When I've read other good articles on that same topic or have seen specials on TV about gay broadcast images, there is one actor in one sitcom who is always overlooked. And he shouldn't be. He played a gay middle-aged character on NBC years before Will & Grace and Modern Family came along. He was not a supporting character like in Friends or My So-Called Life. Tony Randall starred as the lead character on Love, Sidney. The series ran on NBC from 1981 to 1983. Tony Randall was a pioneer.
He did Love, Sidney after five years of success on the ABC sitcom version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple (1970-1975).
If network executives were this narrow-minded about race, think how nervous they must have been with a lead character being gay. Sidney never said openly "I'm gay" like Ellen DeGeneres historically did on her 1997 ABC sitcom episode. Let's be real: In the 1990s, you could not have been an openly gay actor with a boyfriend and book the lead role as a hetero bachelor in a network sitcom like Neil Patrick Harris did on How I Met Your Mother. In the early 80s, Tony Randall's Sidney deeply missed his longtime male friend who'd died. His framed photograph was visible in Sidney's apartment. I lived and worked in Milwaukee when Love, Sidney aired. He may not have said, "I'm gay" but we in the Midwest all knew he was. Sidney was lonely and longed for a sense of family. Today, same-sex couples all over the nation adopt children. Mitch and Cam are gay dads on Modern Family. Tony Randall's Sidney has the opportunity to be a father figure to a sweet little girl. Look at the clip of the show's opening credits.
In the talk about groundbreaking gay characters on TV, the late Tony Randall should be included for his bravery and his commitment to playing a gay middle-aged and man who becomes a father figure on NBC's Love, Sidney in the early 1980s.