Here’s a tip: Only mention you’re making a list of Top 12 Unexpected Yet Essential Lesbian TV Shows if you have about three hours to kill. Nothing like the topic to make a dyke nostalgic. And opinionated. Yes, I know you loved The Facts of Life. Let me guess, Jo, right? Motorcycle jacket, tough attitude, she was everything you only sort hoped you’d become. Cagney and Lacey? Before my time, but yeah, I’ve thought of it–two deep-voiced women, lots of guns. And Xena, of course. My girlfriend still loves to wax poetic about her weekly ritual: riding her bike to a friend’s apartment to watch that show. Once, clad in pajama bottoms and a bandana, she was shot at, her headwear mistaken for gang paraphernalia, which it kind of was — Lesbian For Life, Yo.
Yet for every lesbian who nearly died for the Warrior Princess (actually there’s probably only one), you’ve got another (ahem, me) who just didn’t get it. I tried. Truly. But I always felt I was watching the backstage antics of the cast of a midwestern renaissance fair. And Jo? I didn’t give a shit about Jo. Blair was my girl. Blond, bitchy, popular, every inch the high maintenance femme.
My point, I guess is that one person’s “essential” is someone else’s “oh my god, you watched that?” Still, like every other opinionated lesbian, I think my list is the best. Each item alone may not fit your criteria, but I’m working towards a gestalt, people. Now please stop talking about Jo.
Punky Brewster — We’ll start here because when I took a Facebook poll, my girlfriend’s ex voted for Punky. I challenge you to find a more lesbian sentence. Except maybe “I love camping?” Or “My girlfriend and I started seeing a couples counselor after we broke up.” Anyway, mismatched Converse, more than one bandana per outfit: Punky Brewster is the kick-ass Dyke answer to RainbowBrite.
My So-Called Life — I’m actually contractually obligated to include My So-Called Life because it must appear on all “Best Of” lists generated by subcultural/cult/hip websites. Even if I weren’t, this one makes the cut because Rayanne Graff is Punky Brewster plus ten years and an alcohol problem. And she’s totally gay for Angela. If the show had been produced just five years later, you know they would have made out at least once.
X-Files — Gillian Anderson is a given (We like our women smart and stoic.), but even lesbians can get behind Mulder, if you know what I mean.
ER — Not because of Kerry Weaver’s truly moving struggle to come out of the closet. No. Because everyone knows a lesbian couple just like Abby and Luca. He’s brooding and tortured. She’s got a bipolar mother. Their relationship in a nutshell? “Luca, wait!”
Murphy Brown — Well, I mean, Candice Bergen. I slept with her autobiography under my pillow throughout middle school. Luckily, she played a single, ball-busting journalist, but even if she’d starred in Boy Meets World, I’d put her show on this list.
Macgyver — Mac is the quintessential ’80s lesbian. That soft brown suede jacket? That mullet? Those hands? Come on!
Six Feet Under — Two words: Mena Suvari.
Jem and the Holograms — Show me a femme who doesn’t love Jem and the Holograms and I’ll show you a butch in disguise.
Family Ties — So, when I was a kid, my best friend’s mom was a lesbian. It’s pretty obvious in retrospect-there was always some random lady plumber or UPS driver camped out in their furnished basement — but it was supposed to be a secret. Watching Family Ties (a show which btw is still whip-smart and funny), I always thought how much Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter) reminded me of my BFF’s mom. And now I know why.
Gilmore Girls — Am I the only one who pretends Lorelei and Rory are in a relation— nevermind.
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy — No, I’m not suggesting that the presence of gay men can an Essential Lesbian Show make. But metrosexual butches, you know you were taking notes and when Kyan said “exfoliate,” you said “how high?”
Buffy The Vampire Slayer — Good Willow, Bad Willow, School Girl Willow, Wiccan Willow, Saucy Willow, Code-cracking Willow, ‘Bored Now’ Willow, Reliable-Dog-Geyser Person Willow, Straight Willow, Gay Willow, Lilith Fair-Looking Willow, Nervous-Xander-Loving Willow, Confident Teacher Willow, Off-Key Willow, and that line: “I found you. I will always find you.”
All right opinionated lesbians. Let me have it. Which of your favorites did my classism/white privilege/ fear of dwarves lead me to exclude?