“One Big Happy” Gets Axed, Ilene Chaiken Gets Crowned: How Lesbian TV Fared This Renewal Season

It is the best of times and the worst of times, a season of sweet relief and a season of crushing blows, it is TV renewal season and it has been quite a day. (It’s also May Sweeps, so really it’s been quite a week. Charlie, the lesbian character on Supernatural, was murdered; and Nyssa, the lesbian character on Arrow, was married off to a man.) We spend a lot of time talking about how we’re striding into this golden age of queer representation on television, and while it’s true that we’ve made astronomical progress in the last ten years, it’s important to remember that queer women are still wildly underrepresented on TV, and so every tiny scrap of representation matters. (See above, re: May Sweeps.)

Let’s run down the good, the bad, the unknown, and the whatever of this renewal season.

The Good


+ Y’all, Ilene Chaiken inked a two-year seven-figure deal with 20th Century Fox. She will continue to showrun Empire and she’ll also work to develop new projects. One boss over at 20th said, “Ilene is about as gifted a showrunner as there is in this business.” She’s always going to be the murderer of Dana Fairbanks and Other West Hollywood Horrors to me, but also there has never been a show like Empire, and I mean that in terms of race and sexuality and also, I mean, any person who is responsible for bringing more Cookie Lyon into my life is a kind of hero.


+ Black-ish, which featured Raven-Symone as a lesbian character last week — a thing we’ll talk about in Boob(s On Your) Tube on Monday — has been picked up for a second season.

+ Fresh Off the Boat, another show centered around people of color that gave us a really stellar gay-themed episode this year, has also been renewed for season two.

+ You know Grey’s Anatomy is back for a 12th season, nbd. ABC has renewed it through infinity.

The 100 is coming back for season three, so Clarke and Lexa can figure out what the heck is going on between them.

+ Jane the Virgin will for absolutely sure return for a second season, which is super amazing news, and not just because it features Luisa, a lesbian woman of color whose new girlfriend is a professional wrestler named Juicy Jordan. It’s also a show full of kickass feminism and so many women interacting with each other about so many amazing things all the time. It’s my absolute favorite show of 2015.

+ No one knows if this summer’s Rookie Blue is season 6 or season 5B, but whichever one it is, it’s back! Gail and Holly, hurrah! (Same for Under the Dome; it’ll be back this summer with its widowed lesbian mama.)

+ These awesome female-led shows that don’t feature queer female characters (yet) have also been renewed: How to Get Away With Murder, Agent Carter, Madame Secretary, and Scandal. (Thank you for being a friend, ABC.)

The Bad


+ NBC pulled the plug on One Big Happy after a shaky, but promising six-episode first season. Here’s hoping the Peacock understands that it wasn’t the lesbian lead that caused the show’s ratings troubles. And here’s hoping Liz Feldman enjoys all the success in the world in the future. She deserves it.

+ NBC also killed Marry Me, which featured “soft butch flannel queen” Kay, one of my favorite new lesbian characters of the 2014-2105 TV season, and one of the very few black lesbian characters on broadcast TV.

+ ABC passed on the Fortune Feimster/Tina Fey tag-team, Family Fortune, which would have been a multi-camera sitcom (co-starring Annie Potts!) about Fortune coming out to her family. I’m really bummed about this one not making it.

+ Fox cancelled The Mindy Project, Riese’s favorite comedy and the show that gave us a new lesbian character of color named Dr. Jean and Julie Goldman and Laverne Cox on our screens this year. But! There’s a very real chance Hulu is going to pick it up.

+ We also lost supporting queer characters on Parenthood, Heart of Dixie, and Red Band Society, none of which got renewed. Parenthood got a proper send off, at least.

The Unknown

+ One of the characters on Weird Loners came out as bi this week (which, again: we’ll talk about in Boobs Tube!), but Fox still hasn’t announced if the show will get a second season.

+ Person of Interest hasn’t yet been renewed for a fifth season and it needs to be because if I don’t get to see Root and Shaw make out some more I am going to LOSE MY MIND.

The Whatever



+ Supernatural is coming back for season 11, but hey guess what? They killed Charlie the lesbian this week, so until they resurrect her, I don’t care.

+ The CW has given Arrow a fourth season, which I want to be excited about because Nyssa al Ghul is a lesbian woman of color who also is a badass motherfucker, but the show killed off bisexual superhero Sara Lance earlier this season and married Nyssa off to Oliver last week, so.

+ Gotham completely forgot Renee Montoya exists and played the Bisexual Psycho trope all over the finale with Barbara Kean, so until I hear about some serious progress on those two fronts, that show is dead to me.

+ The Good Wife is coming back but they messed up to bad with Kalinda in the end and now she’s gone and so I don’t care about it.

That’s all I know for now. I’ll update the unknowns as soon as they’re known.

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. You prolly got this in another post, but I’m just super excited that Orphan Black is for sure getting a fourth season. Also, Tatiana Maslany (The Best Actor Currently Working in Television®) did a pretty good Ask Me Anything over at reddit. She hinted that we may, indeed, see Tony again.

    So sad about One Big Happy. I also hope Liz Feldman gets to do more amazing things in the near future.

    And completely agree with your assessments of both Gotham and Jane the Virgin. I’m just afraid that the Jane writers are going to end Season 1 with such a wild cliffhanger that I won’t survive the wait for Season 2.

  2. I would like for Liz Feldman and Sarah Haskins to team up and write a show together. They are both writers for my favorite cancelled series (not sure what the plural here is), so it’s an obvious match.

  3. I’m a little bit devastated about Family Fortune. I absolutely love Fortune Feimster, and, you know, Tina Fey, AND ANNIE POTTS (she’s an alum of my college! Wooo!), and I was so excited. So fuck you, ABC.
    But, I saw that Queen Shonda is gracing us with another gem, a lady power show that stars an actress I adore and who has a history of playing kickass characters, Mireille Enos. I was obsessed with Big Love and The Killing, so I’m super excited for this, even if it’s just another avenue for Queen Shonda to shatter my heart.

  4. Pretty excited for Gotham to come back! :)Also i hear Modern Family is coming back too

  5. I’m really excited that so many shows centered around people of color have done so well and been renewed, I wish everybody could have a meeting about why everything good is on at the same time and then like, nothing is on at another time

    • ABC unveiled its schedule today, and as far as I can tell, only two of the new shows center around a white cast. ALSO MUPPETS.

      (Is there a queer Muppet?)

  6. You know what? Good for Ilene Fuckin’ Chaiken.
    Happy for Jane the Virgin and Fresh Off the Boat, sad for One Big Happy

  7. Noooooo Family Fortune didn’t make it??? I was so looking forward to it, it sounded hilarious!!

  8. I don’t think I can adequately describe how devastated I am about Supernatural killing off Charlie. She was fridged. I was actually depressed all day yesterday. I am angry. I just need her to not be dead.

    • I totally feel you. I love spn and I love Charlie, she’s one of my fav female characters ever and I was so excited to have queer representation on the show. I’ll admit I was worried ever simce she became a recurring character though.

    • Yes! I was yelling at the TV and just heartbroken about it. Charlie was the best! And I loved that most of the time they didn’t make a big deal about her sexuality all. She was the smartest character on that show! I’m tired of their only being 4 characters we can rely on sticking around.

      • But come on! Her death was TOTALLY necessary to fuel Dean’s man pain ! Just like every other female death in this show.
        Uh this fucking show, I’m so glad I quit it.

  9. A lot of great reporting going on here, but I really just want to say that I’m looking forward to talking about the Raven episode of Boobs on Monday. I have so many thoughts/ feelings.

    And also, RENEE MONTOYA FOREVER!!!!!!

    • *Raven episode of BLACKISH during Boobs on Monday. I was moving too fast there! (Though I suppose “Raven on Boobs” isn’t the worst typo that one could have, lol)

  10. ABC listened to us when we said that we wanted “Agent Carter” back. Now we just need them to hear us that Peggy and Angie belong together. There are whispers that they do hear us and are considering it.

  11. It’s terrible that I’m relieved all that’s happened to Nyssa so far in Arrow is that she’s been married off to some dude against her will. From what I vaguely remember of the comics is that she was Ra’s first heir but cause she would not give him heirs, which I kinda read between the lines as meaning Nyssa was a lesbian, he allowed her to rot in a Nazi concentration camp with her chosen family.

  12. One Big Happy was painful. I really wanted to like it but god, i hated it. Kinda glad they cut it.

    • I agree. The show needed the laugh track because no one would have laughed at those jokes. There was absolutely nothing compelling about it.

  13. I’m sad about One Big Happy (although I didn’t watch it as I don’t have a TV, I was totally planning on watching it eventually… somehow!) and the Mindy Project, here’s hoping it does go to Hulu!

    I gotta admit I can’t believe Supernatural is still on the air, I thought it was cancelled years ago! If you told me One Tree Hill was still running I would be less shocked than I am now. But I guess maybe it’s gotten better in the last… 9 years since I’ve seen it last?

  14. I’m also so bummed about ABC turning down Fortune Feimster. :( And Supernatural killed off Felicia Day?? I couldn’t get 2 episodes into that show but seriously is there any female character they HAVEN’T killed?

  15. Kinda glad that “One Big Happy” was cancelled. That show was painfully bad – I kept trying to like it, but I had to stop after wincing through the first few episodes.

    I didn’t know Ilene Chaiken was the “Empire” showrunner! She’s killing it! Get it, lady!

    A little heartbroken about “Marry Me”. While it wasn’t perfect, the characters were pretty fantastic, especially “soft butch flannel queen” Kay and the main characters two dads, Kevin and Kevin, haha.

  16. I though Under the Dome was cancelled. Guess not. Overall I’ve been disappointed with this year in television anyway. Especially when it comes to queer women’s storylines. So many either ended up dead or trapped in horrible situations(Like Nyssa ugh).

    If you want to thank anyone for Cookie Lyon it should probably be Lee Daniels, since you know he created Empire and it’s characters and still overseas much of the creative process including the writing of the majority of the episodes. He’s the mastermind of that show more than anyone else. Fox really should be giving him a TV deal as well. If Chaiken were really as responsible for Empire as the media seems to be giving her credit for that show would be a complete mess and definitely not star half the people that are in it.

  17. The CW did pick up a Flash/Arrow spin-off with Caity Lotz’s Sara Lance as one of the leads. So glad to know that the Greg Berlanti DC Television Universe plays fast and loose with the rules of death, just like comic books.

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