The Boob Tube: It’s Not Just For the Breeders Anymore, Kid!


A decade ago this November, Pedro Zamora, the gay, HIV-positive housemate on The Real World: San Francisco, succumbed to AIDS. His public life—streamed into the heartland on MTV—and death at 22 brought homosexuality into the family room, challenging the prejudices of young Americans. Ellen didn’t come out on the cover of Time until 1997. Rosie was still crooning love songs to Tom Cruise through 2001. Straight guys everywhere were furnishing apartments and buying clothes without assistance from the Fab Five. Imagine. Since a prime-time program first implied a character’s homosexuality in ’64, television’s treatment of gays and lesbians has evolved from innuendo to embrace—contrast the mannerisms of Three’s Company‘s ambiguous Jack Tripper with the slapstick camp of Will & Grace‘s Jack McFarland. Beginning this week, the Museum of Television and Radio tracks that sometimes painful, often hilarious 40-year arc. Bonus screenings include “Unlocking the Closet: The Early Years” (through April 1) and “Some of My Best Friends Are . . . : ’70s Sitcoms” (April 2 through 8), including the 1971 All in the Family episode in which Archie berates Mike’s effeminate pal Roger, General Hospital‘s Anthony Geary, for being gay (turns out he’s straight). We’ve come a long way. Thanks, Pedro.

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