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With only one new non-heterosexual regular character this coming season — Bonnie Somerville’s bisexual Caitlin Dowd on ABC’s drama “Cashmere Mafia” — the number of portrayals of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on scripted network series declined for a third straight year, according to the annual “Where We Are on TV” study by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
There are a total of seven series regular LGBT characters, or 1.1%, on the five broadcast networks this season, down from 9 last season.
ABC continues by a mile to be the most inclusive of LGBT representation. The network accounts for six of the seven characters in its series “Brothers & Sisters,” “Ugly Betty,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Mafia.” (The seventh regular LGBT character is Oscar Martinez on NBC’s “The Office,” the only one such character of color on broadcast TV.)
“Brothers,” executive produced by gay writer-producer Greg Berlanti, is singled out as “the bright spot on primetime network dramas” with its three gay or bisexual characters.
The highest-profile new addition of gay characters is on Sunday’s lead-in for “Brothers,” ABC’s hit dramedy “Desperate Housewives,” which will introduce the first gay couple on Wisteria Lane, played by Kevin Rahm and Tuc Watkins in recurring roles.
In the recurring character count, ABC has six of the 13 on broadcast series next season: “Brothers,” “Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Men in Trees” and new drama “Dirty Sexy Money.” Fox features four (all on animated series, “The Simpsons” and “American Dad!”), and NBC has three on “ER” and “Friday Night Lights.”
According to the report, CBS and sister net the CW have no representation of LGBT characters on their scripted series, but the two networks earn points for including gay contestants and judges on such unscripted series as CBS’ “Survivor: China,” “The Amazing Race” and “Big Brother” and the CW’s “Crowned” and “America’s Next Top Model.”
“While we acknowledge there have been improvements made in how we are seen on the broadcast networks, most notably on ABC, our declining representation clearly indicates a failure to inclusively reflect the audience watching television,” said GLAAD president Neil Giuliano. “Striving toward diversity isn’t merely the responsible road to take for broadcasters, but as many of television’s highest-rated programs demonstrate, it’s also good for business. One need only to look at the growing viewership on cable networks to see how inclusive programming can attract a wider audience.”
Indeed, LGBT representation on the mainstream cable networks is skyrocketing with 57 characters this year, including 40 regular, up from a total of 35 (regular and recurring) last year.
For a third consecutive year, GLAAD’s analysis also includes a report card on the racial diversity of broadcast networks’ scripted series. There are no major changes in the ethnic mix of actors on series, which continue to be dominated by whites, who account for 77% of all regulars, up from 75% last year. Black representation has remained unchanged at 12%. With the cancellation of ABC’s “George Lopez,” the number of regular Latino characters has dropped from 7% to 6%.
The CW ranks first in overall diversity with 32% of its regular characters played by actors of color. Fox is last with 18%.
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