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American Television, Situation Comedies  
 
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Karman Kregloe observed that what made Ugly Betty so pathbreaking was not merely its extraordinary gay-friendliness, but also that it consistently delivered messages of self-acceptance and of the need to be true to oneself. It reminded viewers that mere tolerance is not enough. Moreover, each of the show's queer characters were fully fleshed-out rather than being shown as stereotypes, with their sexuality not being deployed as a punch line or as something used to make other characters (or the viewing audience) feel uncomfortable.

Although the cancellation of Ugly Betty in 2010 was mourned by many viewers, these same viewers quickly found solace in Glee, the frothy high school musical series that debuted in 2009 on Fox. Like Ugly Betty, Glee's cast features a wide assortment of outsider characters.

According to openly gay co-creator and executive producer Ryan Murphy, Glee talks about the underdog element in society: the pregnant girl, the gay kid, the kid in the wheelchair, and the African-American girl who is one of only five black kids in their school. Murphy added that he wanted to give voices to people who do not have voices.

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In addition to out lesbian Jane Lynch as the malevolent cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, Glee's ensemble also includes the musically gifted, fashion-conscious Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), whose burgeoning romance with Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss) has been an ongoing storyline. Glee has also showcased the coming-out of cheerleaders Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) and Brittany Pierce (Heather Morris) as a lesbian couple in 2011 and, in a further shocking surprise twist, the show's burly football player cum Slurpee-flinging homophobic bully Dave Karofsky (Max Adler) also surreptitiously outed himself in the "Never Been Kissed" episode (air date November 9, 2010) by kissing Kurt on the lips following a heated, threatening exchange.

Because of its upfront tackling of thorny issues such as homophobia, bullying, and coming out, Glee has also endured criticism from activist groups like the Parents Television Council for foregrounding controversial subjects such as premarital and gay sex. For example, in the "Sexy" episode (air date March 9, 2011), Kurt's father Burt (Mike O'Malley) provides Kurt with gay-specific pamphlets covering the mechanics of sex. What is impressive about this episode, however, is the way in which teenage gay sex is handled, with Burt also pointing out to Kurt the role emotions and self-esteem play in sex.

Kurt and Blaine subsequently lose their virginity to each other in "The First Time" episode (air date November 8, 2011). Chris Colfer has remarked that he expected opposition to and apprehension about the sex-themed episode. In fact, the Parents Television Council called the show "reprehensible" and accused the Fox network of recklessly celebrating teen sex. As Colfer has argued, however, the sex scene was actually handled very sweetly and very emotionally, and that the episode's critics ignore the reality that teens are having sex. Furthermore, Colfer added, Glee makes it a point to address teen sex (whether heterosexual or homosexual) responsibly by actively promoting safe teen sex.

While Glee was exploring the treacherous terrain of teens, ABC's Emmy-winning comedy Modern Family gave viewers a satirical look at the trials and tribulations of three radically different, yet comically interrelated dysfunctional families. Like Glee, Modern Family also premiered in 2009, and introduced viewers to gay couple Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell Pritchett (out actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson), who are adoptive parents of Vietnamese infant Lily.

Although network television had shown gay parents before (Will and Grace's Jack, for instance, learned in the show's third season that he was the father of a teenager, and in 2003 It's All Relative featured Christopher Sieber and John Benjamin Hickey as adoptive parents of a teenage girl), Modern Family is the first to feature two gay men raising an infant.

Interestingly, though, the show's gay adoption did not raise as much controversy as did the noticeable lack of affection shown between Cameron and Mitchell, which provoked a Facebook campaign demanding that the network allow Mitchell and Cameron to kiss. The Modern Family episode "The Kiss" (air date September 29, 2010) was the response to the controversy, but while the episode certainly addressed male-male kissing, it also stuck to the show's overarching theme of inherited emotional issues (Mitchell's character is portrayed as famously uptight about public displays of affection, especially around other people and couples). According to James Poniewozik, "The Kiss" functioned in such a way that it pointed out that a male-male kiss should not be a bigger deal than any other type of kiss.

While Modern Family and Glee continue to generate enormous and loyal viewership, other shows featuring prominent queer characters and/or out actors have had mixed success. For example, in 2009, ABC's Better Off Ted showcased two out gay and lesbian actors in its ensemble: Portia de Rossi--the spouse of Ellen DeGeneres--and Jonathan Slavin. Slavin portrayed geeky laboratory scientist Dr. Phil Myman who, despite being married, was nonetheless involved in a comically intimate "bromance" with fellow scientist Dr. Lem Hewitt (Malcolm Barrett), while de Rossi was featured in the role of fierce, uncompromising Veridian Dynamics supervisor Veronica Palmer.

Better Off Ted was warmly received critically but drew consistently low viewer ratings, and ABC cancelled the show in 2010 after two seasons. In an interview with the Advocate website, Jonathan Slavin raised eyebrows when he discussed Hollywood's continued internalized homophobia. Slavin noted that even in auditioning for gay roles, he had often been told "It's not that kind of gay; we want Brokeback Mountain gay, so we're only seeing straight guys."

Interestingly, another recent show on cable has used this internalized homophobia as a vehicle for successful comedy. TV Land's third original scripted series Happily Divorced, which premiered in 2011, was created by and starred Fran Drescher. Drescher, along with co-creator--and eventual former husband Peter Marc Jacobson--developed a devoted gay following in the mid-to-late 1990s with their campy hit sitcom The Nanny that ran on CBS from 1993-1999. However, for Happily Divorced Drescher and Jacobson drew on experiences from their own life, with Drescher playing Los Angeles florist Fran Lovett who, because of dire economic circumstances, continues to live with now-gay ex-husband Peter (John Michael Higgins).

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