“Go On” does its lesbian character right

Here’s an interesting question: Is Go On the lesbian show we’ve been waiting for? Now, before you give me the raised eyebrow of lesbian disapproval, hear me out. I fully realize the freshman NBC series is actually The Chandler Bing Does Sports Radio Show. Clearly, this is not a lesbian show. But there’s an interesting case to be made that its lesbian character of Ann is one of the best new additions to the LGBT pantheon of characters.



Photos courtesy NBC

Ann, as played by the lovely and hilarious Julie White, is a member of the grief support group that Matthew Perry’s lead character Ryan King attends. When we first meet her she seems to be your standard issue “angry lesbian in a blazer.” Her partner died and she is, well, pissed. But now, four episodes in, the series has managed to make her both interesting and refreshingly fleshed out.

She is a character we can relate to and enjoy, root for and see ourselves reflected in. And, most strikingly, she is a character whose sexuality has always been front and center, but never been a problem. There was no coming out drama or homophobia life lessons. This is just a gay woman who has lost the woman she loves in a group of people who have also lost a loved one. While stories about coming out and homophobia are still very important to tell in our community, it’s nice to also see other stories told on the small screen. And it is especially nice to see the kind of stories that weave us into the larger community, as opposed to just setting us apart.

This week’s episode of Go On in particular was very lesbian, but not in a Very Special Lesbian Episode way. Ryan encourages Ann to attend the lesbian wedding of a friend, which she was reluctant to do because it’s to difficult to do without her +1 anymore. At the wedding, Ann catches the eye of another woman, and frets about the attraction in the context of her grieving. Then she goes out with the woman later. Yet her sexuality is never played as the punchline.

This is important because when a secondary character is lesbian or bisexual on TV, her sexual orientation often becomes either a joke or an aside — think the lesbian gynecologist friend on New Girl or the lesbian FBI agent on White Collar. These are for the most part lesbians in name only. It took three seasons to meet Special Agent Diana Berrigan’s girlfriend on White Collar. On New Girl it seems like a laugh line to make Sadie a lady bits doctor who really, really likes lady bits.

On Go On, Ann has been allowed to be a fully realized character beyond her sexuality. She’s a lesbian, and we get to see tangible evidence of that beyond lip service. But she’s also a human being who is dealing with loss and doing the best she can like everyone else. The “angry lesbian in a blazer” has made way for a well-rounded person we can all empathize with. And that is, after all, what we really want from our LGBT characters. See – we ask for so little, television.

This week we also got one of the best running gag jokes about Rachel Maddow I’ve seen in a while. It manages to gently poke fun of the MSNBC host in a way that goes beyond the standard-issue “She looks like a boy” jokes. Also it featured a cameo by out comic Erin Foley which lends it endless lesbo street cred.

It remains to be seen how much more Ann’s life and love will be explored on the show. Go On is only in its fourth week and the series is by no means perfect. Too much attention is given to Ryan and his ego. Yet it has an endearing charm that balances the heaviness of death with the lightness of its goofball characters. And in Ann we’ve already found a character that is very out and very real. I, for one, can’t wait to see her character go on.

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