Some 24 years before marriage equality became the law of the land inside the U.S., the Fox sitcom “Roc” broke new ground using presenting a homosexual wedding on mainstream television.
The series, which aired from 1991 to 1994, starred Charles Dutton as Charles “Roc” Emerson, a Baltimore garbage collector and family man, and Ella Joyce as his wife Eleanor, a nurse.
A season 1 episode titled “Can’t Help Loving That Man” brought audiences to Roc’s gay uncle Russell (played through Richard Roundtree), who surprised his family members while he found out plans to tie the knot with his male companion, Chris (Stephen Poletti). In what’s believed to have been a network television first, the 1991 episode concluded with the blended-race couple’s wedding ceremony ― which, considering that identical-sex marriage changed into nonetheless years far away from being a felony in any U.S. Nation, amounted to a symbolic dedication ceremony.
In the present day episode of his “Culture Cruise” video collection, Seattle-primarily based author Matt Baume takes an in-depth have a look at “Can’t Help Loving That Man,” which ― at the least in the meanwhile ― has been all however misplaced to records, as “Roc” isn’t presently available on a streaming platform or in regular syndication.
As Baume points out, the episode set itself aside from earlier portrayals of LGBTQ characters on TV through acknowledging that queer people “aren’t all stricken and lonely and sad” and “that we will simply meet every different and fall in love and have a pleasing existence.” Russell and Chris, he adds, have become recurring characters at the series as opposed to being unmarried-episode visitors.
Pointing to homosexual-themed storylines on “The Golden Girls” and “Married… With Children” that aired around the identical time, Baume notes that the overriding cultural mindset regarding the LGBTQ network became “changing when this episode aired, so it got here at sincerely a first-rate time in TV history.”
Baume additionally interviews the episode’s manufacturer and writer, Jeffrey Duteil, whose credits encompass “The Golden Girls,” “Saved through the Bell: The College Years” and “Head of the Class.”
Duteil, who identifies as homosexual, stated audiences had been “overwhelmingly supportive” of “Can’t Help Loving That Man” right now after it aired on Oct. 20, 1991.
“[The network] were given again to us on the day after today and advised us they couldn’t be extra thrilled with the manner that it became out,” he recalled.
Russell and Chris’ dating on “Roc,” of course, might not seem as complicated or nuanced as those of queer characters on TV and in film these days. Still, Duteil believes his characters helped lay the groundwork for queer-inclusive storylines on later suggests together with “Will & Grace” and “Glee,” and thus helped improve the LGBTQ rights movement in a small but considerable way.