Bis Beyond Sci-Fi!

BCN 118 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 118, April 2013

Bi on TV is not all Lost Girl and Warehouse 13 though, as outside sci-fi , and indeed SyFy, there have been small dollops of bisexuality in Heading Out (BBC), Parks & Recreations (BBC), The New Normal (E4) and web-based series House Of Cards USA (on Netflix).

Heading Out is a comedy vehicle for Light Lunch star and panel show regular Sue Perkins, playing a vet who is turning forty and yet to tell her parents she is a lesbian.  It’s good sitcom fare with a pleasing smattering of gay characters, and despite what I’m about to say is worth watching. However… we get just the one obvious bisexual character, in the form of NAME, an attention-seeking ex who turns up unwanted, invites herself to stay, and generally plays the role of Your Nightmare Ex — though much of her behaviour is equally possibly standard comedy bisexual and standard comedy French person, which one to take it as being is down to your interpretation.

Like Heading Out, The New Normal, showing over here on E4, is a show putting gay characters front and centre – but played for more queer ‘shock’ value.  Perhaps Queer As Folk is a better programme for comparison.  Episode 14, shown in mid April, devotes itself to the question of gaydar and working out whether one character is gay or straight.  A series of stock “must be a straight man” and “must be a gay man” personality traits leave people guessing, with bisexuality the unspoken elephant in the room.

American local government comedy Parks & Recreations is more fun than that set of labels probably suggests, as our hapless heroine tries to do a minor governmental role in a small town.  As NAME tries to cope with a new problem each week, series two kicks off with the dilemma of which side to take on the battle over LGBT rights after accidentally conducting a wedding for two penguins that turn out to both be male.  She meets some bis and a poly threesome along the way – all positively portrayed.

Finally readers may remember a TV series 20 years ago set in and around Westminster called “House of Cards”, probably best remembered for bringing the phrase “you might think that, I could not possibly comment” into popular currency.  Netflix have an American remake, House of Cards USA, set in US Democrat politics, which gets moving more quickly since two decades along viewers are less in need of persuading that politicians and journalists might be corrupt or self-serving.  The original’s Francis Urquhart is now called Frank but just as masterly a political schemer busy exacting revenge by manipulating others in politics and the press to do his dirty work for him.  Along the way we get an episode where we find out two characters are bisexual, or at least have bi pasts.  Nicely done as part of exploring a character’s “back story”.

Finally, media news about media news… Drew Barrymore is to host the 2013 GLAAD media awards.  Formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, GLAAD has just extended its remit to cover LGB&T, though the reporting in most of the queer press about bi-identified Drew being there as an ally due to her having a male partner suggests that maybe there needs to be a briefing note about what those extra letters mean.