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TV & Radio

Gay characters’ long journey on television

Gay central characters are now included in dramas and sitcoms without it seeming like a stunt

When it began, Lenny Henry’s admirable campaign to improve television diversity was not restricted to ethnicity.

Sexuality was also on the agenda, as a recent edition of Oprah Winfrey’s show in which she discussed gay characters on American television reminded me. Her guests were Dan Bucatinsky from ABC political thriller Scandal, Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family and the comedian Wanda Sykes.

After a slow start, and buoyed by Ellen DeGeneres, US scriptwriters now include gay central characters in dramas and sitcoms without it seeming like a stunt. Will & Grace, Modern Family, Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy are all good examples.

It strikes me that British television, by contrast, has tended to address gay issues by publicity-seeking storylines in soaps.

The journalist and screenwriter Gareth McLean is more charitable. He commends the BBC’s Holby City and Waterloo Road for their treatment of gay issues and applauds Coronation Street for its long-established lesbian character Sophie Webster.

Perhaps things aren’t so bad. It’s 15 years since Channel 4’s breakthrough gay drama Queer As Folk, but Russell T Davies is filming a follow-up, Cucumber. Also set in Manchester, it screens on Channel 4 next year.