In 1948, four television networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, and erstwhile Dumont) began broadcasting a full primetime lineup of fairly staid shows into American homes. The first Golden Age of television in the 1950s brought livelier programs like I Love Lucy, which paved the way for decades of situational comedies based on family drama and interpersonal relationships. Despite covering a broad swath of the human experience, it would take years for TV to finally reflect the fact that not all relationships are heterosexual. In 1972, That Certain Summer portrayed a divorced father (Hal Holbrook) hiding his relationship with a man (Martin Sheen) from his son. According to The New York Times, it’s considered “the first sympathetic depiction of gay people on television.”
Hot l Baltimore (1975) and Soap (1977-1981) also featured gay characters; however, they were never shown being intimate. It would take until 1991 for an NBC procedural to feature what was considered to be the first lesbian kiss on commercial network television. In response, some advertisers reportedly yanked their advertising, and NBC received 85 calls about the episode — more than half were negative. That was actually par for the course for L.A. Law; the series was known for breaking taboos. It prominently featured a character farting in another episode. It ran for eight seasons and won several Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series (probably not for the passing gas plotline).
Once L.A. Law showed two women kissing one another, other shows soon followed with their own gay storylines. These are the landmark TV kisses that crossed boundaries, sparked conversation, and broke new ground.
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