7 LGBT shows to stream in honor of the return of ‘Will & Grace’

10:14 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 Austin360
From left, actress Emily Barclay, writer/creator/actor Josh Thomas and actor Thomas Ward discuss their show “Please Like Me” during Hulu’s 2017 Winter TCA Tour earlier this month. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Open up the good vodka, and then open up the other vodka. “Will & Grace” is officially coming back, and we all have some catching up to do.

The NBC sitcom about the friendship between a gay man and a straight woman in New York City, which aired from 1998 to 2006, will return to the small screen for a 10-episode revival, because the peacock can’t let “Gilmore Girls” have all the fun. The network confirmed Will, Grace, Jack and Karen’s triumphant return Wednesday.

The prospect of ten more episodes of Megan Mullally’s booze-soaked bon mots and Sean Hayes’ campy charm offensive is worth a toast, certainly. By the time the show had called it quits, though, Obergefell v. Hodges was still far from reality. To say some things have changed in America would be an understatement, and as anyone who’s caught a “Will & Grace” rerun in syndication can attest, Wednesday’s news is no time for subtlety.

On “Meet the Press” in 2012, former Vice President Joe Biden cited the award-winning comedy as an influential factor in changing the country’s hearts toward gay issues. In that same interview, Biden famously signaled his support for marriage equality; former President Barack Obama followed with his endorsement shortly after.

When “Will & Grace” was “must-see TV,” LGBT representation was virtually nonexistent, save an Ellen or so. But in 2017, things have changed — very slowly, and not actually that much! — and your options for gay-themed TV are a little better. As a toast to Debra Messing’s impending return to homes across America, here are seven LGBT shows worth watching on a streaming service near you. Let’s keep this list non-cringe-inducing for the most part, so sorry, “Queer as Folk.” You’re out.

1. “Please Like Me”: This Australian import, created by and starring comedian Josh Thomas, is the crown jewel of this list. A bitingly funny and achingly sad hangout comedy set in Melbourne, “Please Like Me” tells the tale of discovering how to be gay after your life was already supposed to have started. The show doesn’t shy away from the hard realities of drifting twentysomething friendships, and it handles mental illness with more sensitivity than you’re likely to find anywhere else (thanks in no small part to Debra Lawrance’s frayed, buoyant, all-too-human performance as Thomas’ suicidal mother). Also, Thomas has excellent taste in boyfriends. (All four seasons are streaming on Hulu.)

2. “The Real O’Neals”: The brainchild of sex columnist Dan Savage, “The Real O’Neals” recently carried “Will & Grace’s” torch on primetime TV before it was cancelled. Don’t be deterred by the family sitcom format, and don’t get hung up on concerns that the “high school coming out” narrative is somehow stale. A show about Martha freakin’ Plimpton and Stan from “Mad Men” navigating divorce and raising a gay teenager in an Irish Catholic community is both a great premise for a TV show and an excellent way to fill out a Mad Lib. (The show is no longer streaming as of Sept. 2017, but you can purchase episodes to watch on Amazon Prime.)

3. “Cucumber”/”Banana”: A much needed salve to the propensity of gay entertainment to focus on pretty white boys, these twin British series ran concurrently for a season apiece. “Cucumber” follows a middle-aged gay man whose stable romantic life is abruptly upended, while “Banana” takes an anthology approach to telling LGBT stories using some of the same diverse characters. “Banana” is the real gem here: Highlights include a sweetly sad story of lovers of mismatched attractiveness, a harrowing tale of youthful obsession and the first transgender woman to play a trans character in a British TV series. (Both series are streaming on Hulu.)

4. “Looking”: Listen, it was never supposed to be “Girls” or “Sex and the City” for men, and it was never supposed to represent every facet of gay experience. It was, however, a dreamy slice-of-life portrait of trying to get your life together in San Francisco. Jonathan Groff being cute! An unstigmatized HIV-positive character played by Damian from “Mean Girls”! Murray Bartlett’s mustache! Lauren Weedman singlehandedly out-classing every other actor on the show! Jonathan Groff still being cute but also making bad choices! (Both seasons are streaming on HBOGo, as is the series-wrapping movie.)

5. “Faking It”: This MTV teen comedy-soap is set in Austin, and it seems weird that no one in this town made a bigger deal about that before it went off the air last year. But regardless, “Faking It” begins with a lesbian kiss as a stunt for attention but quickly blooms into a show about a teenage girl seriously grappling with her sexuality and her feelings for her best friend. It’s still an MTV show (bring your own biases about what that means), but it’s an original, vital story, no matter how it’s told. (All three seasons are streaming on Hulu, and the third season is available on MTV.com with a cable subscription.)

6. “Orange Is the New Black”: Jenji Kohan’s prison comedy-drama has its problems, but what it doesn’t have is a dearth of well-realized queer characters. Poussey forever. (All five seasons are streaming on Netflix.)

7. “EastSiders”: What began as a YouTube webseries got a glow-up in the second season, which premiered on Vimeo. The interlocking stories of love and betrayal in Los Angeles don’t spend a lot of time navel-gazing about the existential meaning homosexuality, a refreshing change of pace. Come for future “Fresh Off the Boat” star Constance Wu in the first season, stay for “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum Willam Belli in the second season, keep an eye out for Traci Lords throughout. Don’t be put off by the publicity art, which makes the show look like a vapid, Cinemax-lite throwaway. It’s definitely not. (Both seasons are streaming on Netflix and Vimeo.)

You know how you tell people who aren’t from Texas that it isn’t all the things they’ve imagined? Well, the Mesquite Police Department is here to prove you wrong.

Of Mesquite’s 220 police officers, 180 have chosen to wear a new, optional part of the uniform: a black straw cowboy hat. According to CBS DFW, the new $46 hat is an alternative to the standard hat all officers receive as part of their uniform.

Officers were also able to vote on what the optional hat would be. Lest you for one second forget that you are, in fact, in the state of Texas, the cowboy hat won over alternatives like a drill sergeant-style hat.

Yee-haw.

— Amanda O’Donnell, American-Statesman staff

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