Last week, Nerve.com ran a piece on “10 Sexual Controversies That Changed TV,” which chronicles television execs’ incurable fear of receiving scolding letters from the religious right. Among the controversies that got network higher-ups’ tighty whiteys in a twist are an interfaith romance (“Bridget Loves Bernie”) and a divorced female protagonist (“D-I-V-O-R-C-E”).
Hold on for dear life, ladies, because we’re going to talk about the unique ability of homos to get network suits running scared. Three of the ten incidents covered in the Nerve article involved lesbian characters or perceived lesbian vibes.
1) The Cagney and Lacey switcharoo
In 1982, the first season of Cagney and Lacey starred actresses Meg Foster and Tyne Daly as two female police detectives patrolling the streets of New York City. But then, Meg Foster mysteriously disappeared and Sharon Gless began wearing Chris Cagney’s badge.
An unnamed CBS executive explained that the Foster/Daly pairing was “too tough, too hard and not feminine … We perceived them as dykes.” So Meg Foster was out and Sharon Gless was in, because someone at CBS came up with the brilliant idea that a flaxen-haired actress would ooze heterosexual vibes more effectively than a brunette.
Yep, Sharon Gless’s haircut just screams “straight,” doesn’t it?
2) L.A. Law: Two lawyers walk into a parking lot
In 1991, two women were finally allowed to kiss on network television. After winning a case together, attorneys C.J. Lamb (Amanda Donohoe) and Abby Perkins (Michele Green) walked into a parking lot, hugged, and then kissed — on the mouth. The next day, both awkwardly declared their attraction to men and decided to be BFFs instead.
Although the storyline had already run its course, the fundamentalist American Family Association decided to give its two cents anyway and threatened to write letters to NBC’s advertisers. In response, NBC backpedaled from its previous support of the C.J./Abby storyline, although the general public — and their advertisers — really didn’t give a rat’s ass that two females briefly bumped lips on the small screen.
3) Grey’s Anatomy: The parking lot of no return
Last year, Dr. Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith) and Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) had a short-lived relationship in which Erica finally found her glasses and came bounding out of the closet seeing the world in technicolor while Callie was still trying to see straight.
Then inexplicably, Dr. Hahn quit her job, broke up with Callie, and disappeared into a parking lot. E! Online reported that network execs at ABC “had issues” with the lesbian storyline, which was one of the reasons Dr. Hahn was hastily written out of the show.
Grey’s has since redeemed itself by pairing Callie with another blonde, Dr. Arizona Robbins, and that relationship is still going like the Energizer Bunny.
So what have we learned? On television, blondes sporting mullets are less gay than brunettes with curly locks, unless they are wearing lab coats — then they are super gay. Second, parking lots are a bad omen for television lesbian relationships. May Callie and Arizona never set foot in one, or they are doomed.