ABC has a long history of landmark moments in gay visibility, including one that happened eighteen years ago today. On November 7, 1989 ABC's popular drama thirtysomething featured the first gay male couple to be shown in bed together.
At the time, the implications of the scene (which consisted of morning-after pillow talk) was enough to set off anti-gay activists into organizing a frenzied backlash. Reportedly, the furor cost the network over a million dollars when advertisers pulled their ads from the episode. Now, however, the scene seems tame as television has inched closer to treating gay male sexuality equal to heterosexual sexuality. Last season's Brothers & Sisters scenes featuring Kevin Walker (Matthew Rhys) in bed with boyfriend (Chad Berry) raised nary a peep.
Earlier this year we looked at what happened to the actors who played the gay couple in that episode, Peter Frechette and David Marshall Grant. Both continue to appear in TV and film, but Grant is also a writer for the gay-inclusive ABC drama, Brothers & Sisters.
My memory of "Strangers" is actually a frustrating one. I was a regular viewer of thirtysomething at the time, but happened to miss that particular episode. I didn't realize there was anything gay about it until I saw it jeered in a TV Guide "Cheers and Jeers" page (they thought Russell and Peter jumped into bed too quickly, playing to a stereotype of gay men being promiscuous). The "jeer" made it sound bad, but I was disappointed I missed the chance to judge it for myself. To say the least, I'm glad there's more of a gay media nowadays, so that I can hear about gay characters on TV before the episodes airs and judge them for myself.
What about you? Did you catch the episode when it aired? What did you think at the time and hes it held up over time? Share your memories in the comments!