Queerie Olde England

Want Your Gay TV? Look Across the Pond


Sometimes it seems like things are better in the UK. They’ve got free health care, the drinking age is 18, and their cute accents add a patina of class of everything. And add to that heady mix the fact that their television is much, much gayer than ours.

While for years we’ve had to satiate ourselves on the occasional tossed bone of a very special coming out episode, a chaste kiss here and there, and maybe some bimbo on The O.C. flirting with lesbianism during sweeps, the United Kingdom has plunged into the deep end of gay-inclusive television. And rather than just cordon off a show or two exclusively for the gays, these limey ’mos are integrated into programming in such a natural, matter-of-fact way it would make GLAAD soil its trousers. So join us for the very best of queer TV from this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this gay, gay, gay England.

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  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)

    Oh, the age to have sex is 16 and gay people can get married!

  • tavdy79

    @John from England(used to be just John but there are other John’s): Well, civil-partnershipped. But most people don’t differentiate between CPs and marriage, so it’s really only a matter of time before the name is changed.

    And please remind me because I’m not entirely sure, but wasn’t the UK version of Queer As Folk effectively unsellable to US TV channels because the first episode involved a gay sex scene that included both analingus and underage sex? There have also been gay kisses on several UK teens’ TV shows; the first I know of was on Byker Grove in 1994.

  • Kit

    Well, the original QAF was vastly better than the crappy American remake…

  • Alec

    @tavdy79: Yes. The Justin/Brian storyline was Nathan/Stuart in the original, and he was 15 in the story (and at the time there was a different age of consent in the UK for gay sex, 18, instead of 16).

    The series is a bit more ridiculous in some respects than the American version, in that Stuart should have been imprisoned many times over (for various assaults and acts of destruction of property, not illegal sex).

    Russell T. Davies, who reimagined Dr. Who and created Torchwood, is the creator of QAF.

  • Aaron


    I wish they had an American version of the show here in the states. But it would be heavily edited and toned down. The UK show Skins gets away with a lot of stuff like profanity (e.g. fuck, shit, etc.), brief nudity, drugs, alcohol, and other cheeky shenanigans all involving teens.

    I guess I’ll just buy all the seasons on Amazon.com

  • Alban

    I also love Skins, a really good series, much better than Gossip Girl… Anyway, American TV maybe depressing, the French one is not better (even if we have a gay candidate at the French version of American Idol – Nouvelle Star).

  • Frunced

    Ok, about the gay stuff Britain does sound great, but the accent thing… unless they’re Oxbridge educated, most Brits seem to have unintelligible speech patterns. Maybe Herny Higgins had a point.

  • John Santos

    What about Coronation Street? Corrie’s got loads of queers on there; Sean Tully; his BF, Marcus Dent; Sean’s ex’s bisexual Sonny Dhillon, and Tim White; Karl Foster and Todd Grimshaw. They have however, been very cheap with lesbian characters. Kelly Crabtree moved in with a former mate, Becky, who wasn’t gay, but was obsessed with Kelly in a Single White Female sorta way. Then we have teenager Sophie Webster coming out as lesbian–after becoming a born again Christian!

  • jason

    MTV is very discriminatory in America. For example, note how MTV only allowed female bisexuals but not male bisexuals on its bisexual dating show.

  • jason

    Britain does NOT have gay marriage. It has gay civil unions. Many gays in the UK got conned into thinking it was gay marriage when it wasn’t. Britain still has a long way to go.

  • Alexa

    @jason: But the rights are the same though, right? I mean, it’s just the name that’s different. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be better to call it the same thing, but how have they been conned if legally civil partnerships are the same as marriage?

  • Mimi daBiche

    When it took the state of Missouri one month after the election to declare they voted for the loser I knew then there is a mentality entrenched in america that not even a nuclear war could change.

    This is the most ‘god’ screaming country in the world. I laugh when they have the nerve to critize Iran. At least Iran does not hesitate in no way, shape, or form to let the world know where they are coming from. But the USA? Ever wonder why Euro’s call us dumb ass americans. The birth of the gay rights movement and they still cant get decent gay programing three years after getting their own cable station.

    It seems here in america a show that features a gay character on tv for one episode gets better ratings than LOGO does for the entire month. I watched LOGO for an entire weekend intentionally trying to figure out what was missing and I just concluded that it simply is not interesting. Me, a full blown queen, found next to nothing that I could say I found entertaing, though I did laugh at a few efforts that were being made.

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)


    Oh please, civil unions..gay marriage?? A long way to go? Lets not get into the whole marriage debate. A lot of my straight friends are opting for civil unions.


    Really? Well QAF was pretty racy! Great camp fun though.

  • Ali

    If we’re talking about Coronation Street we also should mention the most sympathetic, sensitively-handled transgendered character on TV – Hayley Cropper. She’s been on the show for a decade and is just a regular, boring mostly background cast member married to an almost offensively boring guy, Roy Cropper. They are absolutely the dullest couple on Corrie and run a café, and I think their most dramatic, main storyline was when they were kind of blackmailed into paying to adopt a baby by the town’s psycho-slut, who was claiming the baby was biologically Roy’s after she date-raped him, but then went back on the deal to sell her baby. (Yeah… it’s a soap opera. And if you think that sounds interesting, it actually took something like a year to unfold, during which time Roy and Hayley were incredibly boring, although they were very sympathetically portrayed as victims of villain Tracy, and whose chance to have a boring baby Cropper like they always wanted were dashed by her cruel machinations.)

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)



    Jason is having a bad day.

  • Alec

    @Alexa: Moreover, the difference in name appears to be ignored by the British press and public, which refers to partnerships as marriages, the ceremonies as weddings, etc. Probably in no small part due to British support for same-sex marriage hovering around 55%.

  • Angus

    These TV shows look as bad as dumb as ours.

  • Queerky

    Lets us not forget the funniest comedy show- Little Britain. Matt Lucas does a host of drag plus David.’the only gay in the village’. Then there is the transvestite Emily which is the most pointed satire on crossdressing ever.

  • ascarius


  • Sampson

    @Frunced: Like many places there are people who have thicker accents than others, even when they come from the same place. My German flatmates have no trouble understanding me or any of my friends, but struggle to understand the guys standing outside the working man’s pub at the corner. You only believe that an Oxbridge accent is the only one you understand. Plenty of British actors don’t have stereotypical RP accents and are perfectly well understood by Americans.

  • Sampson

    @jason: It is nearly identical in law. There are a couple of things that are different (adultery cannot be a cause for a dissolution of a civil partnership as adultery is strictly defined as involving a man and woman). There are a couple of others, most notably that a civil partnership cannot take place in a place that is solely or mainly used for religious purposes. However, the law does not prevent gay couples from having a separate private ceremony after they are registered in a public Registry Office.

    In all other regards, our civil partnerships follow marriage legislation section for section and clause for clause. All the rights and all the responsibilities. I agree it should just be called marriage, but our government had to gain support from a virulent opposition and they made a concession I can live with for the meantime.

  • Robert, NYC


    John, most people are unaware outside the UK that civil partnerships do actually confer ALL of the rights and privileges of marriage, including the right to adopt and take the last name of your partner, unlike civil unions in the U.S. that only confer state benefits, similar to domestic partnerships, PACs in France for instance. All the UK needs to do is change the name and once it does, and I’ve not doubt it will eventually, the rights still remain the same, identical. Its the only country that offered all the rights of marriage under a different name. The UK also allows its gay citizens to bring their foreign born partners to reside and work in the UK and you don’t even have to have a civil partnership to do that. So, I hardly think it has a long way to go. If anything, the U.S. will not have marriage equality in all 50 states for many decades to come, not in our lifetime at least.

  • Robert, NYC


    Sampson, its going to come though. Now that Sweden gets on board May 1, its just a question of time before other western EU member states follow suit. The UK is better positioned since all it has to do is change the terminology since the rights won’t change once accomplished.

  • msim

    I can’t get enough of UK tv – from Torchwood to Dr. Who (both co-produced with Canada’s CBC), to Being Human and Corrie.

    I like how gays and lesbians are just part of everyday life in UK/Canadian shows. Real-life gays and lesbians are also able to play straight roles without the silliness they would encounter in the US (can they play straight? will people believe them? and such nonsense).

    Having grown up on Corrie (still the no.1 soap in Canada) and various UK shows: I have no trouble understanding a variety of accents: from York to Manchester, from Glasgow to Fife. Same with regional US accents – though I’Il admit that George Bush and Beyoncé are beyond my powers of comprehension.

  • Sampson

    @Robert, NYC: Yes, I’m sure it will come too. The idea of civil partnerships has quickly become unremarkable to most people. It can only be a few years before public support for calling it marriage increases.

  • Dan

    I think it’s pretty disrespectful to use the term ‘bimbo’ to describe any woman. It’s chock full of patriarchalb assumptions about women being essentialized as a pair of breasts and no brain.

  • Frunced

    @Sampson: You’re absolutely right. People don’t have to come from a specific country in order for their accents to be impenetrable. However, my point in the first place was that it is inaccurate to think that all Brits have “cute accents (that) add a patina of class of everything” as the article suggests.

    I wasn’t trying to be offensive. I have an RP accent myself, which evidently hasn’t lent me an iota of cuteness.


  • Robert, NYC


    Msim, I agree. Have you ever watched the British version of The Graham Norton Show? It has an openly gay talk-show entertainment host on BBC network tv in the UK but we would never see that happen in the U.S. Graham Norton has also been chosen to host the Eurovision Song Contest, a hugely popular event across the European Union and the first for an openly gay celebrity.

  • RomanHans

    Hey, thanks for the mention of Skins. Season 1 is on order at the New York Public Library, so all us poor New Yorkers will soon be able to find it there.

  • Sampson

    @Robert, NYC: Sorry, Robert, Graham Norton doesn’t host the Eurovision Song Contest for the EU, he simply commentates on it for the UK. Each country has their own commentator(s). Plenty of LGBT people have appeared on the ESC; indeed, it was one by Dana International a few years ago, a transgender singer from Israel.

    Now, why is Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest? I think it has something to do with broadcasting regions, but it’s a little bizarre…

  • Sampson

    ‘indeed, it was one by Dana International a few years ago, a transgender singer from Israel.’

    That should be ‘won’, of course.

  • rogue dandelion

    @Kit: Is it better? I haven’t seen it, i want to though, mostly because of charlie hunnam. The american version had bad acting, silly story lines, unlikable characters, and too many straight actors. I really wanted to get into it, but i gave up after 2 seasons of disappointment.

  • Sampson

    @rogue dandelion: I suspect you might be disappointed after seeing the American series. The thing about the British QAF was that it was an unashamedly sexy (and slightly unbelievable) drama about gay men, nothing the like of which had been written before.

    The US version, I believe, followed some of the UK’s original story but then diverged when the story carried on past the first version.

    When QAF first came out over here it was a sensation – men shown having hot sweaty sex, sticking two fingers up at straight people and living life as they wanted. Things have moved on, however, and I don’t think watching it now for the first time would have the same effect.

  • Lee

    For all of its MANY flaws, the American QAF was better because:

    1. The unrequited loving sidekick of the older lead in the Brit version [Stuart there/Brian here] was a self-loathing wimp [Vince there/Michael here]. You luved him but he was pathetic none the less. Here is was just Hal Sparks’ terrible acting.

    2. Stuart was even more unlikeable than Brian, and the series ended with a preposterous plot twist involving guns [won’t be more explicit so as not to spoil it]. He was also very average looking…it was absurd to believe that he could have any man he wanted.

    3. Per se, it’s an unfair comparison, but, lasting longer, the US version had more time to flesh out all of the characters and dramatize more aspects of life generally and gay life particularly. [And, if it matters, inch for inch there was more sex. As for the most controversial first sex scene, the teenager’s first experience with rimming, I’d say Charlie Hunnam is only slightly more believable than Randy Harrison.] For the time it had, the Brit version made some ***very bad choices [see below]

    4. The woman who played Justin’s mother here [Nathan there] was brilliant, totally believeable as a mother who cared about her son’s happiness about all else–even if that meant turning him over to Brian.

    5. ***The creator of the Brit version [the piggish Russell T. Davies] REFUSED to include any serious discussions of AIDS [beyond the one character, as I recall, Vince’s uncle, that had AIDS] or show anyone using condoms….which the American characters did 99% of the time. And the US series showed that an HIV+ character can still live as productive a life as possible and find love with someone HIV-.

    Both series are available for rent on DVD and many scenes are on YouTube.

  • Kit

    @rogue dandelion:

    I thought it was much better written and acted, yeah.

    Sad to say, I watched even more than 2 seasons of the American remake even though it wasn’t very good. It was like that Kids in the Hall sketch where the guy is on trial for cannibalizing the other passengers when their flight was delayed at the airport, and he explains himself by saying that he didn’t mean to eat them all, he just kept trying a little of each one hoping the next one would taste better. Well, I didn’t mean to watch as many episodes of US QAF as I did, I just kept watching the next one hoping it would be a little better.

    I never got around to watching the second series of the original, but the first one was definitely worth watching.

  • Sampson

    @Lee: I thought Stewart was fantastic – the hottest thing in the show by far. A complete fantasy character, of course, but delicious for it.

  • McShane

    It has been disarminggly evident that gauy Brits; even the brightest and best, have no way of comprehending how backward and shame based American sexuality is; especially the gay variety.
    Notably, you crassly criticized Britains #1 journalist for questioning our crazy attempts at assimilating into the straight marriage fetish. It was natural foranyone in Europe who was bright to suggest civil unions when Straights are even going for them there.
    We have a fruity attachment to the religious patterns of the Puritain community. Until we get back on line and through out the apologists(e.g. A. Sullivan) and restore gay liberation as a
    path to follow, we are condemned to being less than worth self esteem.

  • John Santos


    If we’re talking about Coronation Street we also should mention the most sympathetic, sensitively-handled transgendered character on TV – Hayley Cropper.

    Holy hell, I forgot about Hayley! We’re about one year behind the UK over here in Canada, so right now Hayley is in Africa and poor Roy is sharing his flat with Becky. Does Hayley come back soon?

    They’re up to the point that Becky slept with Steve after a night of drinking and now Michelle is obsessed with where Steve was all that night and why he took off to Spain. Lloyd goes and tells her that Steve went to Spain to find a castle–to marry Michelle in!

    I hate all the Connors–Michelle, Liam, Paul (thank God he’s dead,) and especially Carla, but I love Corrie 8^)

    Ryan is ok, but I think I only like him because he’s not biologically a Conner, which means there’s still hope for him yet.

    What were we talking about again? 8^)

  • michael hodgins

    The reason we have such great TV in the UK is the BBC; They are funded by the tax payer, not advertisers and so can make programmes that in the US would be dropped because advertisers wouldn’t back them. This sets a high bar that commercial channels have to aim for, and they therefore don’t pander to advertisers either.

    Not all TV is that good in UK though; we can’t do Sci-fi (Touchwood might have LGB characters but that’s where is ends).

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)

    @John Santos:

    Oh dear…

    A LOT has changed.


  • Rebee

    @tavdy79: That UK series wouldn’t work in the US because of the accents american’s can’t understand and bc the US version took a different direction since I think it lasted longer in the US. I know. I saw the original and there was plenty of stuff I didn’t understand. There was underage sex and analingus in the US version first episode too.

  • Suburban

    I am curious about True Blood and will likely rent it from NetFlix sometime this summer. The UK QAF isn’t really better just different. It’s funny to her shag, twat and fag (cigarette), and Charlie Hunnam is the eye candy. Have those that say the US version is awful actually seen it? Have you seen The L Word?…not awful but not great.

  • fmt13


    Separate but equal…where have I heard that before?

  • Alec

    Re: QAF UK v. QAF US

    I saw the pilot of the American version first, and thought it was dull; I was 18 then. Two years later I watched the entire British series and loved it. I preferred Vince to Michael and Stuart to Brian and Nathan to Justin. And it was over the top, but it didn’t pretend to be the serious drama that the American series became.

    I don’t see either as compelling; they’ve got nothing on The Sopranos, Six Feet Under or even Big Love, which is one of my new favorites.

    And don’t waste your time with True Blood. I caught two episodes when I stopped on my way through Nebraska.

  • sal

    i wish we had a Graham Norton

  • Good lord

    We were in London, or was it Amsterdam? Anyway someone told us, point blank: The difference between the Dutch and the British: The Dutch make a big point of public display — for god’s sake they leave there glass windows uncovered so you can peek-a-boo in, which makes for a lovely night time stroll in the canal-woven heaven that is Amsterdam. The British, on the other hand, evoke an outward respectability and correctness, a la their royals, beneath which lies a turgid, tumultuous and tantalizingly tangy sexual underground. Is one better than the other? Hell no. For the tourist, its simply best explored in tandem. 1st one, then the other. Wake up gays, the world is your oyster, whether from the English Channel or the North Sea.

  • M Shane

    The Fact is that tT.V. is not only Gay tolerant but it’s fact based & not catering to Corporate propaganda.

    If this was really a democracy we would have freedom of information in the true sense: that media was run by the Government from the gate.
    And if we want to remain a democracy we had better change information/.

  • Ben Wilson

    I have to agree. I love America to bits but when it comes to being gay and gay culture, I feel a lot lukier being a Brit. Gay Charecters crop up everywhere and we’ve long got over the 2D fluffy charecters.

    I urge every yank watch ‘Shameless’ It’s got perhaps the best gay storyline in any show Ive watched and thats just the start!

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