New Fall Television: The Good, The Bad, The Promising and The Stupid

Reasons I know it’s autumn:

  1. The pumpkin spice latte is back at Starbucks.
  2. Everything I could possibly consume now comes in optional pumpkin flavors.
  3. I can wear a sweater and beanie at all times, and no longer be accused of insanity.
  4. My favorite shows are returning like the Jedi. Or the King. Or whatever non-nerdy thing is known for its remarkable return.
  5. New shows are premiering and making me feel like a giddy schoolgirl at the start of a crush.

When you’re done listening to Bon Iver and running around in the leaves, you should make yourself something warm and cinnamon-y and watch pretty people do pretty/funny/dramatic things on television. Here are some new and shiny faces that you should know about:+

The New Normal (NBC)

There’s a lot to unpack in this image

For better or for much worse, Ryan Murphy is the gay ambassador to mainstream television. His newest show tells the tale of an L.A. gay couple and the single mom they hire as a surrogate. One Million Moms has already started their trademark “why are we letting homosexuals outside where they can be seen” ruckus, which is ironic given the fact that Ellen Barkin’s character counts herself as one of them. I can’t say I’m terribly jazzed about this series. I can say that I’m pretty much not okay with it. It’s typical Ryan Murphy fare, with a whole lotta stereotyping and celebrity cameos to distract from the plot. There’s also some really shitty things said about lesbians, including the main characters referring to them as “ugly men.” Like, really Ryan Murphy? Is that fucking necessary? The one bright and shining star of this episode was Julie Goldman’s face, which reminded me that I’d rather be watching In Your Box Office. Apparently Leisha Hailey will be on the show later on in the season, but I love her so much that I want to sweep her up and carry her away before she can be a part of this Shit Train to Shitville. September 11, 9:30 PM EST.

 The Mindy Project (FOX)

You see that girl on the far left with the very awkward “just got shoved into the picture” pose? I am always that girl.

Mindy Kaling is totally adorable, guys. I love seeing female comedians do well, and I’m glad she’s finally having her moment. Sure, the Straight Girl Unfulfilled Without Boyfriend narrative is tired and a little dangerous, and maybe I can see where this show is going a little too clearly, but the jokes are pretty smart. Kaling is just the right amount of self-deprecatory, and it’s funny. It’s sad when I am shocked and amused by a comedy pilot being genuinely funny, but this managed to make me laugh, and that is no small accomplishment. There’s also enough guest appearances by SNL and The Office alums that it took me a second to realize this is broadcast on FOX and not NBC. If you like cute and funny girls who are also doctors, you should check this out. September 25, 9:30 PM EST.

 Elementary (CBS)

Lucy Liu should replace every traditionally white male role, let’s make this a thing.

Has the Sherlock Holmes narrative been exhausted yet? In the last five years, there’s been the movie series with Robert Downey Jr., the loose reinterpretation via House M.D., and that BBC show with the hobbit and the guy with the intense browline. Are we all Sherlocked out? No, I say! Because in this version, Watson is played by Lucy Liu, and if you can’t get down with that then there is just no hope for you. Gender-bending is my favorite way to remake anything – I’m still waiting with bated breath for the all-female version of The Expendables. This series’ Sherlock is fresh out of rehab, and Dr. Joan Watson is his roomie there to keep him sober. They live in Brooklyn and solve mysteries and say snarky things to each other! I’m on board. September 27, 10 PM EST.


Partners (CBS)

The dude on the far left’s face is my reaction to this entire trend.

Can I be the one to say this? Okay, I’m gonna be the one to say this. Do we really need another show on rich white thirty-something “sassy bottom/straight top” gay men this season? Was that necessary? Simply having a white gay man on a show, or even a show where a white gay man is one of the main characters, does not mean that we can give it a gold star for diversity and walk away happy. Here’s a show based on the lives of the creators of Will and Grace. My only feeling about it is that I’d like to see a show on a network television, comedy or drama or dramedy or I don’t even care, where a lesbian is the lead. A queer lady of any orientation, really. Let’s do this, mainstream. I know you suck at everything that isn’t patriarchy or heteronormativity, but can you just try? For me? Thanks, mainstream. September 24, 8:30 PM EST.


Beauty and the Beast (The CW)

He got that scar from a catfight on the runway.

Beauty and the Beast is the Disney movie I most identified with as a child because I too am French and a brunette and hairy all over love to read. The CW has its own version of the fairy tale starring Kristin Kreuk and someone whose name is Kiwi Jay Ryan. I would be more behind this if they were both chicks and making out all the time, or if he was actually super ugly and beastlike instead of having a SMALL SCAR ON HIS CHEEK but you know, details. Let’s hope they do this right and don’t sell abusive relationships as romantic. Cross your fingers, kids. October 11, 9 PM EST.


Nashville (ABC)

I can’t with this weird posing shit.

A soap opera about Nashville, you say? I would be cool with this show if I hadn’t seen all the promotional material, which has the main female leads in super awkward physical poses. Like look at this image up here. How freaking uncomfortable does Connie Britton look? And I’m pretty sure Hayden Panettiere’s typically short arms have been photoshopped to the approximate length of her legs and where is her head sitting on her body and nothing about her stance is human oh my god I feel disturbed. I saw posters on the NYC subway this weekend and was thoroughly creeped out by the weird angle of Connie Britton’s head as she sat on the guitar throne. Anyway, this show is about country star drama in Nashville, and since it’s a soap opera, it is probably also about kissing drama and money drama and surprise love children drama. But it’s country music, so they can write some ballads about it! October 10, 10 PM EST.


Revolution (NBC)

That’s a lot of frigging bows and arrows for a group shot.

Since the inability to access the Internet and thus Autostraddle is probably the worst thing we can imagine, here is a show about it. And it’s not just the Internet, it’s electricity and apparently all forms of energy that have inexplicably stopped working (??? I am by no means god’s gift to physics or science or numbers in general, but aren’t there ways to generate energy that don’t require modern technology?). This leaves the world in a post-apocalyptic state, which is very “in” right now thanks to Katniss and Co. And if you like bow and arrows, holy bajeesus this show has a ton of them! Bella Swan’s dad and a pretty lady in a leather jacket and some other people have decided to go on a quest to return the ring to Mordor and bring energy back to the planet. Then they can get back to downloading their Real L World torrents already. There are also some swords. September 17, 10 PM EST.


Vegas (CBS)


I know. This is an image from The Matrix. Unfortunately, Vegas is not about Trinity kicking ass all over the place, but I couldn’t find any good promotional images for the show and as a website for queer ladies, I figured that the only takeaway point you need is that Carrie-Anne Moss is on this show. Otherwise all the other main characters are male, and either for or against the new sheriff in town, played by Dennis Quaid. Yawn. Carrie-Anne Moss wears green and is Carrie-Anne Moss. September 25, 10 PM EST.


 The Carrie Diaries (The CW)

Her lime green leopard print sweater matches her eyes.

I think we’ve all spent an afternoon watching Sex and the City reruns while finishing off a tub of cheese popcorn. If the second movie didn’t turn you off the franchise entirely, The CW is reigniting your interest by creating a show about Carrie in high school. The premise of SATC was four women having sex in the city because they were of legal age to do so, so I’m not sure if this is going to become First Base and the City or Probably Statutory and the City. Midseason.


Emily Owens, M.D. (The CW)

Everyone’s looking at me like they know exactly what I did last night.

Emily Owens was super nerdy in high school and doesn’t like high school drama. Good thing she is now an adult who works at a hospital? Wrong! This hospital is just like Seattle Grace and full of high school drama. Sorry, Emily Owens. You’re the one who decided to work at a hospital on The CW. What did you expect, girl? Mamie Gummer, who plays Emily Owens, is Meryl Streep’s daughter FYI so maybe Meryl Streep will guest star at some point. And yet I feel like Meryl Streep is incapable of showing her face on a television show because it is too holy to be seen there. October 16, 9 PM EST.


Made in Jersey (CBS)

About to go Snooki on these bitches.

Remember in Legally Blonde when no one took Reese Witherspoon seriously because she was a girly girl who wore a lot of pink? Turns out the legal world is currently not taking girls from Jersey seriously. I will probably watch this. I have a super duper soft spot for Italian-American girls and I would totally split a cannoli with the leading lady if you know what I mean. My only complaint is that her accent is super duper bad and will probably bother me for a while. Like, I’m not expecting Fran Drescher here, but I’d like to at least feel that you come from the general vicinity of the tri-state area. September 28, 9 PM EST.

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Full-time writer, part-time lover, freelancing in fancy cheese and cider.

Kate has written 130 articles for us.


  1. The Mindy Project was totally promising. I liked the pilot (it’s OnDemand! Hooray!) and am hoping for big things, because having a smart, funny woman of color as the lead of a major network show feels pretty good. ONLY GOOD THINGS FOR WONDERFUL MINDY!
    Am I the only one who was praying unrealistically for Partners to be about a bisexual dude and a poly arrangement? Anyone else?

    • First I got offended and then I was like jesus, she’s right.

      My power came on about 7 days after the storm. And my garbage was picked up roughly another week and a half later. I wonder if it’s hardcore smelly in the land of Revolution? My guess is yes.

  2. My girlfriend and I saw a promo for “Nashville” when we were at the second run theatre. Not gonna lie, I’m kind of interested. Maybe just because my quota for Southern accents has been empty since I stopped watching True Blood.

    • oh yes, southern accents! people at camp told me it’s weird I like them. don’t care, it’s hot! also, hayden whatsherface!

  3. As of right now I’m so against The New Normal that I’m simultaneously terrified and excited Leisha Hailey’s gonna be on. I don’t want the show to be shit anymore if she’s going to be on!

    • Agreed. The two gay leads are such a hetronormative couple. The prissy queen and the “straight” male. Ugh. I cringed when I saw the husband sitting on the couch, drinking beer and watching sports. Of course, this is the only gay couple that a heterosexual audience can digest. I will take Modern Family over The New Normal any day.

      • According to Ryan, Andrew Rannells’ character is based on his (Ryan’s) own personality . And I guess that the more masculine gays they’re paired are Ryan’s projection of what he fancies? You can definitely see the pattern there, because Kurt Hummel is also Ryan Murphy, as well as Quinto’s character from American Horror Story. They are all paired with guys who are less camp and more “straight” looking.

        At this point it’s predictable, you know that a Ryan Murphy show is going to have a snarky gay, a more masculine, more fancieable one, jokes about lesbians, someone who adores Gwyneth Paltrow/Gwyneth Paltrow herself, some racism, maybe some jokes about other minorities, lots of female characters who act like bitches, and a few men who are completely adored by the rest of the characters and presented as perfect to the audience who often teach the bitches a lesson when they need it.

      • Ric – Agreed about Modern Family, since basically Ryan Murphy based heaping helpings his show on that one, but forgot to add the subtlety.

    • I know! I can’t stop myself from watching The New Normal, even though it went from simply “eh…” to “OMG they are not really doing this for real OMG I can’t watch” in like, four minutes.

      My friend and I agree that the sassy gay one looks like a brunette version of a Ken doll, and is just as sexless.

      Also, I really hate that there is this thing now where gay relationships are pictured with such heteronormative pairings. There is always a feminine and masculine character in a relationship. Never two flaming fags desperately in love and fighting over their designer clothes together. Nope. It has to be girly and boyish or not at all. And of course no queerish or colorful women ever. Unless it’s the sassy black girl stereotype, which is also getting really tired and cliche.

      Where are the real characters? You know, characters you could see as being real people and not just live action cartoons?

      Ugh. :(

      • This is SO sad because Andrew Rannells is SO good, and I was SO excited for him. Stupendous in The Book of Mormon, stellar on Girls, very funny in his cameo in Bachelorette- usually playing the sassy gay, but that’s far less problematic if he can also have a sassy gay partner! AGREED, Heather.

        • That’s the saddest part about Ryan Murphy productions! They have access to such amazing and talented people (like Andrew Rannells and Naya Rivera and Lea Michele and most of the cast of Glee except Finn) but it’s such a waste. I think that’s why I’m so harsh on Glee and why I will be so harsh on the New Normal.

          I am like Ryan Murphy’s ever disapproving mother who just wants him to live up to his potential.

    • I saw the first episode of The New Normal and every single one of the adult characters that appeared in the first episode except the the surrogate woman were all just like casually racist the whole time with no one getting called out except the older lady. I obv don’t remember anyone’s names on this show. It bugged the crap out of me and I will certainly not be continuing to watch that garbage. When are people going to learn that being racist and stereotyping people isn’t a funny joke?

      I think I saw an article about shows with queer characters (generally white gay males) lately feeling like it suddenly okay to be racist and stereotype people because they’re gay and therefore minorities too… leaving out the fact that they’re still… ya know… (usually) white males. And also the fact that that’s never okay to do.

      • Did you happen to see the quotes of Ali Adler trying to explain away the casual racism of the show? It was really pathetic:

        “”What I would say of lesbian jokes is that we make jokes about everybody and so we are equal opportunity offenders. If we start censoring ourself on any different type of person we’re just going to hurt our own process.”


        “He’s literally color-blind, gender-blind, homosexual-blind. So The New Normal is not so much a grand gesture of ‘We’re going to teach the country a lesson’ as ‘This is something you should already know.'”

  4. The best part about The New Normal, by far, is Bebe Wood’s (the young actress playing the daughter of the surrogate) Little Edie Beale’s impersonation. I could watch a show about that all day long.

  5. Hi, Kate. I’m gonna post this all conversationally, because I like to pretend this recap of new shows was really just you and I chatting about TV and not me in the corner of a library entering my grad school k-hole, sans TV:

    A – Thanks for mentioning The New Normal and Partners as just some white people with two stereotyped gay white males. I mean, right? Can I get a lesbian all up in here? Can we follow my sister as she follows me around begging me to have a baby for her since “I’ll probably never do it on my own?” I MEAN, RIGHT?

    B – I know the girl starring in the Carrie Diaries as she’s really involved with the nonprofit I just left for said grad school k-hole, and I’ve gotta say I cried a little when she told us she was doing this. It’ll be huge, because SATC is so big for that 16-21 age group, thanks to syndication. But I’m sad she’s portraying it. Ehh. Whatev.

    C – HOW ABOUT SHOWS THAT ARE RETURNING? Someone please tell me they watch Happy Endings, so it’s not actually just my girlfriend and I shout-laughing at the TV. That is all.

    • happy endings is so good. and it has a non-stereotypical gay character unlike all this ryan murphy nonsense!

    • re the Carrie Diaries–if you want to see really what Carrie Bradshaw was like in high school,watch Square Pegs instead.

      re Emily Owen MD, in the promo photo, it’s Necar Zadegan from Elena Undone…

  6. Thanks for putting this together Kate! How on earth would I watch TV without Autostraddle (srsly not sarcasm)?

    Also the simple fact that Mindy Kaling exists in front of my face is awesome. Will watch while I do homework.

  7. I’ll definitely give Elementary a look because I’m a huge Sherlock fan, but my general feeling about it is that it comes off as a missed opportunity. We already have an excellent modern day Sherlock as you mentioned, so the gender bending is good but it still feels kind of safe. Imagine if they had the guts to let a really great actress play Sherlock. Now that would be must watch TV. Of course, a woman who is smarter than every man she meets is still way too threatening for it to be allowed on TV. Throw in the fact that she could also kick their asses, and right wingers would start shitting themselves with fear.

    I’m not really excited for much else on the list. I’m so over anything with Ryan Murphy’s name on it. The show I’m most excited for right now is Doctor Who but we’re only getting two more episodes before a break until Christmas.

    • I love Sherlock and Dr. Who. I wish Elementary had gone all the way and just genderswapped both of Watson and Sherlock.

    • Yes I’d LOVE it if there were a female Sherlock! That’s what we really need. And also, I don’t believe the guy who plays Sherlock in Elementary is very compelling. He doesn’t tug at my heartstrings like so many other versions have.

    • Um, yeah. That’s what I said. A female Sherlock. Why are other people are getting rated up and I’m not? Because that was my whole point. Maybe my comment was unclear?

    • I actually think that might get problematic for the Asian female character to be the super-smart but lacking social skills one of the two, you know? It’d be hard to do without playing into stereotypes. I LOVE my badass female leads more than anything but I kinda get why they made the call the way they did here. Also I think/hope they’re gonna make her be his intellectual equal/a challenge to him instead of the passive following-holmes-around kind of Watson that you sometimes see, and they promised it wouldn’t get romantic (which I was worried about). So I’m hopeful about Elementary, even though I do think Lucy Liu should play the lead in EVERY show.

  8. I don’t care too much about the new shows, I’ll check out Elementary and I actually enjoyed yesterday’s New Normal. I’m way more excited about Scandal, The Good Wife, and Parks and Rec coming back.

  9. Also, I’m not sold on Revolution, it seems aimed perfectly at my interests but the premier was mainly meh. There were some interesting developments at the end though so I’ll watch for a couple weeks and see if it gets more interesting.

    • Meh? Just meh? That was one of the most gigantic piles of crap I’ve seen on TV for a while*.

      I mean… planes spiraling out of the sky? Somehow internal combustion engines no longer work? Gigantic plants all over everything within 15 years, because you totally need electricity to pull some weeds?

      *or at least since I watched the premiere of Terra Nova and turned the damn thing off halfway through

      • No kidding – regarding the plants – what the hell. They’re walking by Wrigley Field in Chicago, and there is NOTHING surrounding it – like it’s in the middle of a field with tons of greenery, all the buildings are gone, except the baseball stadium. WTF? Have the producers never been to Chicago? Wrigley field is surrounded by city.

        And the clothes! If anything is going to wear out over 15 years, it’s going to be clothes. People are not going to be wearing freshly-minted screen print t-shirts, or the lycra crop-top thing that the girl main character was wearing. And a pristine leather jacket? Not hardly. And the housing development with dirt roads and gardens planted – wouldn’t they plant the gardens behind the houses, and keep the streets in the housing complex?

        I get that they want the cool contrast of modern day and pre-industrial revolution, but come on. A few better choices would do it.

        I gather they’re going to have some explanation of why combustion engines won’t work, but even so, planes would not just fall out of the sky that way – they’d glide down.

        This was my irritation with FlashForward – at least think some of these things through.

        • Yes on the Wrigley Field thing! My parents used to live in a condo a couple blocks from there, so even though I’ve never been to Chi-town I knew that was crap.

      • Mainly meh because I didn’t have high enough expectations to actually be let down. I was more surprised at how bored I was during the entire episode, they could at least make it interesting.

  10. Emily Owens, MD has a lesbian character in it. A black lesbian at that. That wasn’t mentioned in the article so I’ll just assume you guys weren’t aware. Chicago Fire and Go On also have lesbian characters in them. The latter show also has Laura Benanti in it which IMO is more important but that’s just me.

  11. Loved the Sex and the City mash-ups.

    And RIGHT? Why is mainstream TV so afraid of female sexuality? Are lesbians more scary than a bitchy, femme-bot gay man? I really don’t think so, we have boobs for Christ sake.

  12. I hated HATED that part on the New Normal where the two main guy characters say some shit about how they don’t want to end up like old lesbians, and then also said something really horrible about their appearance too. Oh my god. I mean, that grandma on there is SUPPOSED to be awful, but aren’t these guys supposed to be the nice ones? I mean, what?? Is that supposed to be funny??

    And yeah, then I started thinking about how we never have queer women as THE main characters of a show, and they would never be portrayed as fashionable or cool or smart or attractive, unless it was in the style of the Real L Word or something. It’s so depressing. I’m tired of white gay cismen supposedly being able to represent the entire queer community, especially when they say ugly ignorant things about queer women. That’s disgusting.

    • What I find the most appalling about those lines on The New Normal is that the show was co-created and written by a lesbian. Like she probably wrote those lines. What the actual fuck Ali Adler?

  13. I am pretty sure I must be the only one… but I actually liked The New Normal. I definitely agree that the stereotypes were flying everywhere, but I also thought the juxtaposition between the gay characters/their allies and the bigoted grandma/other haters actually presented a pretty positive narrative. The gay characters/allies come off as big hearted, while their foils come off as small minded and hateful. The more tired anti-gay tropes the writers play out through the grandma and other characters of her ilk, the worse that perspective will look–and the better the pro-gay perspective.

    Also, there are at least *some* non-stereotypical aspects to the show. The doctor character breaks a lot of mainstream gay stereotypes–he plays sports, gets in a fight in the latest episode, and doesn’t know anything about fashion. Also, though I agree that the husband/wife dynamic could be perceived as stereotypical, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the existence of couples like that should be erased from portrayal in the media.

    In re the lesbian jokes, call me insensitive, but I actually thought they were kind of funny. I have to admit though that I kind of like offensive humor and believe that if a few biting jokes are made about gay women, then I can make a few about gay men right back. I don’t mind laughing at myself once in a while (as long as I can laugh at you right back haha).

    • I think the “biting right back” thing would actually require a lot more lesbians to be producing television shows, though. Ali Adler may be writing, but she doesn’t really have too much room to make fun of her boss.

      Murphy is still coming from a place of privilege – white, male, affluent. He doesn’t have the room to be casting those kinds of stones, even if he’s gay.

  14. I don’t watch much TV, but I saw a couple of episodes of The New Normal and the only redeeming thing about it is the adorably precocious little girl.

    Also, I think “Go On” deserves mention not only as a really good show, but also because of the diversity of (female) characters. And yes, there is a lesbian character, Anne, who is very matter-of-fact about it, and no one has made any snide comments about her yet, not to mention she looks and acts like A REAL LIFE LESBIAN (LIKE US!) She’s not male-gaze beautiful, nor is she some run down plumber with a stringy mullet. From what I’ve seen of Go On, and as someone who is not a television person, I highly recommend it.

    • I was surprised they left out Go On! I’m really enjoying it so far, and I think Anne has a lot of potential. Hopefully they’ll have an episode that delves further into her back-story.

  15. oh my gosh, I’m with you on this – like, how many shows can there be whose premise is, “Look at families today! They’re so different now, there are so many! Like straight people and gay men! Look at how adorable these gay men are, they’re just like a straight couple but a little more sassy! How entertaining!”
    but the thing is I will still totally watch them because I love Andrew Rannells and that guy who played Marc on Ugly Betty. Maybe it’s a stereotype but I still think it’s brave & important to “be really gay” and I identify more with the fashion-oriented/theatrical/flamboyant/dare I say more “femme” gay characters anyway. It used to make me sad that as a femme lesbian I’m less visible but if I were a femme gay man I’d be much more easy to spot.

  16. ok, it just seems to be me that thinks this since no one else mentioned it: to me it seems both glee and the two episodes of the new normal for sure have stereotypes, that’s the point almost. they stereotype everyone to the fullest, and that’s where the laugh comes from.

    but the issue I have with this method of comedy, is there is the insider joke of “god, people are that awful/racist/essentialist” and there’s the outsider joke of “haha, racist person, haha, gay dudes, haha lesbians that look like men.”

    so we’re all agreeing that it’s not good that this exists, I just feel these shows aren’t trying to show the alternative good version (cause that is boring, or not mainstream enough) and instead go for the entertaining/join in on either level of consciousness of bigotry/idiocy/stereotypes in our country.

    ps, interesting character development in both shows (beyond some icky one-liners). and the second episode has a different tone than the pilot in the new normal, maybe cause of the endless grey gardens references???

  17. FOR REALZ! Its very sad when the only respectable gay/bisexual ladies I can think of on TV are Inara (and possibly Kaylee) from Firefly and Tosh from Torchwood, and one of them is a fancy prostitute and the other was seduced by a predatory lesbian alien, and both of them are femme as fuck. Gimme my representation!

    (Im supre drunk. Hopefully this makes sense?)

  18. Revolution: Eric Kripke writes a show where all the protagonists are white and all the characters of color are morally grey at best/framed as evil/probably the enemy. -_- I couldn’t be less surprised if I tried.

    And even with JJ Abrams in the mix to temper it down a bit, I don’t trust Kripke writing a female protagonist. With a few exceptions in the first season, all he ever did on Supernatural was fridge women and write them as evil and have his male characters be CONSTANTLY super misogynistic.

  19. I would have loved to have seen a show with a Revolution like premise, but instead of how the future is portrayed on the show, the Amish have taken over the world, since that’s pretty much how they live anyway.

  20. cheese popcorn dosent exist in the UK, but i had it one time and i may or may not have cried with happiness at its existance. USA! USA!

  21. Yesssss, Mindy! So excited to watch that one- I can ignore the whole “needing a boyfriend” thing because she’s so adorable.

  22. So, The Mindy Project is a centered around a heterosexual woman following the line of thought that, “Omg, I can’t be complete without a man in my life.” How wonderful. How original. I can’t wait. :/

    Also, I just want to say, The New Normal is incredibly offensive and just generally horrible, including the acting.

  23. I am glad that The Mindy Project features a woman of color as the main character though, even if she is like the ONLY person of color apparently in the show.

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