HBO offers the most and best depictions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, according to a report by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
In GLAAD's third annual Network Responsibility Index, which evaluated the five major networks and 10 cable outlets, HBO — the home to True Blood, Entourage and No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency — scored the highest rating and a grade of "Good," with 42 percent of its programming featuring LGBT content. Showtime placed second.
"This year programming was not only inclusive of LGBT people, but networks like HBO are beginning to reflect the broad diversity within our community," Rashad Robinson, GLAAD's senior director of media programs, said in a statement.
In all, GLAAD evaluated 4,901 hours of prime-time broadcast programming and 1,213 hours from cable, from June 2008 through May 2009.
Also ranking "Good" was ABC, the best-performing of the Big 5. With such shows as Brothers & Sisters and Grey's Anatomy, ABC boasted LGBT content in 24 percent of its fare. The CW followed with 20 percent.
Among the networks graded "Adequate," Fox (11 percent) rose from its year-ago last-place finish, though GLAAD said that some of its LGBT-inclusive hours included "problematic content."
Namely, a pair of Family Guy episodes — "Family Gay" and "Sit Down, Shut Up" — "included an excess of offensive gay images," said Robinson. Also, So You Think You Can Dance was the subject of a GLAAD Call to Action when judge Nigel Lythgoe made comments about two male dancing partners that were deemed by the organization to be homophobic.
Lythgoe later apologized.
"Failing" grades went to NBC (8 percent), CBS (5 percent) and cable's Syfy, A&E and TBS. CBS' annual ranking dropped from third among broadcast networks to last.
While the four other outlets with "failing" grades declined to comment on their showing, Syfy's executive vice president of original content, Mark Stern, told TVGuide.com, "We're disappointed, obviously, and we take this [issue] very seriously."
Already in the pipeline at Syfy, Stern said, Stargate Universe (premiering Oct. 2) stars ER alumna Ming-Na as a lesbian diplomat with a wife at home, while the Battlestar Galactica prequel spin-off Caprica (debuting Jan. 22, 2010) will depict at least two characters as being in gay relationships.
Of the 10 cable networks studied, TNT showed the most growth in LGBT content (from 1 to 19 percent of its programming), while FX posted the steepest decline (down 32 percent).
Looking ahead, GLAAD has high hopes for ABC's Modern Family (which features a gay couple adopting a Vietnamese baby) and Fox's Glee.
"[T]here is a tremendous opportunity for networks to share the stories of all members of our community," said Robinson, "including lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as well as LGBT people of color — all groups which continue to be underrepresented."