Best (US) Network of 2021

Best (US) Network of 2021

I took last week off since we had two group year end posts, which gave me a little time to look at the numbers. I love numbers. Numbers let me gut check my feeling, which is that 2021 was a decent year with far fewer deaths. In fact the current count is 15, but we have a number of shows to add. Still it’s looking like the lowest year in a decade, which tracks with the stranglehold COVID precautions has on filming.

In my predictions for the next year, I said this:

More shows will take place in isolated locations. Due to COVID, one way to limit costs will be to just not have as many background characters needed. This means more queers will be solo on a show, which has already been a problem.

Part of how I got to that thought is that every single network (yes, even The CW) has fewer shows on air with queers.

How Many Shows Anyway…

Obviously you start by looking at how many shows there are on air. And right away, you can see every network has fewer shows:

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A lot of those shows had shortened seasons, which is why right now they all have a super steep drop for 2022. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

ABC, CBS, and NBC are pretty flat but trending down

The CW looks ‘bad’ considering the peak of 2019. At the same time, they have fewer shows and normally in the ‘off’ season they air C-tier shows (think old UPN). There haven’t been as many of those, and there aren’t a lot of UK shows for them to air or bring over from CW Seed, since Peacock is picking up a lot of those.

And then there’s FOX, who is just speeding up the downhill race.

Why Fewer Shows?

I’ve mentioned before that Peak TV’s bubble has burst. It did so in a disproportionate way which I brought up in a rather prophetic comment about which show (NCIS or All Rise) CBS would keep:

But I have this feeling that, if CBS has to pick between those shows, they will go with the ongoing star power of Jethro Gibbs, over Judge Lola Carmichael.

This is double-downed on the fact that CBS renewed CSI: Vegas (a ‘revival’ of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) for a second season. But at the time, I said it was that CBS was more likely to keep a show with a straight white male lead over a minority led series. CSI: Vegas did star William Petersen’s Grissom, but he won’t be coming back for season 2, leaving a pretty minority heavy Vegas lab in place (led by the amazing Paula Newsome’s Maxine Roby).

But the thing is, it’s pretty obvious that TV has regressed into ‘we need a known star’, leveraging their names. Gibbs has left NCIS and Grissom won’t be back on CSI: Vegas, and yet the weight of their existence is keeping those shows alive.

Now. How does that tie in to fewer shows? Well it’s straightforward as anything. There is a limited number of out and out TV stars these days. And a lot of those older stars are opting out of having to work. They have enough money, no sense in risking exhaustion or COVID, after all.

Who’s Best?

Well, it remains the CW. Literally every show has a queer (even Walker, which has a gay male regular and his husband). Their reboot of The 4400 has been fraught with social commentary, but has a robust and complex set of characters who are all more than what they seem. Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow remain top tier queer entertainment.

I’m kicking myself right now since someone tweeted a comic about the alternate Ava and Sara falling in love, and how they’re here for those idiots in every possible iteration, and I can’t find it! (If you do, link in the comments please). But the point there is that the CW embraces who it is and just gives us what we want.

While NBC continues to have higher raw numbers, the quality of their representation is mediocre at best (the various Law & Orders are mostly criminals, the lesbians on New Amsterdam start the year fighting, and La Brea went and killed one).

Dead last remains FOX, but the saving grace is that Fantasy Island remains a lesbian happy ending paradise. So far at least.

The More Things Stay The Same

What’s old is new, what’s new is the same as it ever was. I’m personally hoping CBS picks up the ball, since they have a number of ancillary queers, like The Equalizer‘s Aunt Vi, who needs a chance at a date,

Until then? Make mine the CW.

About Mika A. Epstein

Mika has been deep in fandom since she could say 'Trekkie.' With decades experience in running fansites, developing software, and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.

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