It's apparently TV catchup week for me, because after plowing through the full season of Dollhouse, I'm almost entirely caught up with the full season of United States of Tara. (Via completely legal means of course.) It's a fairly brilliant show and not half as gimmicky as it might've seemed in the pilot. I said it back then that if Diablo could just calm down with the quirky dialogue that her really fine character work would shine through. And for the most part, it has. The daughter is still the least compelling character, partially because she gets most of the Juno-speak and partially because she's a heinous brat. But the show acknowledges the latter and gives me hope that she'll grow. And Toni Collette and Rosemarie DeWitt are total stars and deserve Emmy nominations I doubt they'll get.
But most of all, I am so loving the Marshall character, both for who he is -- he manages to be culturally wise beyond his years without it feeling false or losing the emotional core of the character -- and for what he represents. That's be one of the few examples of young, out gay characters on TV. And by "few," I mean "two," by my count. And even that's stretching it, since Justin on Ugly Betty is kind of the Adam Lambert of reality TV: he knows, we know, everybody knows, but actually saying it would break the spell that keeps the boycotts away. But Marshall's right out there, open and kissing (unrecognizable) Lawrence brothers.
So is Marshall my favorite gay character on narrative TV? I guess I have no choice but to answer that question in list form!
My Five Favorite Gay Characters on TV
*Current dramatic/comedic TV shows; no reality.
**Note of apology: there are no lesbian characters on this list. Is that an indictment of me or the state of current TV? You make the call.
1 - Marshall Gregson (Keir Gilchrist) -- United States of Tara
For all the reasons stated above. The low-drama, matter-of-fact way Marshall's gayness is handled within the Gregson family can be frustrating in its perfectness, at times. Is it more wish fulfillment or a sign of changing times? Probably a bit of both. But Marshall's got enough drama to deal with at home, and the show has the balls to make his romantic life not only prominent but integrated into the show itself. And I can't say enough about what Keir Gilchrist brings to the role. He's perfection.
2 - Marc St. James (Michael Urie) -- Ugly Betty
Increasingly, the only reason I find myself watching Betty these days. Marc's evolution from stereotypically bitchy assistant to layered, sympathetic (but still bitchy and stereotypical, as befits the style of the show) character has been one of my favorites on TV. Marc never had to tone himself down to play for sympathy with the audience, which makes it so rewarding every time he gets a chance to show vulnerability, or unexpected kindness, or loyalty, or anything that reveals how deep his waters run. Bonus props to the show for the handful of times they've had Marc and Justin interact, the rare occasion on TV where gays get to act as role models for other gays.
3 - Kevin Walker (Matthew Rhys) -- Brothers & Sisters
I honestly didn't think Kevin would make the list, despite his former status as my favorite TV gay, because he really hasn't had a ton to do this past season. But I guess there aren't as many good gay characters on my favorite shows as I thought. Plus, despite a season languishing as Robert's ... press secretary (?), he still manages to to be a three-dimensional character who doesn't need to sand off his edges for acceptance.
4 - Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis) -- True Blood
The warrior of this list, neither asking for permission nor apologizing for taking up his own agency. The best gay characters on TV get to be just as complicated and complex as everyone else on their shows, and drug-dealing, hustling fry-cook Lafayette is just as mired in the Louisiana muck as everyone else in Bon Temps. And he goddamn well better not be dead!
5 - Dot Com (Kevin Brown) -- 30 Rock
Okay, fine, so they mentioned that Dot Com is in love with Grizz's fiancee (or whatever) a few episodes ago. But is that sufficient proof that he's het? No. So it's not too late, Tina Fey! I've been reading Dot Com as 30 Rock's secret gay for about a year now. Think about it: He's the mother hen of Tracy's entourage, he's the one who cooks for Tracy, and he's so cultured that his intelligence threatens even Jack. It's perfect! Make it happen, Tina!