From the LWTV Archives: First Happy Ending

From the LWTV Archives: First Happy Ending

Welcome back to “From the LWTV Archives,” a column dedicated to studying and highlighting moments from queer TV history. This week, I wanted to find the first time on TV that queer women got a happy ending. Unsurprisingly, Friends was the winner.


Considering the series finale of Friends was the most-watch TV episode of the 2000s, I think most of us know about this show. But for those that don’t: Friends was a sitcom about six friends living in New York City. They worked, laughed, and dated each other. (If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s basically the same concept as Living Single, another show from the nineties with an all-black cast.)

For such a popular sitcom, however, Friends had a pretty dominant queer storyline. One of the main characters, Ross, started the sitcom married to Carol Willick. A few episodes into season one, Carol leaves him to date a woman named Susan.

The show makes a lot of jokes at the queer womens’ expense. Although all the main characters were tolerant of Carol’s new relationship, I don’t know if you could call it accepting. Eventually, after Carol has the baby that her and Ross conceived before their divorce, all the “friends” come around and attend Carol’s wedding to Susan (episode 2×11, titled “The One With The Lesbian Wedding,” January 18, 1996). Ross even walks Carol down the aisle after her father refuses to show and Monica, another main character, walks their son down the aisle in his stroller.

Queer History

When thinking about the impact of this storyline, I am a bit biased. I was born in the early 90s and Carol and Susan are my first memory of seeing queer women on TV. Although they often made the two the center of off-color jokes, I can’t underestimate the impact of having my first queer storyline end so happily. They even got married! At a time when it wasn’t legal in the United States!

On the other hand, Friends did not have perfect queer representation. There was a lot of discrimination still happening in the United States against the queer community that the sitcom did not acknowledge (not to mention the all-white cast in the middle of an extremely diverse American city). The queer community was still fighting against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, trying to bring more attention to the AIDS crisis, and working our way through the legal system to get more protection against discrimination. But Friends did provide a reprieve from the queer characters on TV before who were never allowed a happy ending.


The second half of the nineties provided us with a few queer happy endings. It’s impossible to say if the Carol/Susan storyline directly influenced the others, but considering Friends was one of the most popular television shows of all time, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that millions of Americans would have witnessed this storyline.

Two other shows that were in the running for the first happy ending were Ellen (of course) and Spain’s Nissaga de Poder. Both of these shows provided happy endings for their queer characters in ways that were never seen on TV before. It seems that the tides were turning in the 90s (at least a little bit).

[As always, this column is based on data provided in LWTV. If you have more information on a show/character that has not been included in our database, please let us know!]

About NikkiT

Nikki is an archivist by day, queer TV addict by night. Her first dive into fan content was when she ran a secret Xanga blog dedicated to pictures of Lorelai Gilmore in the 7th grade. She has never looked back.
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