List of 1970s American television episodes with LGBT themes

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Following the Stonewall riots and the birth of the modern gay rights movement in 1969, gay activists began challenging the way American television episodes with LGBT themes presented homosexuality. With the slowly increasing visibility of LGBT characters on fiction series, a pattern began to emerge, beginning with repressed lesbian sniper Miss Brant from 1961's The Asphalt Jungle and continuing through a murderous female impersonator from The Streets of San Francisco and Police Woman and her trio of killer lesbians in 1974 and beyond, of presenting LGBT characters as psychotic killers on crime dramas. On medical dramas, the disease model of homosexuality was fostered in characters like 1963's Hallie Lambert from The Eleventh Hour and Martin Loring from Marcus Welby, M.D. in 1973. Gays, the viewing public was told over and over, were simultaneously dangerous and sick, to be feared and to be pitied.

In response to complaints about several early portrayals, networks began vetting scripts with gay characters or content through two recently formed advocacy groups, the National Gay Task Force and the Gay Media Task Force. Several episodes saw substantive changes based on these consultations, but in other instances, notably the Marcus Welby, M.D. episode "The Other Martin Loring", only minor changes were made and groups like the Gay Activists Alliance led zaps, raucous demonstrations, against the networks. Protests against the 1974 Marcus Welby episode "The Outrage", with its male child molestation plot, and the aforementioned killer lesbian trio from the Police Woman episode "Flowers of Evil" led producers to start moving away from the killer queer plot device. Gays and lesbians would continue to be portrayed as killers but their motives would less frequently be related to their sexuality. Gays started killing out of greed and jealousy, just like heterosexuals.[1] Other dramas not legal or medical in nature also ran occasional episodes featuring LGBT characters.

Sitcoms too began presenting LGBT characters, with All in the Family producing several episodes on the theme beginning in 1971. Gay sitcom episodes tended to follow one of a handful of plot devices: a character close to a lead character would unexpectedly come out, forcing the characters to confront their own issues with homosexuality; a lead character is mistaken for gay; a lead character pretends to be gay; or, more rarely, a recurring character from the series comes out. In the first instance, it was rare that the gay character would ever make another appearance.[2] Dating back to Robert Reed's turn as a transgender doctor on Medical Center in 1975, transgender characters and issues have tended to receive sympathetic treatment.[3]

This list covers American television episodes with LGBT themes that aired from 1970 through 1979.

Episodes[edit]

Year Series Network
or station
Episode Synopsis
1970 The Dick Cavett Show ABC "Nov. 26" Episode featuring discussion of gay issues and gay representatives.[4]
1970 Medical Center CBS "Undercurrent" A gay research scientist (Paul Burke) becomes the target of an anonymous smear campaign.
1970 Newsfront WNDT Seven gay liberation leaders appeared on the June 24 episode.[5]
1971 All in the Family CBS "Judging Books By Covers" After mocking his son-in-law Mike's (Rob Reiner) effeminate but heterosexual lunch guest (Anthony Geary), Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) finds out that Steve (Philip Carey) a former pro football player and one of his all-American drinking buddies, is gay. President Richard Nixon watched the episode in the White House and found it distasteful.[6]
1971 Dan August ABC "Dead Witness to a Killing" Laurence Luckinbill plays a presidential cabinet nominee who murders his sister to prevent her from outing him. He also kills his accomplice and lover, played by Martin Sheen.
1971 David Susskind ShowThe David Susskind Show Syndicated "Lesbians and Society"
1971 Room 222 ABC "What Is a Man?" A high school boy named Howard (Frederick Herrick) becomes a target of schoolyard homophobia.
1972 Bold OnesThe Bold Ones: The New Doctors NBC "Discovery at Fourteen" Dr. Amanda Fallon (Jane Wyman) has difficulty treating the bleeding ulcer of Cory Melino (Ron Howard) until she discovers that his father Jack (Robert J. Hogan) is homosexual. She assures Cory that he doesn't have to turn out like his father.
1972 Bold OnesThe Bold Ones: The New Doctors NBC "Very Strange Triangle""A Very Strange Triangle" Dr. Marty Cohen's (Robert Walden) attempts to rekindle his relationship with nurse Valerie DeMarco (Donna Mills) are complicated by the fact that Valerie is currently involved with Eleanor (Hildy Brooks).
1972 Hawaii Five-O CBS "V for Vashon: The Patriarch" Corrupt lawyer Harvey Drew (John Stalker) frames Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) for a crime but is undermined when his much younger "nephew" exposes him.
1972 Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law ABC "Words of Summer" Ann Glover (Meredith Baxter) is accused of molesting a young girl (Denise Nickerson) and to clear her name her former roommate Meg (Kristina Holland) is forced to come out as a lesbian.
1972 Sanford and Son NBC "The Piano Movers" Fred and Lamont move a piano from a gay man's apartment.[7]
1973 Marcus Welby, M.D. ABC "Other Martin Loring""The Other Martin Loring"
The other Martin Loring: just lie down and maybe he'll go away.
Loring (Mark Miller) is a stressed, diabetic man about to be divorced as he faces the "illness" of homosexuality. Dr. Welby (Robert Young) suggests that he is not really homosexual but his fear of being homosexual is making him believe that he is. The Gay Activists Alliance denounced the episode. After a meeting with ABC resulted in no changes, GAA members occupied the offices of network president Elton Rule and chairman Leonard Goldenson. Executives offered to meet with two GAA representatives. The group refused, saying that all protesters should be present at the meeting. Six protesters were arrested but charges were eventually dropped.[8]
1973 Mary Tyler Moore Show CBS "My Brother's Keeper" Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) wants to set up her visiting brother Ben (Robert Moore) with Mary. Phyllis's brother is gay.
1973 Medical Center CBS "Triangle" Dr. Annie Claymor (Lois Nettleton) treats Tobi (Jamie Smith Jackson), an emotionally confused teenager. Tobi's treatment is compromised by accusations that Claymor is trying to "recruit" her and a one-time sexual encounter with a female friend but in the end she is reassured that she is not a lesbian.
1973 Sanford and Son NBC "Lamont, Is That You?" Fred (Redd Foxx) gets the wrong idea when Lamont (Demond Wilson) and Rollo (Nathaniel Taylor) are seen coming out of a gay bar.
1973 The Streets of San Francisco ABC "A Collection of Eagles" Vince Hagopian Jr. (John Saxon) is a numismatist who is secretly in a relationship with both Tommy Hendriksen (William Gray Espy) and Karen Pearson (Belinda Montgomery). Vince uses both Tommy and Karen in a plot to switch a wealthy collector's (Joseph Cotten) gold double-eagle coins with counterfeits. Tommy becomes increasingly jealous of Vince's affection toward Karen and Vince murders Tommy by giving him and overdose of insulin. Later in the episode, Vince attempts to murder Karen in the same manner but is stopped by Det. Lt. Stone (Karl Malden) and Insp. Keller (Michael Douglas).[9]
1974 Columbo NBC "By Dawn's Early Light" Colonel Lyle C. Rumford (Patrick McGoohan) is implied to be a gay man with an interest in S&M.
1974 Harry O ABC "Coinage of the Realm" Joe Heston (David Dukes) and Fred Lassiter (Granville Van Dusen) are a pair of gay hit men.
1974 Lou Gordon ProgramThe Lou Gordon Program Syndicated "Are Gays Going to Hell?" Gordon's conclusion on the matter is unknown.
1974 Marcus Welby, M.D. ABC "Outrage""The Outrage" A high school teacher (Edward Winter) sexually molests one of his students, Ted (Sean Kelly). Ted initially can't admit that he was assaulted but his injuries require surgery. As he recovers, the police arrest his teacher trying to molest another child and the teacher is transported to a mental institution. The National Gay Task Force tried to work with ABC but ultimately still found the episode unacceptable. Seventeen ABC affiliates refused to air the episode.[10]
1974 M*A*S*H CBS "George" A serviceman (Richard Ely) is beaten by members of his own unit for being gay. He confides in Hawkeye (Alan Alda) but Major Burns (Larry Linville) overhears and seeks to initiate a discharge. Hawkeye and Trapper (Wayne Rogers) blackmail Major Burns (threatening to reveal he bought the answers to his medical school admission exams) and he agrees to drop the matter.
1974 Maude CBS "Maude's New Friend" Maude (Beatrice Arthur) befriends Barry (Robert Mandan), a gay author.
1974 Pat Collins ShowThe Pat Collins Show WCBS-TV "Night at the Continental Baths""A Night at the Continental Baths"
1974 Police Story NBC "Ripper""The Ripper" The homophobic owner of a modeling agency (Peter Mark Richman) is slashing gay men to death as part of his plan to rid the world of "undesirables", including homosexuals, drug addicts, prostitutes and "the lame and the blind". Three members of the Gay Media Task Force served as consultants on the episode.[11]
1974 Police Woman NBC "Flowers of Evil"
Pepper (Angie Dickinson) shares a moment with Janet (Lynn Loring).
A lesbian gang (Fay Spain, Laraine Stephens, Lynn Loring) that runs a nursing home is killing off their clients. Pepper (Angie Dickinson) tries to persuade Janet (Loring) to testify against her lover Gladys (Stephens) and tells Janet about her lesbian college roommate. The group Lesbian Feminist Liberation staged a sit-in at NBC and, after meeting with gay activists, the network agreed not to rerun the episode.[12]
1974 Streets of San FranciscoThe Streets of San Francisco ABC "Mask of Death"
John Davidson has a long talk with "Carol Marlowe".
A female impersonator (John Davidson) is famed for his impersonations of actresses Carol Channing and (the fictional) Carol Marlowe. The Marlowe persona takes over and begins stabbing men to death with a hatpin. Jim Bailey provided the voice for Davidson's Channing impersonation.[13]
1974 This Is the Life (TV series) Anthology "The Secret" A well respected teacher at a boy's school comes out of the closet.[14]
1974 Tomorrow NBC "Boy Prostitution"
1975 All in the Family CBS "Archie the Hero" Archie saves the life of a drag queen known as Beverly LaSalle (Lori Shannon) – who he thinks is a woman – by administering artificial respiration and is chagrined when the rescue draws media attention.
1975 Barney Miller ABC "Experience" Marty (Jack DeLeon), a gay man, is arrested and character is introduced to the series.[15]
1975 Barney Miller ABC "Discovery"
Darryl (Ray Stewart) and Marty (Jack DeLeon). Producers worked with gay activists on character development.
Darryl (Ray Stewart) and Marty (Jack DeLeon) allege that an officer from the 12th Precinct is extorting the gay community. A sergeant from another precinct apprehends the suspect (who is not an officer) and delivers him to the 12th, casually coming out in the process.
1975 Bob Crane ShowThe Bob Crane Show NBC "Case of Misdiagnosis""A Case of Misdiagnosis" Bob Wilcox (Bob Crane) treats a man (John Astin) who praises him in a newspaper story. The story identifies the patient as a prominent gay activist, leading Bob to worry that others might think he is also gay.
1975 Doctors' Hospital NBC "Watchman, Who Will Guard Thy Sleep?" A homophobic patient is cared for by a gay orderly.
1975 Medical Center CBS "Fourth Sex""The Fourth Sex (Parts 1 and 2)" Robert Reed plays transsexual Doctor Pat Caddison who decides to have sexual reassignment surgery.
1975 Tomorrow NBC "Gays and Military Service"
1976 Alice CBS "Alice Gets a Pass" Alice (Linda Lavin) falls for an ex-pro football player, Jack (Denny Miller). When he comes out, Alice hesitates about allowing her son to accompany him on a fishing trip. She later realizes that Jack's sexual preference doesn't make any difference when it comes to taking care of a child and let's him go on the trip.
1976 All in the Family CBS "Beverly Rides Again" Archie sets his friend Pinky up on a blind date with Beverly as a practical joke.
1976 Bob Newhart ShowThe Bob Newhart Show CBS "Some of My Best Friends Are..." Howard Hesseman plays Craig Plager, a gay patient who joins Dr. Hartley's long-standing therapy group.
1976 Bronk CBS "Deadlier Sex""The Deadlier Sex" Sara (Julie Sommars), the first female officer assigned to Bronk's (Jack Palance) department, is accused of molesting a female prisoner.
1976 Executive Suite (TV series) CBS "Sounds of Silence" Julie (Geraldine Brooks) comes out as a lesbian to her best friend Leona.
1976 Family ABC "Rites of Friendship" Family friend Zeke (Bryan Byers) is caught in a raid on a gay bar. The Lawrence family take him in when his father throws him out of the house, but son Willie (Gary Frank) has difficulty understanding and accepting Zeke. Willie eventually accepts and befriends Zeke.
1976 JeffersonsThe Jeffersons CBS "The Breakup: Part 1" A two-parter begins with Lionel's difficulty writing a paper on homosexuality. The issue at hand changes after George buys him a term paper. Tempers flare, and he splits with Jenny.[16]
1976 Kojak CBS "Need to Know""A Need to Know" A foreign diplomat (Hector Elizondo) is accused of molesting two young boys but must be released because he has diplomatic immunity. The National Gay Task Force issued a "media alert" regarding the episode, believing that viewers would interpret the molester as gay. CBS made no changes to the episode in response but Washington, D.C. affiliate WTOP ran a disclaimer before the episode noting that it dealt with molestation and not homosexuality.[17]
1976 Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman CBS "Episode 126" Ed (Larry Haddon) and Howard are revealed to be lovers and later on, Ed threatens to walk out on Howard.
1976 Maude CBS "Arthur's Worry" Walter (Bill Macy) is upset about a dream in which he kisses best friend Arthur (Conrad Bain).
1976 Phyllis CBS "Out of the Closet" Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) is relieved to learn that her new boyfriend (Edward Winter) is gay because she was worried that he did not find her attractive.
1976 Police Woman NBC "Trial by Prejudice" Marlena (Pat Crowley), Pepper's lesbian friend and former roommate, is hesitant to publicly defend Pepper from charges that she sexually molested a female suspect for fear of her own reputation being ruined.
1976 Sirota's Court NBC "Court Fear" Judge Sirota (Michael Constantine) marries a gay male couple.
1977 All in the Family CBS "Cousin Liz" Archie and Edith (Jean Stapleton) attend the funeral of Edith's cousin, Liz. Afterward, Liz's friend Veronica (K Callan), a teacher, reveals she and Liz were more than just roommates. Edith is surprised but quickly accepting, allowing Veronica to keep a tea set (which Archie wanted) she had been bequeathed. Archie is outraged and declares his intent to sue for the tea set. Edith warns Archie that a lawsuit would likely destroy her teaching career. Archie relents, but states that he does not have to like what went on between the two women.
1977 All in the Family CBS "Edith's Crisis of Faith" In the two-part "Edith's Crisis of Faith", Beverly is murdered, causing Edith to question her belief in God.
1977 Barney Miller ABC "Asylum" A gay musician (Ion Teodorescu) from the Soviet Union seeks political asylum. Marty is arrested for possession of marijuana.
Series creator Danny Arnold worked closely with the National Gay Task Force in developing the characters of Darryl and Marty. Initially both were presented as stereotypical swishing queens, but as the series progressed Darryl began acting and dressing more conservatively.[18]
1977 Baretta ABC "Sky Is Falling""The Sky Is Falling" Baretta (Robert Blake) befriends Tommy (Barry Miller), a teenage hustler, after he witnesses a john murder his friend and fellow hustler Jeff (John Herbsleb).
1977 C.P.O. Sharkey NBC "Sharkey's Big Secret" The men mistakenly think Sharkey (Don Rickles) is gay when they spot an effeminate man going into his office.
1977 Carter Country ABC "Out of the Closet" Chief Roy (Victor French) is stunned when his old friend and fishing buddy Bill (Richard Jaeckel) reveals he's gay. Bill loses his job as a teacher and the chief testifies on his behalf before the school board.
1977 Family ABC "We Love You, Miss Jessup" Buddy (Kristy McNichol) learns that her favorite teacher is a lesbian when she resigns following a PTA witch hunt.
1977 JeffersonsThe Jeffersons CBS "Once a Friend"
Edie Stokes, formerly Eddie
"Once a Friend" features one of the first transgender characters on American television in the person of Edie Stokes (Veronica Redd), who George knows as an old Navy buddy named Eddie.
1977 Maude CBS "Gay Bar""The Gay Bar" Maude is upset when her husband and some of his friends try to prevent a gay bar from opening in their neighborhood. Arthur forms the group Fathers Against Gay Society (F.A.G.S.). Craig Richard Nelson appears as a patron of "The Gay Caballero".
1977 Richard Pryor ShowThe Richard Pryor Show NBC "Episode #1.3" A woman describes a lesbian encounter.
1977 Rockford FilesThe Rockford Files NBC "Requiem for a Funny Box" The gay son of a mafia leader is forced to come out to his father after being blackmailed by a comedian. When an attempt to murder the comedian fails, the mafia leader orders his son to be executed to avoid shaming the family.
1977 Starsky and Hutch ABC "Death in a Different Place" Game show host Art Fleming plays a bisexual cop murdered by a corrupt fellow officer after witnessing him making a drug deal. Charles Pierce appears as a female impersonator.
1977 Streets of San FranciscoThe Streets of San Francisco ABC "Good Cop, But...""A Good Cop, But..." Inspector Lambert (Barry Primus) has to come out to convict a drug dealer. His partner (Robert Walden) initially is unable to accept his gay partner but eventually comes to terms.
1977 Streets of San FranciscoThe Streets of San Francisco ABC "Once a Con..." A lesbian college student named Jackie Collins (Devon Ericson) murders her lover's (Joanne Nail) best friend out of jealousy.
1977 Three's Company ABC "Strange Bedfellows" Mr. Roper (Norman Fell) thinks he's gay when he wakes up in bed with Jack (John Ritter).
1977 Westside Medical ABC "Mermaid""The Mermaid" A post-operative MTF East German Olympic swimmer (Betsy Slade) wants to defect because her government will not allow her to live fully as a woman.
1978 All in the Family CBS "The Commercial" Archie asks an effeminate commercial director (Darryl Hickman) if he is gay.
1978 Rockford FilesThe Rockford Files NBC "Empty Frame""The Empty Frame" A trio of Berkeley Communists raid an elite dinner party being hosted by a gay couple and steal some of their valuable paintings. The gay couple hire Rockford (James Garner) to recover the paintings.
1978 WKRP in Cincinnati CBS "Les on a Ledge"
Les plans to jump when his sexuality is questioned.
Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) threatens to jump out of the station's building after rumors about his sexual orientation circulate. In a subplot, Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) tries to stop Herb (Frank Bonner) from sexually harassing receptionist Jennifer (Loni Anderson) by telling Herb that Jennifer used to be a man.
1979 ABC News Closeup ABC "Homosexuals" This episode looked into the contributions that gay people have made to society and aired on December 18, 1979.[19]
1979 Archie Bunker's Place CBS "Cook""The Cook" Veronica Rooney (Anne Meara) is hired as the cook and insists that her openly gay nephew Fred (Dean Scofield) is hired as a waiter.
1979 Barney Miller ABC "Inquisition" Inspector Scanlon (George Murdock) of Internal Affairs investigates an anonymous letter from a gay cop. Officer Zatelli (Dino Natali) comes out to Barney (Hal Linden).
1979 BaxtersThe Baxters Syndicated "Homosexual Teachers" Each episode of this syndicated series was structured as a 15-minute episode followed by a locally-produced 15-minute talk show. In this episode, the family finds out that a favorite teacher is gay and the father must decide whether to sign a petition calling for him to be fired.
1979 Dallas CBS "Call Girl" J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) tries to blackmail Pam with lesbian photographs.[20]
1979 Dallas CBS "Royal Marriage" J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) has high hopes for the upcoming marriage of his niece Lucy (Charlene Tilton) and Kit Mainwaring (Mark Wheeler), son of an oilman with whom J.R. hopes to do business. When Kit reveals his homosexuality to J.R., he still insists the wedding go on. However, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) – to whom he comes out later – tells Kit that he must tell Lucy the truth.
1979 Dallas CBS "The Outsiders" Kit Mainwaring (Mark Wheeler) comes out to Lucy (Charlene Tilton). [21]
1979 Facts of LifeThe Facts of Life NBC "Rough Housing" In the first episode, Cindy's casual, friendly hug of a girl is misinterpreted by Blair (Lisa Whelchel) as being "strange." Later, the tomboyish Cindy (Julie Anne Haddock) confides to Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) that because she likes sports, dislikes dresses, and feels uncomfortable around boys, she thinks "maybe I'm not normal", until Mrs. Garrett convinces her that two girls can show affection even if they are not gay. The episode does not specifically use the word "lesbian".
1979 Kate Loves a Mystery NBC "Feelings Can Be Murder" Kate (Kate Mulgrew) investigates the murder of a married bisexual woman. Suspects include her married female lover.
1979 Lou Grant CBS "Cop" A fire at a gay bar kills five men and Lou (Edward Asner) insists on publishing their names despite this meaning they will be labeled gay and may not have been out. He argues that by withholding the names this time the public will question whether the paper is withholding information in the future. In the course of covering a murder, Lou figures out an investigating officer (Joe Penny) is gay and in the closet. The paper does not publish his sexual orientation because it is irrelevant to his catching the murderer. The fire portion of the story was inspired by the true story of the death of eight men at a gay film club in Washington, D.C.[22]
1979 White ShadowThe White Shadow CBS "One of the Boys" Ray Collins (Peter Horton) transfers to Carver High because of a rumor at his old school that he is gay. When the rumor starts circulating at Carver, Ray considers dropping out but after a talk with Vice Principal Buchanan (Joan Pringle) he decides to return to his old school.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Tropiano, pp. 71–2
  2. ^ Tropiano, p. 191, 212, 224
  3. ^ Tropiano, p. 27
  4. ^ "Gay-Events Timeline, 1970-1999". SION. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  5. ^ Teal (1995), p. 132
  6. ^ "Richard Nixon Tapes: Archie Bunker and Homosexuality". 1971-05-13. Retrieved 2009-01-10. 
  7. ^ "Prime Time Closet". Google Books. 
  8. ^ Tropiano, p. 17
  9. ^ "The Streets of San Francisco: Season 02". All Movie. 
  10. ^ Tropiano, p. 21
  11. ^ Tropiano, p. 64
  12. ^ Tropiano, p. 69
  13. ^ Tropiano, p. 65
  14. ^ "Prime Time Closet". Google Books. 
  15. ^ "Prime Time Closet". Google Books. 
  16. ^ "Episode Guide". Tvland.com. 
  17. ^ Tropiano, p. 67
  18. ^ Capsuto, Steven. "U.S. Television: 1970–1975 (click on link Barney Miller)". Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  19. ^ "Tuesday's Highlights". The Spokesman Review. 
  20. ^ "Prime Time Closet". Google Books. 
  21. ^ "Prime Time Closet". Google Books. 
  22. ^ Tropiano, p. 82

References[edit]

  • Alwood, Edward (1998). Straight News. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-08437-4.
  • Castañeda, Laura and Shannon B. Campbell (2005). News and Sexuality: Media Portraits of Diversity. SAGE. ISBN 1-4129-0999-6.
  • Teal, Don (1971). The Gay Militants: How Gay Liberation Began in America, 1969–1971. New York. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-11279-3 (1995 edition).
  • Tropiano, Stephen (2002). The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV. New York, Applause Theatre and Cinema Books. ISBN 1-55783-557-8.

See also[edit]