The AfterEllen.com 2006 Visibility Awards

The AfterEllen.com Visibility Awards recognize those people, TV shows, movies, and musicians that have most positively or negatively influenced lesbian and bisexual visibility in American entertainment during the year. In addition to the usual categories, in our third year of the awards we’ve expanded the categories to includes ones like Best Out Actress on TV, Best Reality Show Contestant, Worst Lesbian Movie Moment, and more.

So read on to find out this year’s winners (and losers).

BEST SCRIPTED TV SERIES ON CABLE OR NETWORK TV WITH LESBIAN/BI CHARACTERS
South of Nowhere (The N)
Despite the growing frustration of many viewers with portrayal of the relationship between girlfriends Spencer (Gabrielle Christian) and Ashley (Mandy Musgrave) this season, The N’s teen series takes the top prize in this category for the second year in a row. Why? Because the show frankly and realistically tackles issues related to being a gay or bisexual teenager, its characters are sympathetic and appealing, and it helps teen viewers feel more okay about being gay. And all without anyone losing a kidney or dying of breast cancer. Yet.

Honorable Mention: Out of Practice and The L Word

BEST REGULAR LESBIAN CHARACTER ON A SCRIPTED NETWORK TV SERIES
Regina Barnes, Out of Practice
Paula Marshall’s sassy, smart Regina on the short-lived comedy Out of Practice was a great character – but she would have won this award even if she wasn’t, because she’s the only regular lesbian character on network TV this year (ER‘s Kerry Weaver is only recurring).

BEST REGULAR LESBIAN CHARACTER ON A SCRIPTED CABLE TV SERIES
Bette, The L Word
Jennifer Beals’s Bette continues to be compelling despite being bogged down with ill-conceived child custody, baby-napping, and monastic plotlines last season, because Beals embodies her with so much emotional intensity. Bette’s consistently stylish power-lesbian outfits don’t hurt, either.

BEST REGULAR BISEXUAL CHARACTER ON A SCRIPTED CABLE TV SERIES
Alice, The L Word
Lesbians may argue passionately over the characters on The L Word, or the music, or exactly when the show jumped the shark, but almost everyone seems to love – or at least like – Leisha Hailey’s Alice. Even when she inexplicably becomes a stalker, carts around a cardboard-cutout girlfriend, and says ridiculous things like “nipple confidence” (although we like her better when she doesn’t).

BEST OUT ACTRESS ON TV
Leisha Hailey, The L Word
If we didn’t name Leisha here, we’d be lynched by readers.

Sarah Paulson, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Studio 60 is inconsistent, overly self-important, and occasionally just plain boring, but Paulson shines as Christian comedian Harriet.

Honorable Mention: Jane Lynch, in anything

BEST REALITY TV SERIES WITH LESBIAN/BI CHARACTERS
Work Out (Bravo)
A reality series set in a fitness club isn’t exactly a riveting premise, and much of the day-to-day activity of this new reality series seemed scripted. But series star Jackie Warner is a smart, athletic, and attractive lesbian, and her tumultuous relationship with her girlfriend Mimi gave the series more than enough drama.

Honorable Mention: America’s Next Top Model

BEST OUT REALITY SHOW CONTESTANT
Jackie Warner on Work Out (Bravo)
For all the reasons listed above.

Honorable Mention: Lauren on Amazing Race and Josie on Top Chef

WORST REALITY TV SERIES WITH LESBIAN/BI CHARACTERS
Flavor of Love 2 (VH1)
A pointless show featuring straight and bisexual women behaving badly. And not in a good way.

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