When "Queer as Folk" debuted in 2000, the series about a group of gay friends in Pittsburgh was seen as revolutionizing the way queer life was portrayed on television. Now, two decades later, the show's impact on the television landscape can still be felt after it paved the way for more TV shows about the LGBTQ community. To mark 15 years since "Queer as Folk" ended on Aug. 7, 2005, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at the best shows celebrating LGBTQ stories. Keep reading for more…
RELATED: Stars who have LGBTQ kids
When "My So-Called Life" debuted on ABC in 1994, it was incredibly ahead of its time — arguably so much so that the network felt it wasn't the right fit for its lineup, which led to its cancelation after just one season. The show, which is widely considered one of the best short-lived television series ever created, was seen as groundbreaking — especially with its depiction of Rickie Vasquez. Ricky (played by Wilson Cruz) was the first openly gay Latino teen on television. He was dimensional and complicated, confident and unapologetically himself, but he also yearned for social acceptance. More than 25 years later, Ricky remains one of pop culture's most celebrated and boundary-breaking queer characters of all time.
RELATED: Biggest LGBTQ stories of 2020 so far
Through the lens of recovering drug addict Rue, an unreliable narrator, "Euphoria" gives audiences a look into the complicated lives of a group of teenagers as they deal with love, drugs and just about everything in between. What becomes one of the series' most compelling relationships is the one between Rue and her new friend Jules (played by trans model Hunter Schafer). The show has this capacity to vacillate between grit and vulnerability, painting a candid, often difficult picture of what it's like for a younger generation to come of age right now.
RELATED: Stars who came out
"Love, Victor," which picks up after the 2018 film "Love, Simon," tells the story of Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino), a closeted gay teenager at Creekwood High School. Victor tries to adjust to life in a new city, make new friends and deal with ceaseless family drama, all while struggling to figure out his sexuality. Sweet, endearing and never without its poignant moments, "Love, Victor" tells a touching story about a gay teen's coming-of-age experience.
Co-created by Eugene Levy and son Dan Levy, "Schitt's Creek" follows the lives of a wealthy family forced to relocate to their only remaining asset, a small town with a terribly off-putting name. What this show did so well was hit its emotional beats. From the "Meet the Parents" episode in which Patrick (Noah Reid) poignantly comes out to his parents to the moment in which he finally serenades David (Dan) with an acoustic rendition of Tina Turner's "The Best" in front of a large crowd, "Schitt's Creek" has proven time and time again that it's a show with incredible heart.
From his very first scene, it was clear that Tituss Burgess's Titus Andromedon was going to be a fan favorite on Tina Fey's "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." Fast-forward four seasons and a movie later and it's still true. Titus is such an incredibly fun character to watch on screen, though perhaps the biggest reason we love him is because he's so self-assured. From as early as the pilot, we get a clear sense of who Titus was, is and aspires to be. A gay, Broadway dreaming, pinot noir-loving Black man trying to bring his dreams to fruition in the city that never sleeps, Titus consistently stole the show throughout its run.
When "Cheer" hit Netflix in January 2020, it was an instant hit. The six-part docuseries follows the Navarro College Cheer Team from Corsicana, Texas, as they prepare for the annual National Cheerleading Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida. The series highlighted several of the team's cheerleaders including 22-year-old La'Darius Marshall (pictured), who quickly became a fan favorite. Throughout the series, La'Darius spoke candidly about the difficulty he had coming out to his brothers, sharing that his upbringing was characterized by being bullied and feeling unaccepted by them. Channeling his pain into power, La'Darius is seen as the show's breakout star.
While "High Fidelity" primarily focused on the messy romantic life of misanthropic Brooklyn-based record store owner Rob (Zoe Kravitz), it occasionally shifted the focus to its supporting characters, like Simon, Rob's co-worker, best friend and former boyfriend who dumped her because he's gay. In a stand-alone episode entitled "Ballad of the Lonesome Loser," Simon recounts his top-five heartbreaks. In under 30 minutes, audiences are given a touching look into Simon's life as he struggles to find a partner in the big city.
Based on Ryan O'Connell's 2015 memoir, "Special" revolves around a gay man with cerebral palsy who is given the opportunity to go after the life he's always wanted — one that is free of pity for his disability. Charming, affecting and light-hearted, Ryan — who also writes and executive produces the series — shines as the series' lead. "Special" received three Primetime Emmy Award nominations in 2019 including best short form comedy or drama series. It was renewed for a second season in December 2019.
Rebecca Sugar's Cartoon Network show "Steven Universe" has been commended for its visibility of queer love on a children's series. Debuting in 2013, the animated show has always depicted sexuality as fluid and proudly shows characters in queer relationships. Ruby and Sapphire's groundbreaking same-sex marriage proposal and uncensored kiss are just a couple of the ways in which "Steven Universe" has championed LGBTQ inclusion in children's programming.
"The Fosters" never aimed to be a show that focused on depicting a perfect, nuclear family. Instead, it chronicled the lives of two moms and their blend of fostered, adopted and biological children. The series, which was co-created and executive produced by "Queer as Folk" actor Peter Paige, prided itself on its depiction of life as a complicated, often messy journey. The show also featured television's youngest same-sex kiss, which occurred between 13-year-old Jude Jacob (Hayden Byerly) and Conor (Gavin MacIntosh).
While "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" focuses on the consequences of Rebecca Bunch's (Rachel Bloom) radical decision to trade her lavish New York City life as a successful attorney for an objectively less exciting and lower-paying gig at a smaller law firm in West Covina, California, in an effort to reconnect with her high school boyfriend, the show has also been recognized for its progressive portrayal of bisexual characters. With characters like Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) and Rebecca's boss Daryl (Peter Gardner) coming out as bi (with an accompanying number entitled "Getting Bi"), the musical series managed to avoid convention while furthering LGBTQ representation on television.
Based on director Justin Simien's 2014 feature film of the same name, "Dear White People" focuses on gender, sexuality and race from the perspective of Black students at an Ivy League college. Through Lionel Higgins (DeRon Horton), the series candidly captures a Black man's struggle to accept and explore his queer identity. The series, which also stars Logan Browning, Brandon P. Bell and Antoinette Robertson, debuted its third season in 2019.
"Pose" — which has the largest queer cast and features five transgender actresses as series regulars — is another series that's been commended for its groundbreaking depiction of the LGBTQ community. Set in the '80s, the show follows members of New York City's underground ballroom scene including dancers and models like Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), Angel (Indya Moore) and Pray Tell (Billy Porter) as they try to bring their dreams to fruition amidst the AIDS epidemic. Optimistic, inspiring and culturally rich, "Pose" has received widespread critical acclaim including a Golden Globe nomination for best TV drama series in 2019.
"Grace and Frankie" chronicles the unlikely friendship between two former rivals (Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda) who lean on one another after finding out their husbands are leaving them… for each other! (Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen co-star as the aforementioned husbands.) What makes this Netflix original so enjoyable is its refreshing spin on LGBTQ representation — we typically see queer visibility for teens, young adults and middle-aged individuals, but not so much for seniors. "Grace and Frankie" subverts this expectation by showcasing a romantic relationship between two older gay men.
Aside from its incredible cast that includes Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, what makes "Empire" stand out is its focus on Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett), an openly gay R&B singer. The series — which follows the dramatic dynamics between Lyon family members as they battle for control of the family business, Empire Entertainment — ran for six seasons until April 2020.
When "The L Word," a series that focused on the romantic lives of queer women living in Los Angeles, debuted on Showtime in 2004, it was seen as boundary-breaking. The show was so beloved that it inspired the 2019 sequel "The L Word: Generation Q," which saw the return of three of its original stars — Kate Moennig (Shane, pictured), Jennifer Beals (Bette) and Leisha Hailey (Alice, pictured). Thankfully, unlike the original, the reboot also included queer people of color.
While it might have only lasted for one season, "Feel Good" was a juicy dramedy. The series follows Mae (Mae Martin), a comedian and recovering addict who tries to conquer her addictive tendencies only to be swept up in a passionate and dangerous romance with a straight teacher (Charlotte Ritchie).