NBC’s lesbian problem

Over the past few years, NBC has been the only network actively trying to develop a lesbian-based sitcom. Under the helm of out gay Chairman of NBC Entertainment Robert Greenblatt, none of them have made it from pilots to pick-ups. This includes an unnamed sitcom from Liz Feldman and last year’s I Hate That I Love You. But at today’s TCA NBC panel, Greenblatt assured me they are still trying, and it could happen in 2012 with the in-progress My Best Friend is a Lesbo. He told me:

All still in development. We actually have several shows with gay and lesbian characters in them. We have a big Sean Hayes show, we have a Ryan Murphy show. Too early to tell on that front. But it’s a constituency, it’s part of the fabric of the company and it should be included.

NBC does have a lot of gay male characters in its new show Smash and a major gay male couple on Days of Our Lives, but when The Playboy Club was axed last year, we lost the network’s major lesbian character, Alice. On reality show The Voice, however, we had two out lesbian contestants that made it to the final four, which was unprecedented on other American reality singing competitions thus far.

We have good reason to believe that NBC is going to keep trying to include lesbian characters and themes, as well as eventually bringing us a lesbian-led show. Greenblatt was the head of Showtime’s entertainment programming when both Queer as Folk and The L Word were created and he was also one of the executive producers of the very queer HBO Six Feet Under.

On the flip side, two pilots from the upcoming season feature not-so-great sides of lesbian characters. On the pilot of Are You There, Chelsea?, Dot Jones (Glee) guest stars as a butch lesbian that Chelsea (Laura Prepon) meets in jail after getting a DUI. She kisses her in order to get on her good side, but when the woman promises to come find her in the bunks later that night, Chelsea regrets her decision and later hides from the big, scary lesbian. And on the new show Bent, a butch lesbian contractor is a swindler who is eventually beaten at her own game by male star David Walton.

Will we see better representation from NBC? As Greenblatt said, it’s too soon to tell. But as networks go, at least they’re trying.

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