The past several years have been pretty good for LGBT-focused TV series, with shows like Faking It, Sense8, Transparent and The Fosters garnering critical acclaim and big audiences.
But the TV landscape is littered with gay-themed shows that bombed. Hard.
Some were well-intentioned, others were crass and exploitative. All were yanked off the air before anyone could even think about a second season.
Below, we take a look at 15 shows that went out with a gay whimper, not a bang.
One Big Happy (2015)
NBC gave a big push for this Ellen DeGeneres-produced sitcom—about a lesbian and a straight guy whose plan to have a baby together is complicated by the arrival of his new wife.
But Happy, was a critical and ratings disaster and got canceled after just six episodes.
The McCarthys (2015)CBS
This sitcom about a gay man (Tyler Ritter) and his close-knit, sports-living, Irish Catholic was based on the creator Brian Gallivan’s real family. But that didn’t save it from being pulled after 11 episodes.
Sean Saves the World (2013)NBC
Sean Hayes’ first lead TV role since Will & Grace had a promising cast including sitcom veteran Linda Lavin as his mother, Megan Hilty as his best friend and Thomas Lennon as his boss.
But the story of a single gay dad juggling a career and raising a teenage daughter just didn’t click with audiences—it was cancelled after 15 episodes.
Will & Grace creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick turned their working relationship into a CBS sitcom about two best friends (Michael Urie and David Krumholtz), one gay, one straight.
Partners debuted to poor reviews and disappointing ratings, even with the hit How I Met Your Mother as a lead in. Thirteen episodes were made but CBS aired only six.
The New Normal (2012)NBC
NBC hoped to corral Ryan Murphy’s ratings magic into this comedy about a gay couple (Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha) who invite their surrogate to move in with them—bringing along an extended family that included her precocious daughter, slacker ex, and homophobic mother (a delicious Ellen Barkin).
The New Normal looked like a potential hit, getting strong ratings following The Voice, but many viewers disappeared once The Voice ended. Its chances for a second season disappeared with them.
Queer Eye for the Straight Girl (2005)Bravo
Spinning off the success of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, this makeover show saw three gay guys and a lesbian—a.k.a. the “Gal Pals”—help hapless ladies in Los Angeles.
But the magic of the original Queer Eye was never quite recreated—maybe because women just want to see their men turned into Prince Charming?—and the show ended after its first season.
Wonder Years’ Fred Savage returned to TV for this sitcom about Mitch Crumb, a successful gay screenwriter who returns home to take care of his mother (Jane Curtin), who was just released from her mental institution.
Though Mitch was out to his Hollywood colleagues, he never came out to his family—and even faked a relationship with a woman. Thirteen episodes were made but ABC aired only five before axing the show.
Boy Meets Boy (2003)Bravo
All of gaydom tuned in for this Bravo reality series, which seemed at first like a queer spin on any number of dating shows. But when the host revealed to bachelor James Getzlaff (and us) that some of his Romeos were actually straight guys trying to win $25,000, things went south. Fast.
Seriously, Dude, I’m Gay (2004)
This 120-minute special featured two straight guys trying to convince friends and relatives they were actually gay, in hopes of winning $50,000. GLAAD described the show as “an exercise in systematic humiliation,” with contestants calling the pretense “their worst nightmare.”
Fox axed Seriously before it even aired, though insiders say it was the failure of the similarly-themed reality program, Playing It Straight, (below) that did it in.
Playing It Straight (2004)
The setup to this corny reality competition: A young woman spends time with 14 men in hopes of determining who’s straight and who’s gay. If she picks a heterosexual, they split a million-dollar jackpot. If she picks a gay dude, he gets all the money.
The eight-week series was a dud for Fox, but sparked spin-off versions in the Netherlands, Australia and the UK.
It’s All Relative (2003)ABC
This ABC sitcom focused on a gay couple (out actors John Benjamin Hickey and Christopher Sieber) who were shocked to learn their daughter married into a working-class Irish-American family.
The show played up the culture clash between the gay sophisticates and their bigoted bar-owning in-laws but, even with not-abysmal ratings, it wasn’t renewed for a second season.
The Ellen Show (2001)CBS
In her big return to TV, DeGeneres was still a lesbian—an Internet entrepreneur who moved back home after her business went bust—but the show muted most references to her sexuality.
Despite DeGeneres charm and veteran-comedy co-stars like Cloris Leachman, Martin Mull, Kerri Kenney and Jim Gaffigan, CBS canceled Ellen mid-season with five episodes left unaired.
Some of My Best Friends (2001)CBS
Eager to duplicate the success of Will and Grace, CBS turned the 1997 indie movie Kiss Me, Guido into a TV show with Jason Bateman and Danny Nucci playing a gay guy and a walking Italian stereotype who wind up as roommates.
Even a post-Everyone Loves Raymond timeslot and Alec Mapa in a very Jack McFarland-ish role couldn’t save the show from cancellation after just five episodes.
Normal, Ohio (2000)Fox
John Goodman starred in this Fox sitcom as “Butch” Gamble, a gay man returning to his blue-collar hometown. (There were a lot of shows about people returning to their hometowns at the turn of the century.)
Critics complained that Butch was an unrealistic amalgam of heteronormativity—drinking beer, watching football—and gay cliches—a knack for hairdressing, a love of Broadway showtunes. Goodman won the People’s Choice Award for the role, but only eight episodes aired before Fox pulled the plug.
Oh, Grow Up (1999)
Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball adapted his one-act play Bachelor Holiday for TV, turning it into a sitcom about a man who just ended his marriage after coming out.
It may have had the hit Drew Carey Show as a lead-in, but only 12 episodes aired before ABC gave up on Grow Up.