Abby’s Bisexual Coming Out Episode Breaks New Ground

On last week’s episode of Abby’s, things got officially bisexual when, after months of promotion, Abby officially came out on screen in the sitcom’s third episode.

It’s “Free Alcohol Day,” which has the makings of an annual season event if I’ve ever seen one. In bars all across America, reps from alcohol companies come to show off their new products. In most bars this is just an employment perk for the staff, but Abby is always thinking of her chosen family, so at her establishment everyone gets to partake.

The Free Alcohol Lady, Dani, is a local celebrity and everyone fawns and slobbers all over her – even though this year she’s pawning off some kind of All Spice flavored liquor that tastes like licking the inside of Santa’s red jingle suit.

Beth, one of the patrons and Abby’s best friend, notices it first – there’s definitely something flirty going on between Dani and Abby. Sure, Beth reads flirtation into everything, but Abby gently caresses Dani’s elbow while they talk, and that’s some high quality mid-19th century gay activity right there. Victorian era hotness. You feel me.

Bill, another patron of the bar and the noted outlier of the group (the fact that Abby’s leans right into the way I feel about most straight middle aged white men on television – that they are unnecessarily taking up screen time with their celebrated mediocrity – has ironically somehow made Bill more endearing than most) asks Abby: “Wait a second, can we back up here for a second? Free Alcohol Lady is a lady. So, do you date women? ”

Without batting an eye, she explains “And men. I’m bisexual, Bill.”

True to form, Bill immediately sticks his foot in to his mouth, awkwardly blurting, “CONGRATULATIONS!” Though to be honest – I kind of want someone to follow me around and wish me a daily congrats on my life, you know? “Congratulations Carmen, you brushed your teeth supremely queerly this morning!” “Hey there rockstar, way to gayly fold those clothes and watch reruns of Grey’s Anatomy in your underwear.” Where is that person? Let me find them.

Anyway, the joke works because Bill stands out by making Abby’s bisexuality a big deal when it’s not. Abby is bisexual and she even says the word bisexual — still a rarity on TV — and no one cares. It’s quiet and that alone is revolutionary. A bisexual Latina who is a local business owner and a military vet with a deadpan sense of humor, now as normal on our screens as it already is in our lives. There’s no after school special. No tearful coming out. No trauma. There’s also no episode long joke or gag. No huge monologue or explainer for straight people. Just a quick sentence. Matter of fact. Then it’s over. When can we say that’s happened before on broadcast sitcoms?

The bigger controversy is that Abby, who is famously quiet about her personal life, failed to tell her friends that the reason she’s so casually flirty with Dani is because they’ve already dated! They dated for MONTHS! That’s the admission that sends the episode’s comedy of errors kicking in to high gear.

When everything is over, Beth pulls Abby aside. The bar in Abby’s backyard gave Beth a home when nothing else quite fit. She thought they were friends and the idea that Abby keeps secrets has left her in tailspin. Abby’s explanation is just as matter of fact as the first time she told us she’s bisexual, but as a queer woman of color I felt it deeply, even in it’s simplicity: “I grew up Cuban in a white neighborhood, and on top of that I’m bi. I learned not to fan the flames of that intersectional fire.”

A joke, and a gentle reminder to white (and straight) viewers that they don’t get to know everything about their queer people of color friends. They can’t. And sometimes, they don’t have a right to. That’s quite the delicate thread to untangle. Abby’s does it masterfully, and with a punchline.

Pour me another of those Santa’s Sweaty Christmas Suit shots. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Carmen is Autostraddle's Associate Editor and a black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but has left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, MI, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow at night. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 132 articles for us.

12 Comments

  1. i’m really enjoying this show so far! i think it’s getting funnier every episode. natalie morales is such a wonderful actress and i love love LOVE that she’s leading her own show <3

  2. Caught up on Abby’s over the weekend and liked it more than I thought I would. Natalie Morales has such a watchable quality…it’s a mystery that it took this long for someone to cast her as a lead.

  3. The blurb for the episode said that Abby had a secret that caused controversy at the bar. I was deeply concerned that it would be another Very Special Episode. But the secret was Dani, not that Abby’s bi! Amazing.

  4. This show is cute so far, and I think it’s getting funnier each ep. And this one was so good!!

    Also did you know that the woman who played Dani is Natalie Morales’s real life BFF? They both posted the most adorable instagrams about how they came to LA together years ago and slept in a van and were roommates etc etc and it was so sweet, I teared up.

    Thanks for this great review! I’m really excited to see where they go in future eps!

  5. I want to love Abby’s so much, it checks so many boxes for me! But I just find watching multi-cam sitcoms such a slog to get through. Yes, there was nuance to this storyline, but otherwise, I feel like most multi-cam sitcoms go for the lowest, quickest, easiest joke, and I just find the delivery of lines so broad and ham-fisted and off-putting.

    Am I the only one that feels this way? I’m just sad that we’re finally getting a bisexual lead of color of network television and it’s in a format I struggle to watch.

    • I also find most sitcoms in this style really hard to watch but a lot of people love them so I get why they are using the format. I have been setting personal reservations aside for Natalie Morales but I hope it does up its game jokes wise soon.

    • Nope. I feel you do much. I’m not watching Abby’s and have no intention to because it sounds like a standard sitcom (a Cheers throwback) even with nuisanced queer lead. The last sitcom I watched was How I Met Your Mother, and by the final few seasons it was the only half hour show I was watching, and I knew I had no interest in replacing it. The format doesn’t interest me. Too many shows I want to watch; so little time.

      I did pop in to read this review. I’m glad to know the coming out was handled well and “the secret” wasn’t her bisexuality, but it didn’t inspire me to watch a sitcom set in a bar. That’s not for me. I do hope it continues edifying straight white people and getting them more comfortable with queer people. It does sound smarter than a lot of sitcoms out there.

  6. I am more open to a multi-cam, laugh track sitcom because of ODAAT, and of course because of Natalie Morales. I enjoyed this episode, and admit that I laughed out loud when the straight newbie guy said that he had donated to Ellen Degeneres because he felt so bad about his discomfort and didn’t even wait to find a real LGBTQ+ charity to donate to

    • Honestly (and please no one kick me off the site for this) even ODAAT was sometimes a challenge for me to get through – it still had some tendencies towards the broad slapstick style comedy, though once I got through the first few episodes I was more hooked in and still bawled like a baby in the quinces episode (hello daddy issues).

      I was trying to catch up on the second episode before watching this one, but had to turn it off halfway through. Maybe I just need to watch this episode and see how I feel.

  7. Also, Carmen, thanks for highlighting that line about being Cuban and bi. I agree that it was a really nuanced and valuable statement resisting the imperative to share everything about one’s life, especially to straight and white folks.

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