The Week in Gay TV: Showtime Gets “Shameless,” “Merlin” Returns and a Gay Man Competes for His OWN Show

Welcome to a new edition of The Week in Gay TV, your guide to the week ahead and the shows that will be battling for your attention.

This week the new winter season heats up with new and returning shows. That includes the debut of Showtime’s American version of the UK drama Shameless, ten people competing for a show on the Oprah Winfrey, the return of Merlin and more.

The SyFy Channel is bringing back the UK’s answer to Smallville, revisiting the younger days of King Arthur in a new season of Merlin. The show is frequently noted for its homoerotic moments. I don’t really see the hoyay myself, but Merlin doesn’t stint on the male eye candy — as you’ll see when Arthur and Merlin encounter Gawain this season.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for more British drama, BBC America has a the season finale of Law & Order: UK, as the L&O team investigates one of their own Detectives.

Ryan O’Connor

Finally, the Oprah Winfrey Network is debuting its first reality competition show, Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star. Hosts Carson Kressley and Nancy O’Dell put ten hopefuls through various challenges to see how they will handle the pressures of following in Oprah’s footsteps and hosting a talk show.

Among the ten competitors is Ryan O’Connor, a comedian who wants to become a gay best friend for the country. He’d like to have a variety show that would take elements from his one-man show with comedy sketches, musical acts and interviews.

So far, it’s been a very gay season of The Graham Norton Show, with guests like Stephen Fry, John Waters, Bette Midler and Catherine Tate. Saturday continues that trend with Cher and Dawn French. Cher will discuss the dangers of being an icon, like the time she was mistaken for a Cher impersonator, and meeting a meat dress-wearing Lady Gaga. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that French will mention a future collaboration with Jennifer Saunders.

Meanwhile, Jim Carrey makes his return to sketch comedy on Saturday when he hosts Saturday Night Live. I Love You Phillip Morris just expanded into an additional 32 screens, so he has reason to keep letting audiences know about the movie. It’s been 15 years since Carrey last performed on a sketch comedy show and considering the current state of SNL, I’m not expecting anything worth a 15-year wait.

HGTV has some Saturday night David Bromstad when he takes inspiration from a historic theater on a new Color Splash. And don’t forget that TeenNick will continue running every episode of Degrassi ever. This weekend’s episodes should include Marco coming out to his friend Spinner, Marco’s first date with Dylan, as well as Marco’s campaign for class president against lesbian Alex.

Showtime debuts its new Sunday night line-up this week, including the U.S. version of Shameless. If you’re not familiar with the original British drama, the series focuses on a poor family of seven, headed by an alcoholic father who frequently leaves his family to fend for themselves. His six children struggle to support themselves, often turning to underhanded means to raise enough money to pay the bills. The American version will include gay brother Ian, a teen whose after school activities include ROTC and a secret affair.

I’m a big fan of the original Shameless and the news of this remake worried me. On one hand, part of the appeal of the original is its… well, shameless bawdiness. However, what made me a loyal fan of the original Shameless was the sense of community. Frank Gallagher may be a selfish man who rarely thinks about his children’s well-being, but my heart was warmed by the way the Gallagher kids and their friends worked to help each other out, especially the close bond between Ian and his brother Lip. Would Showtime capture both characteristics of Shameless?

Thankfully, Showtime aired a 20-minute preview a few weeks ago that left me feeling hopeful about this adaptation. I’m looking forward to meeting a new take on the Gallaghers.

Gay TV trivia: Before playing Ian Gallagher, Cameron Monaghan was in the Terriers episode with Shangela.

Before Shameless debuts, Showtime is debuting a new comedy called Episodes starring Matt LeBlanc and Tamsin Grieg (who anglophiles will recognize from Black Books, Love Soup or Neverwhere).

Episodes follows the development of an American adaptation of a hit British show, a production that quickly turns into a nightmare due to idiot TV executives and the demands of the the new star. That’s right, Showtime will be airing a comedy about the adaptation of a British program right before its adaptation of Shameless. In a few weeks we’ll know if Showtime is tempting karma with that combination.

And for those of you who don’t normally subscribe to Showtime, don’t forget that Showtime is offering a free preview all weekend, so you’ll be able to sample Shameless (and Episodes).

EpisodesStephen Mangan, Matt LeBlanc and Tasmin Grieg

Showtime isn’t the only network debuting new shows on Sunday. Fox is adding Bob’s Burgers to its Animation Domination line-up. The comedy follows a small family-run burger joint and their attempts to turn their struggling business a success. The voice cast includes Archer’s H. Jon Benjamin, Daily Show correspondent Kristen Schaal and comedian Eugene Mirman, who I will always remember as the guy who pranked the anti-gay phone company.

Meanwhile, NBC is debuting a new superhero drama, The Cape. The series follows a police officer who takes on the identity of his son’s favorite comic book hero after he is framed for a crime. Honestly, the ads for this one aren’t doing much to get me excited. This might be one of those shows I record and let the internet decide if I’ll watch it.  

The Cape’s David Lyons

Sunday is also moving day for The Style Network’s pop culture review show The Dish. This one is probably the gayest clip show on TV. That is, until someone gets around to asking a gay comedian to host one.

ABC’s Sunday dramas also deliver new episodes. Leslie Ann Warren returns to Desperate Housewives, this time bringing Valerie Harper with her as Susan’s aunt. Then, Richard Chamberlain is back on Sunday’s Brothers & Sisters as Saul deals with his lingering feelings about his ex.

Finally, the Food Network has a new episode of The Worst Cooks in America where the remaining competitors have to cook an omelet and then deal with having the recipe taken away from them. Hopefully, this time Carlos can be on the other side of the kitchen when one of his competitors sets their food on fire.

Now that he’s realized that he’s basically a member of the Greek system without the benefits of membership, Dale considers pledging a fraternity on Monday’s Greek. Unfortunately for Calvin, Dale continues to be clueless and his attempts to get the best bid could cost Calvin being president of Omega Chi.

So far, I’m continuing to have mixed feelings about Greek. I loved seeing that Calvin and Heath are boyfriends now. After all this time, it makes sense to see the two of them together, and it says something about how much both characters have grown. Unfortunately, we didn’t see enough of them in last week’s season opener.

ABC Family also airs a new Pretty Little Liars this week, with Emily introducing Maya to her parents. You just know that’s not going to go well.

Monday also sees a wedding cake challenge on a new Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker. The show is down to its last gay competitor and much closer to disappearing from my radar. Finally, Bravo sends Tabatha Coffey to deal with a passive salon owner whose employees take advantage of him on a new Tabatha’s Salon Takeover.

Politics and courtroom drama return to Tuesday nights with a new episode of The Good Wife. It sounds like Diane is getting ready to make her move, as she will be asking Alicia to pick a side on the company’s big divide. Alicia has a tendency towards inertia, so I don’t expect to see her follow Diane to her new firm. I can’t wait to see The Good Wife return, not only does it have one of the TV’s most impressive casts, it usually gives them material that lives up to their talent.

Tuesday continues to be a night of great drama as TNT has a new episode of Southland. Dewey is done with rehab, back to work and assigned to partner with Cooper. I hope Dewey managed to work through his issues in rehab, because you know Cooper isn’t going to suffer any of Dewey’s nonsense.

X-Play’s Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb get ready to hand out some golden mullet awards.

One of the best half-hours of geek TV is scheduled to air on Tuesday when X-Play airs their annual Golden Mullet Awards for the worst video games of 2010. The Golden Mullets are usually an amazing half-hour of unrestrained snark and, since the focus is on video games that X-Play viewers aren’t expected to care about, it can be entertaining even for non-gamers.

Tuesday also sees Ted Allen preside over another three-course culinary competition on Chopped and Simon Doonan visits The Fashion Show. Last week, The Fashion Show certainly managed to come up with an interesting twist: Making a wedding challenge focus on same-sex couples forced the designers to reconsider their notions of wedding apparel.

Too bad we still ended up with an episode that was more about conflict and drama than it was about fashion. I still don’t understand how this show got a second season instead of the more interesting Big, Scary Countdown Clock Launch My Line.

Mitchell’s past comes back into focus on Wednesday’s Modern Famiy when Mary Lynn Rajskub shows up as his former high school girlfriend. Sounds like a reunion that’s bound to be awkward. Meanwhile, former MadTV fans can look forward to seeing Stephanie Weir as half of a couple Jay and Gloria befriend.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Slavin returns to Better with You. The last time Slavin appeared on Better with You he was hilarious, but underused. Since that episode was otherwise starved for laughs, I hope they give Slavin more screen time this outing.

ABC also has a new Cougar Town as Laurie becomes Jules’ houseguest. 

Wednesday also brings the season finale of I’d Do Anything on BBC America, while Spike TV has a new Blue Mountain State.

Thursday continues to be a quiet day for gay TV as we wait for NBC and The CW to start airing new episodes again. Even The Big Bang Theory is a rerun this week. It’s almost enough to have me looking forward to the debut of Perfect Couples, except that I saw the preview that aired a few weeks ago and it was unbearable.

However, Tim Bagley is back on Thursday’s new episode of $#*! My Dad Says. When Bonnie and Vince learn that their marriage wasn’t legal, they decide to have a new ceremony.. However, Bonnie’s dad (Ed Begley Jr.) ends up clashing with Ed, a conflict that puts the wedding in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t had enough of the current Betty White revival, she’ll be showing up as a customer on Thursday’s Ace of Cakes.

There are plenty of new debuts, this week and I’m really eager to hear which one you’re most eager to see:

Last week, it was a tight race between Southland and Greek, but the gritty crime drama managed to win 36% of your votes while Greek got 35%. The series finale of Caprica came in third with 16%.

Next week, even more new shows debut including MTV’s take on Skins, USA’s new legal drama Fairly Legal and the return of White Collar.

Lyle Masaki is a fan of obscure superheroes, video games, adorkable guys and that show you loved that got cancelled way too soon.