With heedless vampires, unhinged gynaecologists and swash-buckling pirates of the rainbow-hued variety, 2023 was undeniably the most diverse year on-screen for the LGBTQIA’s.
RuPaul’s Drag Race continued to showcase the drag community’s C.U.N.T. with new instalments in [insert any country here, honestly], the Heartstopper kids said “…hi” once more and the BBC blessed viewers with the UK’s first-ever dating series with an all-gay male cast. Jonathan Bailey sucked Matt Bomer’s toes, too, which is important.
From returning fan-favourites to new dramas, comedies and post apocalyptic horrors, here are the 15 LGBTQIA+ shows this year that have infected popular culture and permeated the minds of many a queer.
Dead Ringers (miniseries)
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Britne Oldford, Poppy Liu, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Chernus, Jeremy Shamos, Emily Meade, Natalie Woolams-Torres
A gender-swapped adaptation of David Cronenberg’s 1988 cult classic of the same name, Dead Ringers sees “gay-for-pay” icon Rachel Weisz embrace her inner Lindsay Lohan circa The Parent Trap as twin gynaecologists Elliot and Beverly Mantle. Bloody and unhinged, the eight-episode miniseries adds some much-needed sapphic representation to the psychological thriller and body horror genres, with some fans hailing Dead Ringers as the “lesbian drama of the year”. If Weisz doesn’t receive some kind of prestigious nomination, warning: queer women will seethe.
Everything Now (season 1)
Cast: Sophie Wilde, Lauryn Ajufo, Harry Cadby, Noah Thomas, Sam Reuben, Niamh McCormack, Jessie Mae Alonzo, Robert Akodoto, Vivienne Acheampong, Alex Hassell, Stephen Fry
Everything Now flew slightly under the radar when it premiered back in October, whether that was a result of the SAG-AFTRA strikes, lack of star power or promotion, we’re not sure: but it deserved more. The British series follows Mia – played to perfection by Sophie Wilde from this year’s breakout horror Talk to Me – a teen who rejoins Sixth Form after a stint in hospital with anorexia. In similar vein to Netflix contemporaries Sex Education and Heartstopper, Everything Now delivered an authentic depiction of modern British queerness but with a much-needed dramatic lens. Sadly, we’re fully expecting Netflix to pull the plug on this, so if you’re a fan: make your voice known on social media.
Fellow Travelers (season 1)
Cast: Matt Bomer, Jonathan Bailey, Jelani Alladin, Linus Roache, Noah J. Ricketts, Allison Williams, Will Brill, Chris Bauer
In our cover interview with Jonathan Bailey, the Bridgerton alum described Fellow Travelers as the “gayest show I could find” and yeah, he’s quite correct. Within the first twenty minutes, Bailey and Matt Bomer’s sub-dom dynamic is on full display as the former feasts on his on-screen lover’s toes. As well as bringing the much-marginalised foot fetish community to the small screen, the Showtime series tackles four decades of queer history; from the Vietnam War protests of the ‘60s to the drug-fueled disco hedonism of the ‘70s and the AIDS crisis of the ‘80s. And while Hawkins Fuller (Bomer) and Tim Laughlin’s (Bailey) relationship is quite toxic, Fellow Travelers provided viewers with a brand new gay love story for the ages.
Glamorous (season 1)
Cast: Kim Cattrall, Miss Benny, Jade Payton, Zane Phillips, Michael Hsu Rosen, Ayesha Harris, Graham Parkhurst, Diana-Maria Riva, Lisa Gilroy, Ricardo Chavira, Mark Deklin, Nicole Power, Damian Terriquez
Netflix got on the wrong side of the queers (again) this year when they cancelled Glamorous. The feel-good queer comedy was desperately needed in the rather serious LGBTQIA+ television landscape with its silly and self-aware Ugly Betty-lite humour, lack of trauma elements and diverse representation of the queer community. Featuring Sex and the City icon Kim Cattrall as Madolyn Madison, the makeup mogul-equivalent of Wilhelmina Slater, Glamorous follows Marco (Miss Benny), a gender non-conforming queer who embarks on a journey of self-discovery after he’s hired as Madolyn’s new assistant. (A primarily shirtless) Zane Phillips shines as Madolyn’s himbo, quasi-villain son Chad, Ayesha Harris and Jade Payton exemplify Black queer love as Britt and Venetia while Michael Hsu Rosen made viewers swoon as Ben, a “hapless” Dungeons & Dragons stan. We’re really going to miss this cast.
Heartstopper (season 2)
Cast: Kit Connor, Joe Locke, William Gao, Yasmin Finney, Corinna Brown, Kizzy Edgell, Tobie Donovan, Jenny Walser, Sebastian Croft, Cormac Hyde-Corrin, Rhea Norwood, Fisayo Akinade, Chetna Pandya, Olivia Colmna, Jack Barton, Leila Khan, Nima Taleghani, Bradley Riches
After graffitiing popular culture with cartoon squiggles and launching the careers of various new British queeros, Heartstopper returned with its sophomore season this year to universal critical acclaim. The series broke new ground with various storylines: Nick (Kit Connor) refusing to come out as bisexual until he’s ready; Charlie (Joe Locke) opening up about his struggles with mental health and an eating disorder; Elle (Yasmin Finney) and Naomi’s (Bel Priestly) trans sisterhood; and Isaac (Tobie Donovan) coming to terms with his asexuality. While it was slightly heavier than its predecessor, season two’s exploration of the above topics felt quintessentially Heartstopper (optimism, charm and, again, animated squiggles).
I Kissed a Boy (season 1)
Cast: Dannii Minogue, Ollie King, Dan Harry, Subomi Onanuga, Gareth Graham, Jake Devline-Reed, Kailum Webster, Ross Bester, Ceejay Knight, Ben Clark, Matty Holehouse, Vitor Moreira, Jake Watkins, Joseph Mendez, Mikey Connor, Josh Cemaloğlu, Robert “Bobski” Budzynski
Although we have a few notes on the first season of I Kissed a Boy, mainly the short duration and the lack of opportunities for the cast to explore other matches, the series made queer history and “logistical difficulty” a phrase of the past. Fronted by Dannii “MOTHER!” Minogue, the eight-episode series memorably became the first-ever UK dating show with an all-gay cast. While some were concerned over whether the LGBTQIA+ experience would be handled with care, the BBC series chose not to cast models slash wannabe brand ambassadors for [insert clothing line/beauty brand here] with a diverse and inclusive roster in terms of body types, experiences and ethnic backgrounds. The series didn’t shy away from the adversities faced by the contestants, but made a point of focusing on unequivocal queer (male joy) thanks to non-trauma related conversations around dating, popular culture, Grindr and so forth. Also, the use of Lady Gaga’s non-single ‘Boys Boys Boys’ in the final episode sealed it for us: I Kissed a Boy is the best soundtrack-ed show of all time. The pop music tart in charge needs a raise.
Juice (season 1)
Cast: Mawaan Rizwan, Russell Tovey, Nabhaan Rizwan, Shahnaz Rizwan, Jeff Mirza, Emily Lloyd-Saini, Hugh Coles, Nathalie Armin, Raheem Payne
Mawaan Rizwan’s sharp writing and tongue-in-cheek humour has never been better represented than in Juice. Based on the comedian’s 2018 Edinburgh Fringe show, the surreal and trippy comedy follows a fictionalised version of Rizwan, Jamma, as he navigates his career at a marketing company and commitment issues with boyfriend Guy (Russell Tovey). A refreshing depiction of sexuality, identity and race, Juice doesn’t include any tired reveals or teachable moments about queerness or what it means to be a Pakistani man in London. As Zoya Raza-Sheikh writes in her GAY TIMES cover story with Rizwan, “Juice becomes more than a funny title but a series with a dysfunctional Pakistani dynamic as Urdu cuts across quick-fire dialogue, Rizwan makes out (and then some) in the toilets, and intimacy gets, well, weird and intimate. It’s a side of comedy and representation that’s not often given a chance.” Now we wait for the season two announcement…
The Last of Us (season 1)
Cast: Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey
Following nine weeks of mutated, zombified creatures, one of the most poignant queer romances ever put to screen and outrage from miserable right-wingers (woo!), The Last Of Us sits as one of the most-watched dramas of the year. Widely hailed as the best live-action adaptation of a video game, HBO’s action-adventure series catapulted Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey to A-List status as Joel and Ellie, an unlikely duo who must travel across a post-apocalyptic US to find a cure for the virus. The chemistry between Pascal and Ramsey was praised, as well as the production value and third episode, which chronicled a love story between Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett). It has since been praised by critics – and us – as one of the best episodes of television ever broadcast.
The Other Two (season 3)
Cast: Heléne Yorke, Drew Tarver, Case Walker, Ken Marino, Molly Shannon, Brandon Scott Jones, Josh Segarra, Wanda Sykes, Nadia Dajani, Fin Argus
Controversies aside (show creators Chris Kelly and Sarah Schenider being outed as the very thing they’re parodying), the third – and sadly final – season of The Other Two was its best. Admittedly, a large majority of the fanbase didn’t take too kindly to the more surrealistic storylines – Brooke (Heléne York) channelling The Invisible Woman, Cary’s (Drew Tarver) black-and-white arc on Emily Overruled, Pat escaping her security detail with Mrs Doubtfire-esque prosthetics and so forth – but its satirical take on fame has never been so side-splitting. Disney’s constant use of “first-ever queer character” was gut-bustingly parodied with Globby, method actors were read for filth with Love, Nicholas star Lucas Lambert Moy and Chase’s mental health telethon… won a Peabody Award. While we’re still mourning its cancellation, The Other Two stuck the landing with Cary and Brooke, reversing their industry monster psyche and bringing them back to reality. Cary doesn’t have an Oscar, but this season deserves an Emmy.
Our Flag Means Death (season 2)
Cast: Rhys Darby, Taika Waititi, Ewen Bremner, Joel Fry, Samson Kayo, Nathan Foad, Vico Ortiz, Matthew Maher, Kristian Nairn, Con O’Neill, David Fane, Samba Schutte
Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby respectively returned this year as television’s favourite (and only?) star-crossed queer pirate lovers Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet. The second season of sleeper hit Our Flag Means Death continued to walk the plank (I’m sorry), shiver our timbers (ooh, another one) and scallywag (we’re done now) its way into viewers’ hearts with the aforementioned romance, although it had more humour, maturity and heart-wrenching moments, as well as kookiness, than its predecessor. Additionally, the period rom-com didn’t give in to queer tropes, from coming out to adversity/violence based on their identity, instead doubling down on its hilarious and parodical approach to toxic masculinity. Can we confirm season three now?
RuPaul’s Drag Race
This may be cheating, as we’re not focusing on one particular season – or franchise – of Drag Race, but whatever. RuPaul’s empire reached a new peak this year with various instalments, from Sasha Colby finally receiving her flowers as a drag and trans pioneer on season 15 to Keiona’s insane (win-high-win-etc) track record on France and, of course, Ginger Johnson, Michael Marouli and Tomara Thomas uhh-huhh, ergh-huhh-ing the UK series as the franchise’s first-ever all-Northern finalists. Shoutout to M1ss Jade So’s infectious C.U.N.T., Jessica Wild redefining improv with her trailblazing Taco Tuesday monologue and Pandora Nox becoming Drag Race’s inaugural AFAB winner. Down Under and Espana were… there, too.
Sex Education (season 4)
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson, Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey, Connor Swindells, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Alistair Petrie, Mimi Keene, Aimee Lou Wood, Edward Bluemel, George Robinson, George Somner, Dua Saleh, Dan LEvy, Hannah Gadsby, Thaddea Graham, Anthony Lexa, Alexandra James, Felix Mufti, Reda Elazouar, Lisa McGrillis
Sex Education’s final season was, somehow, its queerest. Following the students of Moordale Secondary School as they transition to Cavendish Sixth Form College, the comedy continued to blaze a rainbow trail on the small screen with ‘The Coven’, a popular trio of queers consisting of: Abbi (Anthony Lexa), a trans woman with a penchant for positivity; Roman (Felix Mufti), her transmasculine, fashion-forward partner; and Aisha (Alexandra James), a woman of the Black, LGBTQIA+ and deaf experience who can’t stay away from gossip. The trio, as well as existing characters Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa), Adam Groff (Connor Swindells) and Cal Bowman (Dua Saleh), created a new archetype for queer teens in media; ensuring that Sex Education will go down in history as one of the most progressive teen shows of all time.
Somebody Somewhere (season 2)
Cast: Bridget Everett, Jeff Hiller, Mary Catherine Garrison, Murray Hill, Jane Drake Brody, Mercedes White, Kailey Albus, Tim Bagley, Jennifer Mudge, Barbara Robertson
Although Bridget Everett admits the “plot is thin” on HBO’s Somebody Somewhere, it’s developed an impassioned following as television’s most treasured cult comedy. Centering on Everett’s character Sam, a woman in her 40s coming to terms with a midlife crisis in Kansas, the series’ exploration of life’s minutiae, normalisation of the queer experience and chemistry between Everett and her co-lead Jeff Hiller cements Somebody Somewhere’s status as one of the decade’s most relatable and heartwarming creations. Good news incoming: season three is on the way. Everett and Hillier recently teased to GAY TIMES that ‘twinks will get murdered’ and ‘Sam becomes a nudist’. Fingers crossed for all of the above, as well as more vulnerable displays of friendship like season two’s beautiful – and Emmy-worthy – diarrhoea sequence. Yeah, we love this show.
What We Do In The Shadows (season 5)
Cast: Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillén, Mark Proksch, Kristen Schaal
Breaking: the cast of What We Do In The Shadows are yet to earn an Emmy – or any prestigious award, in fact, so where is the outrage? The change.org petition? Where? Is? It? This season would make the list for the final moments of episode three alone, which sees Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo (Matt Berry), Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) and The Guide (Kristen Schaal) hilariously flaunt their identities as part of the rainbow mafia at a Pride parade. Who would’ve thought that one of the gayest episodes of the year would belong to a vampire mockumentary? It’s rare for any series to reach a new peak in its fifth season – or even survive past a fourth season – so let’s take a moment to thank What We Do In The Shadows for doing just that. Season six: here we come.
The Ultimatum: Queer Love (season 1)
Cast: Xander Boger, Vanessa Papa, Lexi Goldberg, Kiara Krugel, Yoly Rojas, Mal Wright, Mildred Bustillo, Tiff Der, Sam Mark, Aussie Chau
Sadly, the dating/reality format is still crammed with the heterosexual likes of Love Island, Too Hot to Handle and Love Is Blind, so when we’re finally blessed with their rainbow-coloured equivalents, it’s important to celebrate them. I Kissed a Boy repped for the boys this year, while The Ultimatum had queer females’ back with their JoAnna Garcia Swisher-hosted spin-off. The series, dubbed a “social experiment”, features couples on the verge of marriage who have eight weeks to decide if they want to get married or split for good. Couples are split up, choose new partners and move in with them for three weeks. The hetero version was already bedlam, so imagine how it fared with five queer couples? Moments that stick out are as follows: the fingering fiasco between Raelyn and Vanessa; Aussie’s inability to communicate with Mildred; Xander and Yoly’s whirlwind romance; and the entire cast’s (rather confusing) hatred of so-called “villain” Vanessa (she really didn’t deserve that level of hate, sorry!). Sequel, when?