Ellen DeGeneres paved the way for lesbians on television when she came out in a 1997 episode of her eponymous sitcom. Now, with a slew of high-profile lesbian characters appearing on the small screen, DeGeneres is developing a comedy for NBC with a lesbian character in the lead role.
Deadline's Nellie Andreeva reported that DeGeneres is set to executive produce a multi-camera comedy alongside Liz Feldman, who will write the story of a lesbian and her straight male best friend. She gets pregnant with his baby just as her friend meets and marries his true love.
While it's obviously unclear whether this will make it to air—please say it gets picked up over DeGeneres' Sophia Grace and Rosie pilot—it comes at a strange time for the depiction of LGBT characters on TV. Though GLAAD's annual "Where We Are on TV" report found that the number of LGBT series regulars on primetime broadcast scripted TV were down in the 2013-14 season from a record high the year before, it's evident that lesbian characters are growing in prevalence.
In a piece for Slate last week, Willa Paskin wrote about the "moment" lesbians are having on TV. After a summer that brought us the characters of Orange Is the New Black and The Fosters, Paskin counts lesbian a characters on Once Upon a Time, Betrayal, The Crazy Ones, The Bridge, and more. She explains that while this advancement is a) "not boring" and b) "progressive," it's also "not nearly as progressive as it first appears" since some of the characters' attraction to other women simply fits in a male fantasy. Not only that, Paskin writes, but "you only have to compare the prevalence of lesbians making out on television to the dearth of gay men doing the same to see that the medium is far from a bastion of open-mindedness."
That's evident, to an extent, in NBC's experience. The network currently has Sean Saves the World in their comedy lineup, a show that features Sean Hayes as a single, gay dad, but The New Normal, about a gay male couple having a baby via surrogate was canceled after just one season. Now, the network will try to see if DeGeneres and Feldman's idea can work. It could be great if it does.