State of the Queer TV World

Black bear sniffing dumpster near Ice

I started, a few months ago, writing up the status on all the shows we’ve lost and gained in the last few years.

Then the strikes happened. Then the studios began using the strikes as an excuse to cancel previously renewed shows, like A League of their Own. And for a lot of us? We saw that and thought it was just like when COVID hit.

Notice: All numbers are valid as of 25 August 2023. There are always increases and decreases as a year progresses.

The COVID Cancellations

When COVID hit, production stopped. It had to happen, we all understood it, but then instead of keeping shows going, a bunch got canceled. Shows like GLOW and Stumptown. A lot of the shows had children in them, which made sense. Kids grow up fast, and if you have a year between seasons, they’ll be notably bigger. But others, well it didn’t take much to connect the dots and see the shows that got the axe first were ones that have one thing in common.

They didn’t have a cis male lead.

When you combine that with the drop of rep that began in 2017, and then jumped to 2021…

As I’ve said before, the number of shows on air with queer rep has been dropping since 2017. Overall, representation itself is stagnating and this continued in 2020 due to a pandemic and the rising costs of managing filming.

2021’s Long Impact on Representation

2022 wasn’t a heck of a lot better.

Where are We Now?


Gif of Elenor Shellstrop from "The Good Place" shouting "THIS IS THE BAD PLACE!!!!"

Back in March I looked at how the representation we had was spread across active shows.

This time I looked at those pesky stats in relation to previous years. And since 2018, queer representation has catapulted off a cliff.

No really. I’ll show you

There Are Noticeably Fewer Queer Characters

Bearing in mind we’re only tracking queer female, transgender, and non-binary characters, the numbers work out about the same when you factor in everyone. And the numbers are BAD people.

Chart showing the insane drop off starting in 2020. You can see the numbers below in the table, which illustrate how horrible this is.

It’s a nose-dive starting in 2020.

For those who want to see it in table form:

YearCharactersDead% growth% Dead% dead growth

A third. So far, this year, we have ONE THIRD the number of characters. And this is BEFORE we get into the show cancelations, folks.

Now I know someone will say “Mika, it’s August! There aren’t any new shows yet!” And this has some merit. So I went to my old notes. I used to do this kind of chart in March and September. These are March numbers for a year. By September (which is more or less now), we should see around 500-600.

There’s a chance this number will increase (we do have an insane backlog of shows to add — sorry, I’ve been concentrating on some new features for the site and wrangling the mess that is social media), but even 2022 only went from 600 to 800. We may not crest 500 for the year at all at this rate.

There are Fewer Shows with Queers

And speaking of those shows… The drop-off mirrors that of characters:

Showing the precipitous drop off of shows on air with queer characters, which again began in 2020. The table further down will give exact numbers.

If you look at this and think “Wait, does that mean we are still losing more shows than we get back?” (or rather ‘are more queer shows canceled than new ones picked up?’) the answer is a big honkin’ yes.

Showing the combined plummet of both new shows and shows canceled. The canceled line is ABOVE the new line, meaning we are losing more shows than we gain.

The red line is canceled shows and it should be below the blue line. That would indicate loss but gradual increase. Instead? We have loss and double loss.

YearAll ShowsNew ShowsCanceledNet Gain/Loss% Growth

This is not what we want to see.

And, again, before someone says “Well maybe we’re just having fewer shows, after all you did say that Peak TV Burst a couple years ago…”

Yes. But then Julia Stoll did the numbers:

After a decline in original scripted TV series in the United States in 2020, the amount increased again in 2021 and 2022. A record 599 original scripted drama, comedy, and limited TV shows were aired on broadcast and cable TV as well as on streaming services in 2022, up by seven percent from the previous year. 

Statistaa – Julia Stoll – Number of original scripted TV series in the United States from 2009 to 2022

While you need an account there to get the specific numbers, the fact is that there are now MORE scripted tv shows on air, in the US, than 2020, but we are still seeing a decline in representation.

Why Is This Happening?

Under no circumstances should you blame writers or actors.

The handy dandy excuse of “Oh it’s the strike, we have to save money” is, pardon me, bullshit.

It’s blatantly obvious we’re getting scuttled. When TV picked back up in 2022, we should have seen a small upward swing. We didn’t. In fact, we kept seeing a drop, and that repeated over and over and over.

This happens because we are seen as disposable and worthless, folks. If we were important, they’d cater to us. But they don’t see us that way, and it shouldn’t be a shock given how the studios are treating everyone else right now. They want money and they think we don’t have any (I guess they’ve never met DINKQs – Double Income, No Kids, Queers).

Or maybe they think that by opening the door to us year round, and not just for a month in summer, that will chase off some of the other people.

Either way? We’re bottom of the pile right now, and it’s hugely apparent now that entertainment media is crashing.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: