LGBT TV ICON: ‘Love Sidney’ Star Swoosie Kurtz Recalls Gay Controversy

by | May 12, 2014 at 5:34 AM | LGBT, Mike & Molly

Kaleena Kiff and Tony Randall in 'Love, Sidney' (NBC)

While there’s a plethora of LGBT actors, characters and storylines across the TV landscape, that wasn’t always the case. Thus, we’ve started the LGBT TV Icon Series, which celebrates those television shows, movies and events that helped us get to where we are today.

Love, Sidney” launched first as a TV movie called “Sidney Shorr: A Girl’s Best Friend,” which aired on NBC on October 5, 1981 with TV favorite Tony Randall (“The Odd Couple) playing Sidney Shorr, a 50-something bachelor who takes in a young woman (played by Lorna Patterson in the movie and then Swoosie Kurtz for the series since Patterson was working on the sitcom version of “Private Benjamin.”), who is raising her daughter, Patti (Kaleena Kiff). While the film acknowledged Sidney being gay, the series, which ran from October 28, 1981 – June 6, 1983,  initially steered clear of the subject, save for a few subtle hints here and there.

Watch groups protested the series from the start for offering a positive portrayal of a homosexual (it was the first time a gay character was the central lead of a television series) but NBC stuck with the series and ratings were strongest in New York City and Los Angeles.

By the time the second season rolled around in 1982, the writers inched closer to being open about Sidney’s sexuality, even in a May 1983 episode which saw the camera zero in on the photograph of the man (Martin) who Sidney had once been in a relationship with. Whether the man had died or left Sidney was never answered but it was a big step in the series and for television as a whole.

“Love, Sidney” didn’t live to see a third season but at the recent GLAAD Media Awards in New York City, I grabbed a few minutes with Kurtz, who earned her first Emmy nomination for her work on the sitcom and asked her about the series as well as her current role playing mother to Melissa McCarthy in CBS’s hit sitcom, “Mike and Mollyand her newly published memoirs.

 

 

Here is a video interview with the late Randall talking about the concept of the series.

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