gianfranco Rogriguez, Bill Pullman, Kelly Bishop, Vera Farmiga, Maxim Swinton
The fourth in a string of Netflix releases from LGBTQ+ mastermind Ryan Murphy, Halston stars Ewan McGregor as the iconic gay designer of the same name who rose to international fame with a worldwide fashion empire that became synonymous with luxury, sex, status and fame in 1970s and 1980s New York. Although McGregor’s casting was met with controversy (straight actors playing gay debate etc), the star delivers a career-best performance as the ringleader of “a bunch of queer and freaks and girls who haven’t grown up yet”. It’s not a perfect series, by any means, but it’s a fascinating take on the fashion business, creating an empire and one of the industry’s most revered designers.
Love, Victor (Season 2)
Cast: Michael Cimino, George Sear, Ana Ortiz, James Martinez, Rachel Naomi Hilson, Isabella Ferreira, Mateo Fernandez, Bebe Wood, Anthony Turpel, Mason Gooding, Sophia Bush
Picking up immediately after the events of season one, Love, Victor’s second instalment follows the title character (Michael Cimino) as he attempts to balance his life as Creekwood High’s openly gay star athlete and blossoming romance with Benji (George Sear), all while his heartbroken ex-girlfriend Mia (Rachel Naomi Hilson) and family come to terms with his revelation. Yes, there are some cringe moments in this season that would never – we repeat, never – happen in real life (that locker room scene?!) but overall, it was another enjoyable instalment in the Love, Simon/Victor Saga that turned up the heat, provided some character development for the lesser knowns, and set the stage for an intriguing third season.
Pose (Season 3)
Cast: Mj Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Billy Porter, Hailee Sahar, Angel Bismark Curiel, Dyllon Burnside, Jason A. Rodriguez, Sandra Bernhard, Jeremy Pope
Like all Pose fans, we resisted the conclusion of FX’s beloved LGBTQ+ series. With only two seasons and 18 episodes under its belt, would just one more season with these characters be enough? The answer is still a fat no, but we have to give props to co-creators Steven Canals and Ryan Murphy for delivering a pitch perfect send-off for the House of Evangelista; staying true to Pose’s uplifting ethos with hope and inspiration for LGBTQ+ people of colour, particularly for trans people. As per, the cast earned 10s, 10s, 10s across the board for their performances – especially Rodriguez and Porter. Give the whole cast an Emmy or we’ll riot in the streets of Leicester Square. (Imagine?)
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK (Season 2)
Cast: RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Alan Carr, Graham Norton, Asttina Mandella, A’Whora, Bimini Bon Boulash, Cherry Valentine, Ellie Diamond, Ginny Lemon, Joe Black, Lawrence Chaney, Sister Sister, Tayce, Tia Kofi, Veronica Green
Following a year without Drag Race UK due to concerns over COVID, the series returned in January and bing, bang, bong’d the hearts of viewers around the world. Never has a season boasted as many shock eliminations, from the likes of Joe Black, Asttina Mandella and Ginny Lemon; particularly the latter, who sashayed away from the stage mid performance and failed to return. In the words of Tayce, “The cheek, the nerve, the gall, the audacity and the gumption!” The runways were also turned up a notch thanks to the likes of A’Whora and Bimini Bon Boulash, as well as the lip-syncs smackdowns. We can’t forget RuPaul’s now-iconic rant about H&M, COVID’s interruption halfway through the series – which resulted in Veronica Green contracting the virus – and the takeover of the United Kingdolls. Now that it’s over, we’re not UK Hun.
Special (Season 2)
Cast: Ryan O’Connell, Jessica Hecht, Punam Patel, Marla Mindelle, Augustus Prew, Patrick Fabian
Another queer series gone too soon (seriously, why so many?), Netflix’s second and final season of Special focuses on Ryan O’Connell’s semi-autobiographical character, Ryan, a gay man with cerebral palsy who continues to explore the world and go after the life he wants. Thanks to the longer run time, O’Connell crafts an even more hilarious and heartfelt season than the first with exceptional character growth and the honest, as well as accurate, depiction of having a disability in modern day society. Although we’re disappointed Ryan and his adventures won’t return for another season, we couldn’t think of a better way for this groundbreaking story to end.
TV Show of the Year (So Far): It’s A Sin (Limited Series)
Cast: Olly Alexander, Omari Douglas, Callum Scott Howells, Lydia West, Nathaniel Curtis, David Carlyle, Keeley Hawes, Shaun Dooley, Tracy Ann Oberman, Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Fry
Following a group of friends in 1980s London who grow up in the shadow of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, It’s A Sin received widespread critical acclaim when it premiered on Channel 4 earlier this year. Not only that, it also broke record after record for the streaming service as it became their most binged box set ever. Thanks to Russell T. Davies’ harrowing – and at times, hilarious – script, the stunning performances of the main cast (particularly Olly Alexander, Omari Douglas and Lydia West) and for educating audiences on a vital period in LGBTQ+ history, It’s A Sin isn’t just the greatest LGBTQ+ drama of 2021, it’s one of the greatest LGBTQ+ dramas in history.