In My Top 10 Favorite Television Shows, various members of Autostraddle’s TV Team will be telling you about the TV shows nearest and dearest to our hearts, EVEN the ones that don’t have lesbian / bisexual / queer woman characters.
Today, writer, TV recapper, and resident sci-fi nerd Valerie Anne shares feelings about her favorite shows of all time, most of which, turns out, are sci-fi.
I hate declaring my favorite thing! My go-to answer is, “It depends!” Once for an Autostraddle roundtable we were supposed to write about our favorite TV ship and everyone got cute little graphics made of their choice and my little heart was instead filled with the words, “I won’t pick and you can’t make me.” In a perfect world I could make you a list that’s broken down: My Top 10 Favorite Shows from my Childhood, My Top 10 Sci-Fi Shows, My Top 10 Comedy Shows, My Top 10 Shows I Started and Finished in Quarantine So Far, etc. But alas, here we are. So I just went with the ones that came to me fastest and loudest, and while there are some on here that I imagine will always be true, I could write this list once a year and it would be different every time.
Also, some things I learned about myself while making this list: 1. I have a lot of all-time favorite characters that appear on shows I don’t consider my favorite shows and thus they are missing from this list. And 2. So many shows that were my favorite for a few seasons broke my heart so hard I couldn’t bear to include them. (Though on the flip side there were shows that let me down but I love them hard anyway.)
Okay enough with the caveats, off we go.
To be perfectly honest, Supergirl almost didn’t make this list after this most recent season. But the thing is, nothing will ever take away the joy and hope it gave me when it first started. The first two seasons of this show are nearly perfect. I’ll never forget how excited I was to have a superhero that reminded me of… well, of me. Kara was hopeful and open and a team player and so different than her grumpy male counterparts in the DCTV universe and she truly was a breath of fresh air. And just when I thought the show couldn’t get any better, Alex Danvers came out. She has one of my favorite coming out arcs on all of television, and her and her current girlfriend Kelly were often the best parts of the most recent season. I still, perhaps foolishly, believe this show can get back to what makes it great, so I put it here on this list with hope in my heart.
Why yes, here I am, cheating already. IN MY DEFENSE, these shows all take place in the same universe. There are character crossovers galore. Epic lore and three-dimensional characters and taking the idea of ‘endgame’ and flipping it on its head. And so many queer witches! And a queer werewolf! I wrote about the good, the bad, and the queer history of this universe so I won’t bore you with the details here but my friend and I devoured all 8 bajillion episodes of this universe last summer and it was such a fun world to be immersed in.
Ever since my brother, who is four years younger than me, was little, I’ve found comfort in the escapism of shows technically made for children. I watched shows on Nickelodeon during my summer breaks from college, my friend and I threw a watch party for the Disney movie Descendants 3 just last year. And while I also very much enjoy the made-for-adults cartoons like Bob’s Burgers, Bojack Horseman, and Tuca & Bertie, I also find the pureness of shows like She-Ra and Steven Universe healing. They’re the type of shows I wish I had when I was younger, and so watching Adora and Catra fight with and for each other on this queer show made by queer folks as a queer adult? My inner queer child is soothed. Plus the whole show is about the power of friendship and smashing the patriarchy and what’s not to like about that?
I’ve loved the horror genre for as long as I can remember. I read every Goosebumps book as soon as it came out, I watched Are You Afraid of the Dark every Saturday night. So now that I’m in my 30s, I feel like I’ve seen it all. It’s very easy to do horror poorly, and oh so many people do. And for folks who just want a jump scare now and then, that’s fine, but I like history and lore and STORY. Plus also enough spooks to get my adrenaline pumping. Haunting of Hill House gave me just that. It was beautifully done, from the CGI to the practical effects to the directing and acting. And just brilliantly written. Then they gave us the Theo Crain cherry on top. The spooky lesbian empath of my dreams.
I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, I haven’t rewatched South of Nowhere since I first saw it over a decade ago, so I can’t tell you with any kind of certainty that it holds up. I don’t even remember if it was an on-paper good show. But it was so important to me. Spencer Carlin is a big reason I came out when I did. Ashley is the tough outer shell, squishy insides type of character I love. Spencer’s mom had the reaction I was scared my mother would have, and then went on a journey to acceptance I allowed myself to hope my mother would go on. It was a teen drama like all the other teen dramas I had watched and loved before, but this time the main character was in love with another girl instead of the quarterback of the football team or the town bad boy (or both).
People talk about “jumping the shark” like it’s a bad thing, and for shows that are typically nowhere near the “water”, it can be alarming when they do it. But Legends of Tomorrow took a whole herd of sharks, saddled them, gave them silly names, and hitched them to their time machine. And it’s beautiful. They’re already time-traveling vigilantes, why not have FUN. Their world defies the logic of our world, so why wouldn’t their show defy the logic of the genre? The show puts characters first, and then plays MadLibs to figure out what will be happening around them while they learn and grow and bond. Plus, Sara Lance, from her first episode in Arrow to her most recent Legends moment, has had one of the most epic character growth arcs of all time. A fully realized bisexual character who refuses to die no matter how many times they kill her, and who had a long-term girlfriend, then a few flings, then another long-term girlfriend. She is nobody’s trope and I love her. PLUS, she’s not anywhere near the only three-dimensional queer character on the show. There’s her lesbian clone girlfriend, her pretty pansexual shape-shifting pal, her bisexual wizard boy ex and his queer assistant who has a crush on anyone even a little in charge of him. And if you get into secondary characters, the list just goes on and on. It’s just a fun queer time and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Two words: Elena Alvarez. I know I already talked about retroactively healing the wounds of my younger selves so I won’t go on too much about it but Elena feels like how I would be if I were a teenager in 2020 instead of in the early 2000s. There are a lot of similarities between my family and hers, but also so many differences, and I love seeing myself reflected in her and also learning from her. The show balances humor and heart with great skill. I never thought any 30-minute comedy would ever live up to Parks & Rec in my book, but this show soared right into my top sitcom spot swiftly and easily.
3. Orphan Black
Orphan Black was an amazing show, with an amazing story and a unique feel to it, but that’s not why it’s so high on this list. I mean yes, the brilliant acting job by Tatiana Maslany, the writing that elevated women and told the story about how different we all are even when we’re genetically identical, the Gays, it was all PART of the reason it’s so high on this list. But the thing is, Orphan Black changed my life. Writing recaps for it changed the trajectory of my career, Tatiana Maslany was my first (email) interview, Orphan Black was the first show to send me physical screeners and press kits in the mail with letters calling me a journalist, my first red carpet interviews, my first cast-and-crew-attended press party. It was the first hashtag I invented that took off (hey #clonesbians), the first fan meetups I organized. I met some of my best friends through this show, so it will always be part of my DNA. Pun very much intended.
2. Wynonna Earp
Similar to Orphan Black, Wynonna Earp changed my life. I met even MORE of my best friends through this show, and have had even more amazing opportunities because of it. I couldn’t even begin to describe all the ways this show has changed me. The sci-fi is wacky but the characters and their relationships are so real. Wynonna is that tough on the outside soft on the inside gal I mentioned earlier. Waverly is that optimism-is-harder-than-it-looks type, like what drew me to Kara Danvers. Nicole isn’t just Waverly’s girlfriend, she’s her own person. Plus their world is full of such complicated women like Rosita and Kate and Mercedes. The show is funny and smart and full of found family feels, which I suppose is how it led me to my smart, funny found family.
I was 11 years old when I started watching Buffy. 11-years-old when I saw this teenage girl kick everyone’s ass. The show was dark and gritty but funny and sweet and I couldn’t get enough. The fast-paced quips made their way into my lexicon, and haven’t left. To the point where sometimes I make Buffy references and don’t even realize I’m doing it. Buffy is the first way I started to explore my sexuality, though I didn’t recognize it as such. At the time it was just acting out f/f romantic storylines in AOL RP chatrooms as Buffy characters. You know, for the luls. I watched Buffy with my dad, and watching him watch Willow and Tara the same way he watched any other pairing on the show planted a seed of hope I would cling to later. (And in fact, when I did come out to him, he said, “Yeah, I know. I watched Buffy with you. I remember how you reacted to Faith.”) The kids in the Scooby Gang were my friends when I felt like I had none, my familiar faces to visit when I was off in New York City alone for college, and the show that taught me that even when everything sucks and feels impossible, you can still be brave and live.
Shows that almost made the list: Jane the Virgin, Pretty Little Liars, Nancy Drew, Glee, Shameless, Fleabag, Warehouse 13, Marvel’s Runaways, Impulse, OH GODS SO MANY MORE