The Best TV Shows of 2021 With LGBTQ Women and Non-Binary Characters

A graphic that reads End Of Year Lists 2021

After an uneven and often barren 2020 reflecting an industry brought to its knees by the pandemic, 2021 came back strong with new seasons of hotly-anticipated returning shows and a plethora of fresh projects for LGBT-inclusive television watchers… and a lot of pretty disappointing cancelations.

But the new TV landscape — a bounty of competing streaming services, cable channels bartering to maintain their niches while network TV struggles to keep up — continues benefiting those of us who would like to see lesbian, bisexual, queer and trans characters on our screens as often as possible. Nearly every scripted original adult program Peacock debuted in 2021 had a queer woman or non-binary character, and our top picks of the year encompass every major streaming outfit save Paramount+. (Qho unfortunately has yet to re-up queer women on the consistently excellent Good Fight!) and only two network shows, both on The CW. It’s also becoming just about impossible for any cable or streaming service to debut a teen-focused show without making room for LGBTQ+ women and trans people, as witnessed in 2021’s Gossip Girl, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Saved by the Bell, Cruel Summer, Yellowjackets, The Sex Lives of College Girls and One of Us Is Lying, to genuinely name just a few.

2021 had something gay for everyone, including many taking a stab at representing not just queer characters, but some semblance of contemporary queer community, like Sort Of, Genera+ion, Work in Progress, The L Word: Generation Q, Pose and Betty — and in addition to those titles, several returning shows with queer lead characters, like Twenties, Feel Good, Dickinson and Master of None. Of those aforementioned, however, all have either been cancelled or have yet to be renewed, which is… distressing. The year’s biggest overall trend in terms of representation were some major leaps for non-binary characters played by non-binary actors after years of virtually no explicit representation at all, we got new major non-binary characters on shows including Sex Education, Rutherford Falls, Grey’s Anatomy, And Just Like That, and Cowboy Bebop. 

The list below was constructed using a very scientific voting process involving the eight members of the Autostraddle TV Team: me (Riese), Heather Hogan, Carmen Phillips, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Natalie Duggins, Valerie Anne, Drew Gregory and Shelli Nicole. This voting and subsequent count was conducted prior to the release of Station Eleven. Just you know, FYI.

Look out for a companion post to this one in which all of our TV Team members take minute to plug some of our favorite shows that didn’t make the Top 25!


25. The Morning Show, Season 2 (Apple TV) (tie)

Last Year: Didn’t air

Laura and Bradley sit on the couch having an intense conversation

The Morning Show got gay. And no, it may not have been in the way anyone would have predicted, but actually I very much did predict this as soon as photos were released of Julianna Margulies’ new character Laura Peterson. I took one glance at those photos and said “gay.” And indeed, Laura Peterson “puts the L in LGBTQ,” an actual line uttered by Billy Crudup in the show’s wild and enthralling second season. The Morning Show really threads the needle when it comes to just blowing up its own narrative constantly and rearranging its characters allegiances and motives episode-to-episode but somehow…still making all the pieces land in a way that’s satisfying and entertaining. Its performances are great, and its stakes are always urgent to the nth degree. It’s a sleeper hit on this list in the sense that it’s honestly difficult to parse what makes it work. It’s delicious in the same way Funfetti cake is: a colorful and satisfying spectacle but ultimately uncomplicated. Some of the most interesting character dynamics here are, admittedly, not the queer romance but rather the codependent and often toxic relationships between coworkers. (Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya)

25. Euphoria: Jules (HBO) (tie)

Last Year: Didn’t air

Jules on her bed in Euphoria

Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

My problematic fave Euphoria begins its second season next month, but this year they gifted us the second of two special holiday episodes. “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not a Seablob” is the first episode of Euphoria not solely written by show creator Sam Levinson, here joined by star Hunter Schafer. If Levinson meant to create a test case for why all the episodes should (at least) have co-writers he succeeded. It’s not just Schafer’s personal experience that helps this achieve some of Euphoria’s brightest moments, but her talent. Different writers offer their different perspectives due to identity — they also offer their different perspectives as creatives. Here we get to learn so much more about Jules than we ever did in season one and I can’t wait to return to this character as a whole person rather than just Rue’s (and Levinson’s) Manic Pixie Trans Girl. (Drew Gregory)

24. Elite, Season 4 (Netflix)

Last Year: Didn’t have a queer female storyline

ÉLITE (L to R) CLAUDIA SALAS as REBECA, MARTINA CARIDDI as MENCÍA, CARLA DÍAZ as ARI in EPISODE 06 of ÉLITE. Cr. NIETE/NETFLIX © 2020.

ÉLITE (L to R) CLAUDIA SALAS as REBECA, MARTINA CARIDDI as MENCÍA, CARLA DÍAZ as ARI in EPISODE 06 of ÉLITE. Cr. NIETE/NETFLIX © 2020

I always joke that Elite (or, Élite) is like if Riverdale and Big Little Lies had a baby in Spain but the truth is, Elite has a unique feel to it. These Spanish teens are mostly rich, often ruthless, and always making questionable decisions that are equal parts stressful and delightful to watch. With hardly any reasonable adults in sight, these youths fight and fuck their way through murder mysteries, scandals, and other dramas that are above and beyond the standard high school fare. And, of course, there are queer kids everywhere; in fact, a good number of these horny teens’ sexualities seem to be simply, “Yes.” But most notably, this most recent season showed Rebeka exploring the bisexuality she previously hinted at by way of new student, Mencía, who may or may not be loosely involved with Rebe’s mother’s drug ring. (Because while Netflix calls it a “thriller teen drama,” I’d argue it’s also got a touch of soap opera to it. In the best ways possible.) It’s nice when queerness isn’t always a very big factor of the drama (even when queer people are neck deep in it) because there’s too much else going on for people to worry about it. (Valerie Anne)

23. Kevin Can F*ck Himself, Season 1 (AMC)

New in 2021

still from Kevin Can F*ck Himself

AMC

I have a hard time watching the kind of sitcoms my parents love, with the laugh tracks and the rampant sexism. But with Kevin Can F*ck Himself, that’s entirely the point. And instead of staying with the husband as he annoys his wife out of the scene, the camera follows the wife into the kitchen. It makes this show two shows in one, and while the sitcom half remains (purposefully) irritatingly patriarchal and toxic, the drama half is gritty and funny and dark and fascinating and real. And queer! Annie Murphy’s Boston accent as Allison may be questionable but her acting skills are undeniable, and watching her neighbor Patty (Mary Hollis Inboden) discover and explore her sexuality was an added bonus. (Valerie Anne)

22. Search Party, Season 4 (HBO Max)

Last Year: Didn’t rank

Season 4, Cole Escola and Alia Shawkat

Photograph by Jon Pack

Every season of Search Party has been a completely different show. And every season of Search Party has gotten better. Show creators Charles Rogers and Sarah Violet-Bliss have such a sharp and naturally queer sensibility and are proof that “satirizing privileged millennials” is a genre that can be done well even if it’s overdone. It helps that they’re just so funny. And this season they found their greatest asset in centering comedic genius Cole Escola. As the gender-nonconforming psycho Chip, Escola heals decades of fictional trans serial killer wounds — not because they’re countering that narrative but because they’re making that narrative feel like ours. For once, we’re in on the joke, we’re in on the horror. The fifth and final season premieres next month and I can’t wait to see what’s in store. I’m sure it’s something we’ll never expect. (Drew Gregory)

21. 4400, Season 1 (The CW)

New in 2021

4400 -- “The Way We Were” -- Image Number: FFH105a_0283r -- Pictured (L-R): TL Thompson as Andre and Brittany Adebumola as Shanice

Photo: Sandy Morris/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Nearly every reboot we’ve witnessed in the past five years has attempted to correct its original’s inevitable homogeneity by adding LGBT characters and characters of color to their narratives. Others, like Party of Five and One Day at a Time, wipe the slate entirely clean, giving new life to an old premise by not just creating a more diverse cast, but shifting the focus entirely onto communities of color. The CW’s 4400, a reboot of the 2004-2007 USA series, is one of those others — most of the 4,400 “disappeared at some point within the last century” humans who find themselves suddenly dropped into a Detroit park in the present day with no knowledge of where they are or what has happened to them are Black. While some, like a trans doctor plucked out of his whooping cough research and busy Harlem Renaissance social life, are enchanted by the modern era and by the language that now exists to describe people like him; others from the more recent past are underwhelmed to find themselves again subject to an oppressive and racist police state or, on personal journeys, devastated to see how the lives they left behind have charged forward without them. 4400 has its small-scale charms, too, as unlikely friendships build across very literal intergenerational divides and romantic tension simmers, particularly between a lesbian parole officer stuck at a moral crossroads and a queer Muslim IT nerd already certain of the proper path forward. 4440 has bit off a big chunk of material and its clear The CW gave the production the lowest budget possible, but with its talented writers, winning characters, twisty storylines and the enduring joy of time travel, 4400 pretty much pulls it all off. They’ve established enough here to fill four more seasons, let’s hope they get the green light to make them. (Riese Bernard)

20. Only Murders In the Building, Season 1 (Hulu)

New in 2021

still from All the Murders in the Building

Only Murders in the Building was a delight of television writing from beginning to end, tightly packed, wholly funny and wholly suspenseful, without ever losing sense of itself. In comedy mysteries, it’s extremely hard to straddle the line between “is this a farce or should I care” — to be honest most in the genre lose their way about halfway through. But as Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez (excellent as always) work their way through the suspects who are also their neighbors to solve a.. literal… murder in their building, every turn was unexpected and keeps on edge. Speaking of delights, for all the murder-y turns, the biggest surprise was that as the show kept unraveling it become more queer and lesbian? Which became a mystery of its own right (why did this straight show suddenly get so gay) until you realize that Jamie Babbit not only served as director of some episodes, but also a series Executive Producer. Love to crack a case! (Carmen Phillips)

19. Betty, Season 2 (HBO)

Last Year: #11

Nina Moran, Andrew Darnell, Rachelle Vinberg, Moonbear, Ajani Russell in Betty

Photograph by Stephanie Mei-Ling/HBO

The first of two shows on this list that HBO prematurely canceled, Betty was one of the great queer joys on TV. The plot may have been thin but it was just such a pleasure skating around with these girls as they navigated the modern world. While it had a casual, hangout energy, the series wasn’t without depth. While certain episodes had a “nothing happened” quality, every storyline in both seasons built to something really beautiful and true. There are shows that are queer and then there are shows that exist in a queer world — this was the latter. We deserve more of that, not less. In a TV landscape, where poorly written queer characters are often found declaring their labels with an afterschool special pride, Betty was a relief. Sometimes life is more complicated than a buzzword. Sometimes it’s so much simpler. (Drew Gregory)

18. Sort Of, Season 1 (HBO Max)

New in 2021

Amanda Cordner and Bilal Baig in "Sort Of"

Photograph by Courtesy of HBO Max

Sort Of is a half hour dramedy that unravels like a mystery. Part of being visibly gender-nonconforming is being seen by everyone — but Bilal Baig’s Sabi is really seen by no one. They’re closed off from even their closest friends and family. They have enough one-liners and fashion sense to give an impression of openness that is far from the truth. The only person they let their walls down with a bit is Bessy (Grace Lynn Kung), the mother of the children they nanny, who can be equally elusive with the people in her life. Bessy getting into a coma starts Sabi on a journey of trust and Bessy’s husband on a journey of learning who he was married to. This is a beautiful show about the self-discovery that happens after self-discovery. Every episode reveals more about these characters — to themselves, to each other, and to the audience. They’re characters worth knowing. (Drew Gregory)

17. We Are Lady Parts, Season 1 (Peacock)

New in 2021

WE ARE LADY PARTS -- Season: 1 -- Pictured: (l-r) Lucie Shorthouse as Momtaz, Faith Omole as Bisma, Anjana Vasan as Amina, Juliette Motamed as Ayesha, Sarah Kameela Impey as Saira --

(Photo by: Laura Radford/Peacock)

Far too often and for far too long, television and film have flattened the portrayals of Muslims — particularly of Muslim women — and helped perpetuate stereotypes. But this year, We Are Lady Parts came along and turned all of those stereotypes on their head. Want to reduce Muslim women to being “traditionally submissive”? Lady Parts gives you “Bashir with the Good Beard.” Want to reduce a Muslimah’s entire character to a storyline about her headscarf? Lady Parts offers “Voldermort Under My Headscarf.” Lady Parts allows its characters — Saira, Amina, Bisma, Ayesha and Momtaz — to be more than television has ever allowed Muslim women to be.

Lady Parts‘ first series just scratches at the surface of its queer storyline — exploring more about Ayesha remains my biggest hope for the show’s second series — but it succeeds in creating stories that will resonate with queer audiences. (Natalie)

16. Batwoman, Season 3 (The CW)

Last Year: #18

Batwoman -- “Pick Your Poison” -- Image Number: BWN307a_0222r -- Pictured (L-R): Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder and Meagan Tandy as Sophie Moore --

Photo: Kailey Schwerman/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Every couple of weeks, usually after an episode of Batwoman has aired, I’ll find myself in the TV Team’s slack channel and I’ll just marvel aloud at how improbable the show’s success is. They built this whole show around Kate Kane — around Ruby Rose — and then had it fall apart. Recast? Nope, rewrite… while staying true to its own canon and drawing from the DC Comics universe. Oh, and this time — just as the CW cancels its most prominent black lesbian character (RIP Black Lightning) — Batwoman introduces another: Ryan Wilder/Batwoman, played by Javicia Leslie. The odds were stacked against it and yet Batwoman has succeeded.

And not just succeeded… but, especially in this third season, thrived. (Natalie)

15. Girls 5Eva, Season 1 (Peacock)

New in 2021

the girls on the couch excited in a still from Girls5Eva

Peacock TV

I don’t know whose idea it was to cast Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, Paula Pell, and Renée Elise Goldsberry in a musical comedy about a one-hit-wonder pop group but I want to send them an edible arrangement. What a gift this foursome is, hugely talented when it comes to the comedy of the show (of which there is an endless amount) and, of course, the performances. Real life lesbian Paula Pell plays Gloria who is obsessed with her ex-wife, played by Paula’s real life wife, and who takes the group’s newfound popularity to become the gay icon she didn’t get to be since she was closeted during their first claim to fame. It’s hilarious and over-the-top in all the best ways. (Valerie Anne)

14. Reservation Dogs, Season 1 (FX on Hulu)

New in 2021

Pictured: (L to R): Paulina Alexis as WILLIE JACK, Devery Jacobs as ELORA DANAN POSTOAK, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai as BEAR, Lane Factor as CHEESE. —

CR: Shane Brown/FX

Reservation Dogs isn’t queer… at least, not in the way most folks expect shows to be… there is no character who explicitly identifies as queer on the show, yet. But nonetheless, queerness feels like an indelible part of Reservation Dogs… like it’s such a part of the show’s DNA that it doesn’t even need to be remarked upon. I’m not sure that any other show could’ve even tried such a thing and avoided my scorn but, somehow, Reservation Dogs threads the needle. (Natalie)

13. Shrill, Season 3 (Hulu)

Last Year: Didn’t rank

the girls of Shrills going OUT in their party clothes

(Photo by: Allyson Riggs/Hulu)

Like Special, and Feel Good, Shrill is a delightful and socially relevant LGBT-inclusive comedy abruptly cancelled in 2021, but at least it’s going out on top. Its small ensemble of big personalities has always managed to make the most of its abbreviated screentime, including Shrill’s delightful Nigerian lesbian lead, Fran (Lolly Adefope), who this season confronted cracks in her armor of self-assurance as she transitioned into a new job and let down some walls to make room for Emily, including introducing her to her family. Trans comic actress Patti Harrison’s Ruthie, always a reliable source of absurdity, got a little more depth this year — Fran, Annie, Ruthie and Maureen’s big Girls’ Night Out made me ache for so much more where that came from. (Riese Bernard)

12. Master of None, Season 3 (Netflix)

Last Year: Didn’t Air

Still from Master of None: Moments in Love

MASTER OF NONE S3 (L to R) LENA WAITHE as DENISE and NAOMI ACKIE as ALICIA in episode 305 of MASTER OF NONE. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Master of None: Moments In Love wasn’t what folks weren’t expecting. While so much of the Internet seemed fixated in how it wasn’t the Master of None they’d come to adore, we relished the opportunity to see “moments of love” between two black queer women. But, ultimately, the season’s five chapters felt uneven at best… short on the very thing the name had promised us, love.

Yet still, Master of None finds itself among our favorites of the year due in large part to “Chapter 4,” which tells the story of Alicia’s rollercoaster of a pregnancy journey. It is such a tremendous high — the beautiful synchronicity of the writing, performance and directing depict the not often showcased heartache of fertility treatments — that it eclipses the season’s other shortcomings. It is Lena Waithe at her absolute best. (Natalie)

11. The L Word: Generation Q, Season 2 (Showtime)

Last Year: #4

(L-R): Leisha Hailey as Alice, Katherine Moennig as Shane and Jennifer Beals as Bette in THE L WORD: GENERATION Q ÒLuck be a LadyÓ. Photo Credit: Liz Morris/SHOWTIME.

Photo Credit: Liz Morris/SHOWTIME.

The first half of Generation Q’s second season was everything we’d craved from its first: messy, over-the-top gay chaos, Bette Porter Crying About Art, Micabel, surprise sexual and romantic partnerships and fun friendship moments between the main ensemble’s characters, and really important pantsuits. With a kickoff premiere that saw every relationship in disarray and our Season One cliffhanger — would Sophie pick Dani or Finley? — thrown off-kilter in the most ridiculous way possible — we were set up for success. The show is at its best when it leans into the soapyness and frivolity, poking at the alliances and connections between a group of self-obsessed and ambitious hot people who rarely learn from their own mistakes. It generally faltered in its attempts to tackle Big Issues like the opioid crisis, racial injustice and alcoholism. But even the stuff we hated was stuff we loved to talk about, and The L Word franchise continues to be the #1 way to bring queers together on the internet to talk about lives, loves and sex scenes. We’ve still got our fingers crossed for a season three! (Riese Bernard)

10. Work in Progress, Season 2 (Showtime)

Last Year: #8

(L-R): Celeste Pechous as Campbell, Abby McEnany as Abby, Armand Fields as King and Chandler Marino as Chandler in WORK IN PROGRESS "Hey, Dad". Photo Credit: Chuck Hodes/SHOWTIME.

Chuck Hodes/SHOWTIME.

While many shows chose to ignore the pandemic, I’m glad Work in Progress decided to confront it. Abby is a unique character on television because she’s a fat queer dyke, but she’s also unique because of how honestly the show portrays her mental illness. I’m grateful we got to watch her navigate the pandemic in all its misery. I’ve often waxed poetic about how wild it is that Sense8 ever existed on television — but in a smaller way I think this deserves the same shock and praise. Lilly Wachowski stepped away from bigger budget fare so she could help bring to life queer stories without interference. It’s impressive to have queer representation in an action show — but it’s also impressive to have queer representation that feels this personal, specific, and far away from the basic conversations. Work in Progress’s second season took all the risks. We deserve more queer television that does just that. (Drew Gregory)

9. Pose, Season 3 (FX)

Last Year: Didn’t air

POSE -- "On The Run" -- Season 3, Episode 1 (Airs May 2) Pictured (l-r): Dyllón Burnside as Ricky, Hailie Sahar as Lulu, Mj Rodriguez as Blanca, Indya Moore as Angel, Angel Bismark Curiel as Lil Papi.

CR: Eric Liebowitz/FX

When Pose’s creator, Steven Canals, announced that the show’s third season would be its last, he promised, a season “filled with all of the love, the laughter, and tears that you have come to expect from the Evangelista family.” Boy, did Pose deliver.

We shed tears over the loss of the show’s patriarch and when Angel and Papi finally said “I do.” We laughed as Elektra became a BOSS and read a bigoted shop owner for absolute filth (and then came back and stole everything he had). We loved seeing Blanca get her happy ending. We loved seeing women who once had to steal finery from a museum get the chance to own their wedding dresses and witness one of their own say “I do.” It was a beautiful swan song for a show that broke records right until the very end. (Natalie)

8. Dickinson, Seasons 2 & 3 (Apple TV)

Last Year: Didn’t Air

still from Dickinson SEason 3

AppleTV+

Alena Smith’s take on Emily Dickinson’s life feels like a bit of a balancing of the scales for the time Sue’s name was edited out of most of Emily’s poems and letters in an attempt to shove her in a closet it doesn’t seem she particularly cared for. Hailee Steinfeld gives a wildly charming performance, and her chemistry with Ella Hunt’s Sue is electric. The modern humor and music with the period outfits and goings-on brings so much humor and heart to the poet’s story, and it’s truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen. With a cast of characters that enriches the town of Amherst, you can’t help but look forward to the next ring of the doorbell or the next Dickinson salon. The TV landscape is going to be a little worse off without this show in it next year, so I’m glad we could honor it with this list one last time. (Valerie Anne)

7. Genera+ion, Season 1 (HBO Max)

New in 2021

prom scene from genera+ion

Photograph by Warrick Page/HBO Max

Sometimes when shows get canceled I get tagged in anxious fan posts trying to start campaigns to bring them back — Genera+ion is the only time I thought about joining in. It’s not just that it was a great show (it was) but it was a great show that took time to get there. In its first half of episodes I saw promise, in its second half I saw mastery. Shows that are able to adapt to their strengths are exactly the kind that deserve several seasons to develop. And while the writing was funny and sharp, the cinematography was subtle and gorgeous, and the editing was inventive and tight, this was a show made by its cast. Haley Sanchez and Chase Sui Wonders stand out as our central queer girl couple but really every single cast member deserves to be mentioned. They’re all so good and the ones who aren’t already famous are about to be stars. And if that wasn’t enough this show really did hit some representational milestones in a way that felt really natural. Like Betty it was a show of casual queerness. Sanchez’s Greta was one of the few characters ever on TV who was asexual and homoromantic. It’s such a shame we didn’t get to see more of her story. But I’m still grateful we got to see. These 16 episodes are worth revisiting again and again and again. (Drew Gregory)

6. Yellowjackets, Season 1 (Showtime)

New in 2021

(L-R): Samantha Hanratty as Teen Misty, Keeya King as Teen Akilah, Liv Hewson as Teen Van, Jane Widdop as Teen Laura Lee, Jasmin Savoy Brown as Teen Taissa, Steven Krueger as Ben Scott and Alexa Barajas Plante as Teen Mari in YELLOWJACKETS, “F Sharp”.

Photo credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

What can I write about Yellowjackets that I haven’t already written about Yellowjackets? No, for real, every week I write about 3,000+ words about this show, because every chapter is worthy of intense, up-close analysis. It does comedy, horror, and interpersonal drama equally well. Its cast is fantastic. And it’s just such an original and exciting concept, whiplashing between typical teen drama fare, an in-depth look at the lasting effects of trauma on its adult characters, and a slow-burn time-jumping survival horror paranormal mystery! There’s just… so much. And yet, so far, the balancing act has been on point. It has shade of Lost, Dare Me, and retro horror movies. And it’s striking that a show can keep its cards this close to the chest and not feel like it’s lagging or being withholding to the point where it’s only running on the fumes of mystique. I can’t remember the last time I was this enthusiastically along for the ride wherever a show might take me. (Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya)

5. Hacks, Season 1 (HBO Max)

New in 2021

Deborah and Ava look at a computer screen in her kitchen

Photograph by Anne Marie Fox/HBO Max

Hacks is undoubtedly one of the year’s most critically acclaimed shows — an acerbic, surprising comedy anchored by Jean Smart’s incredible performance as Deborah Vance, a once-groundbreaking female comic in her golden years fighting to remain relevant, who finds herself saddled with an uninvited writing assistant, Ava (Hannah Einbinder), a self-centered pansexual Gen Z social media failure tasked with elevating Vance’s material into a more profitable contemporary plateau. What could be a bland re-tread of the Odd Couple premise is in fact its polar opposite, elevated by the crackling comedic chemistry between Vance and Ava and the unlikely spaces in which they eventually land on a thread of connection elevates the Odd Couple premise into one of the year’s most lauded productions. As Ava and Deborah hurl zingers across the marbled atriums of her Vegas mansion, surrounded by lawn sprinklers and liars, both cowering beneath the terror of potential irrelevance and their stubborn egos, we’re carried into rooting for people we don’t really like to realize how much they could, and should, like each other. (Riese Bernard)

4. Twenties, Season 2 (BET)

Last Year: #7

still of the three leads in Twenties

BET

Twenties‘ first season hemmed a little too closely to creator Lena Waithe’s own story to make Hattie’s misadventures feel brand new. But in its second season, Twenties has firmly established its own voice — and stepped out of Waithe’s shadow — and it is stronger for it.

Don’t get me wrong: Hattie is still a mess. One minute you’re celebrating her growth — joining a writers’ group! getting out of a toxic relationship with Ida! a real relationship with Idina! — and the next minute she backsliding into a problem entirely of her own making — lashing out after receiving critical feedback and (possibly) cheating. It was a rollercoaster but it was fun, entertaining and… if we’re being honest, highly relatable. (Natalie)

3. Feel Good, Season 2 (Netflix)

Last Year: #15

Feel Good characters in costumes standing on the street

Credit: Luke Varley

The second season of Feel Good tells one of the most layered stories of confronting and unfurling past trauma I’ve ever seen on television. In just six episodes, it does so much, building on the strengths of the first season but also expanding the narrative even more. Its storytelling around relationships, sex, gender, addiction, and healing is so intimate and complex, situated strongly within great character development and performances. I didn’t think it would be possible to outdo season one, but I think season two did the trick. (Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya) 

2. A Black Lady Sketch Show (HBO)

Last Year: Didn’t air

still from Black Lady Sketch Show of everyone looking at a computer on a table

Photograph by Ali Paige Goldstein/HBO

In the opening episode of A Black Lady Sketch Show‘s second season, Shantya the Baliff is reminiscing about the time that she found herself in the middle of a Black Lady Courtroom. The new court reporter asks if it’ll ever happen again — if they’ll ever find themselves in a space filled with only black women — and Shantya answers, “I keep hoping but you know what they say, ‘good things only happen to Black women once.'” But that sketch and the rest of ABLSS’s second season prove that old saying very, very wrong. Building on some classics from its first season — Courtroom Kiki, Dr. Haddassah, pre-PhD and the Coral Reefs (blippity!) — ABLSS’ hilarious second season captures lightning in a bottle all over again. (Natalie)

1. Sex Education (Netflix)

Last Year: #3

Sex Education Season 3. Kedar Williams Stirling as Jackson Marchetti, Dua Saleh as Cal in Episode 5 of Sex Education Season 3. Cr. Sam Taylor/NETFLIX © 2020

Sam Taylor/NETFLIX © 2020

Every year, Sex Education gets better. It gets bigger, more inclusive, and more complicated — all while never losing its heart and humor. In fact, Laurie Nunn’s Netflix show is the best evidence that cultural specificity and political astuteness lead to better television. So many shows treat inclusivity as a box to check or a way to be current — Sex Education understand that inclusivity equals opportunity. The queer stories on the third season included Lily’s self-doubt, Eric’s trip to Nigeria, Adam’s unlikely friendship with Rahim, and Ola learning to express her own desires. We also finally got the show’s first trans character in Dua Saleh’s Cal. Their complicated relationship with Jackson, rivalry with headmistress Hope, and eventual mentorship of another non-binary student, Layla, were all handled with the show’s expected mix of sharp storytelling and, well, education. This isn’t a show that talks down to its audience with platitudes and basic explanations — it’s an education the way life is an education, the way communicating with a new partner is an education. We’re all still learning, all still growing. Sex Education is a masterpiece, because it’s not afraid to grow right alongside us. (Drew Gregory)


We keep Autostraddle majority free-to-read, but it isn't free to create! We need YOU to sign up for A+ to help keep this indie queer media site funded. A+ membership starts at just $4/month or $30/year. If you can, will you join?

Join A+

Riese

Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2945 articles for us.

The TV Team

The Autostraddle TV Team is made up of Riese Bernard, Carmen Phillips, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Valerie Anne, Natalie, Drew Gregory, and Heather Hogan. Follow them on Twitter!

The TV has written 210 articles for us.

9 Comments

  1. A shame not to see Star Trek: Discovery on the list. In addition to a gay male couple, it has at least one lesbian character (Jett Reno, played by Tig Notaro) and two non-binary characters (Adira and Gray). Gray’s “incorporation” is as close to a trans story as I’ve seen in a long time.

    I’m also keeping a close eye on Detmer though that may be wishful thinking. ;)

  2. Am I the only one bothered by the fact that with the inter-racial lesbian couple on Sex Education that the Black woman never speaks? She barely has any scenes interacting with her son and everything is filtered through the eyes of the white mother. It’s weird how they made her a non-entity in her son’s life.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!