10 Pro-LGBT TV Programs That Were Ratings Disasters

Expand | Collapse
(Photo: ABC/Bob D'Amico)ABC's 'The Real O'Neals' stars Matt Shively as Jimmy, Bebe Wood as Shannon, Martha Plimpton as Eileen, Noah Galvin as Kenny and Jay R. Ferguson as Pat.

Last week, ABC announced that they were not renewing the controversial LGBT-themed family sitcom "The Real O'Neals" for a third season.

Even a social media campaign by LGBT activists and their allies to keep it on the air failed to save the Dan Savage-produced program from being canceled.

Having LGBT themes and characters can be a hit or miss for television series. While some programs like "Will & Grace" and "Modern Family" have had success, many others have not.

What follows in no particular order are 10 television programs that promoted LGBT characters and themes that were ratings failures.

1. Dr. Ken

Expand | Collapse
Wikimedia CommonsActor Ken Jeong plays the lead role in the new series

Canceled after two seasons around the same time as "The Real O'Neals," the comedic series "Dr. Ken" was loosely based on the life of comedian and professional doctor Ken Jeong.

"In season 2, the show has averaged 5.1 million viewers per episode, with a 1.1 in the 18-to-49 demo, which was down from its first season," noted Entertainment Weekly.

The program featured two characters in a same-sex relationship, one played by the actor Jonathan Slavin. In an interview with Out.com before the news of the cancellation, Slavin explained that he enjoyed the role he played on "Dr. Ken."

"I am beyond thrilled to be part of a 'family' show that features my very gay character and his very gay marriage. Especially now, in this oppressive political climate that we are all living under," said Slavin.

2. Sirens

Expand | Collapse
(Photo: Screengrab/YouTube/SirensUSA)A scene from the short-lived USA Network series "Sirens."

Aired by the USA Network until 2015, "Sirens" was a comedic program focused on a group of EMTs based in Chicago, one of whom was openly gay. It was canceled after two seasons.

"The project from Denis Leary was the cabler's first scripted half-hour comedy," reported Variety in April 2015.

"'Sirens' had a very passionate fanbase, but ... USA decided not to go forward with a third season because the series didn't find a big enough audience, especially given that the network did not own the property."

A couple months before the program was canceled, Slate ran a piece about what they called "one of TV's best gay characters."

"There's nothing generically gay about Hank, played by Kevin Daniels. As he tells a woman looking for a 'gay best friend' early in the new season, 'I'm not that type of gay. ... I do not go dancing. I do not go shopping. I do not watch Dance Moms and make bitchy comments,'" noted Slate.

"He is, however, openly, unreservedly, and boldly gay — and his orientation affects the way he moves through life."

3. Eyewitness

Expand | Collapse
(Photo: Screengrab/YouTube/USA Network)A scene from the trailer for the short-lived USA Network series "Eyewitness."

In another strike-out for the USA Network, the drama program "Eyewitness" was canceled in March after having only one season.

The plot was based on a closeted young gay couple from a small town who witnessed a triple homicide, but feared coming to authorities as it would out them to the community.

"Despite solid reviews and a strong performance by Julianne Nicholson, the series, which got very little promotion, did not hold as much of the SVU audience as the network had hoped," reported Deadline Hollywood in March.

"'Eyewitness,' believed to be the first crime drama with LGBT leads, ranks as the second-lowest-rated original series on USA, a tad ahead of fellow freshman 'Falling Water.'"

4. Doubt

Expand | Collapse
Wiki Media Commons / Dominick DActress Laverne Cox at The Paley Center For Media's PaleyFest 2014 Honoring "Orange Is The New Black"

CBS' legal drama "Doubt" was marketed as a breakthrough program, as it featured what IndieWire identified as "the first transgender series regular on a broadcast TV show" with the casting of Laverne Cox.

"As a matter of fact, Cox's character even has one of the show's central romantic storylines of the show's freshman season," reported Indie Wire in February.

The breakthrough was not enough, however, as the series was canceled after only two episodes were aired on CBS.

"The series opened to poor reviews ... and lackluster ratings despite heavy promotion," noted the Hollywood Reporter in February.

"'Doubt'bowed to a tepid 0.8 rating among adults 18-49, coming in last place among shows on the Big Four that night. In week two, the drama fell again, dipping to a 0.6 rating — below the series low of its time slot predecessor, 'Code Black' (0.7 adults)."

5. When We Rise

Expand | Collapse
(Photo: Screengrab/YouTube/TV PROMOS HD)An ad for the ABC miniseries "When We Rise." The four-part miniseries focused on the history of the gay rights movement from the 1970s to 2013.

The much-promoted ABC miniseries "When We Rise" centered on the history of the LGBT rights movement in America, from the 1960s up until 2013, airing from Feb. 27 to Mar. 3.

Despite the big names and extensive network TV ad campaign, ratings for the four-part series started off poor and only got worse over the course of the week.

"'When We Rise' was the lowest-rated program on the Big 4 and second lowest-rated overall last night, matching the CW's 'Supergirl' (0.7, even with last week). The CW's 'Jane The Virgin' (0.3) was off by a tenth," noted Deadline Hollywood.

In an effort to help get more viewers, ABC attempted to modify their primetime schedule, using the more successful "Modern Family" as a lead-in.

"ABC moved 'Modern Family' back half an hour in an attempt to provide miniseries 'When We Rise' with a bit of a boost. It didn't quite work," reported Variety.

"While 'Modern Family' notched a 2.0 in the demo and 6.37 million viewers, 'When We Rise' continued to falter with a 0.6 demo rating and 2.05 million viewers, lower than its premiere on Monday."

6. Boy Meets Boy

Expand | Collapse
(Photo: Wikipedia)James Getzlaff, the "leading man" from the short-lived reality TV series competition "Boy Meets Boy."

Launched by Bravo in 2003 while the channel's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" was on the air, "Boy Meets Boy" was a reality TV show modeled off of "The Bachelor," though with a twist.

"James, a single gay man (and Advocate cover boy), must choose from among 15 bachelors, eventually selecting one at the end of the show's six-episode run," noted popmatters.com in August 2003.

"What James doesn't know is that some of these bachelors aren't exactly 'eligible,' that is, some are straight (the show's producers are being coy on exactly how many, hinting that the number is more than one and maybe as many as half)."

Canceled after only six episodes, TheTalko.com put it on their "15 Reality Shows So Terrible They Were Canceled Immediately" list.

"Does this premise sound offensive to you? You're not alone," stated TheTalko.com in March, noting that there were different prizes promised depending on whether the bachelor picked a gay or straight contestant.

"Many viewers disagreed with the idea of the bachelor and gay contestants not knowing that there were people pretending to be gay on the show."

7. I Am Cait

Expand | Collapse
(Photo: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)Caitlyn Jenner arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, California, February 28, 2016.

Bruce Jenner made national headlines when he came out as a trans woman by the name "Caitlyn," sparking conversation and debate over transgenderism.

While Jenner maintains a strong presence in the spotlight, Jenner's reality television program "I Am Cait" is no longer creating new episodes as of 2016, ending after two seasons.

"The E! documentary series, which chronicled Jenner's life following her gender transition, debuted in 2015 with 3.9 million viewers, but struggled with ratings thereafter," reported Entertainment Weekly last August.

"The season 2 premiere was watched by just 745,000 people, which was a series low at the time. Its final episode aired April 24 [2016]."

In a statement released last year, the E! network said they were "proud" of the program and that Jenner "will always remain a part of the E! family."

8. The McCarthys

Expand | Collapse
(Photo: Screengrab/YouTube/CrazyAboutTV)A scene from the short-lived television series "The McCarthys."

Before "The Real O'Neals" debuted on network television, CBS aired a family sitcom program with a gay main character in an Irish-American Catholic family titled "The McCarthys."

Debuting October 2014, the show was canceled after the first season, with four episodes still to be aired, according to the website TV Series Finale.

"It was the lowest-rated scripted series on the network in total viewership and had the lowest demo rating of any CBS sitcom this season," noted the site in May 2015.

9. One Big Happy

Expand | Collapse
Wikimedia Commons/Tulane Public RelationsEllen DeGeneres in 2009

Produced by Ellen Degeneres, "One Big Happy" was a short-lived sitcom aired by NBC in 2015. Its plot centered on a lesbian and her straight male friend agreeing to have a child together.

According to afterellen.com, the series "was the first ever primetime network sitcom to have a major lesbian character at its center."

"One Big Happy" suffered low ratings throughout its run and was canceled after six episodes, being given the axe at the same time as "Marry Me," which also did not get a second season and also featured a recurring lesbian character.

10. The New Normal

Expand | Collapse
Courtesy of NBC UniversalNBC's advertisement for "The New Normal," a show about a Los Angeles gay couple who hires a surrogate mother to have their child.

The plot of "The New Normal" centered on a woman who agreed to be the surrogate mother for a same-sex couple looking to have a child.

Debuting in 2012, the comedy-romance television series lasted one season, with the Hollywood Reporter attributing its failure to the absence of other strong programming for the evening.

"The series, like the rest of its Tuesday block, suffered without The Voice, notching a string of lows before the singing competition returned to revitalize the lineup," stated the Hollywood Reporter in May 2013.

"While its April season finale was penned to serve as a potential series finale, producers said that a second season would have featured the newly married couple raising their newborn son."

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook