View This Years Latest Awards Here
This is a ‘Best of’ list for United Kingdom Television, and review of the year for 2012. It is based on the Transgender Zone ongoing transgender archives (now 3 decades and counting).
They are based only on transgender issues and how programmes treated participants or spoke about them in their absence.
Every clip we mention we have archived.
(Award image for illustrative purposes only).
The most important and influential programmes are those on every day of the year. So how they handle issues can seriously affect the way in which transgender people are treated, it is for this reason the ‘Best Channel’, ‘Best Programme’, ‘Best (overall) Presenter’ and ‘Best Magazine Programme’ are weighted towards the top of the page.
For the second year running Channel 5 has done it again. Winner of ‘Best Channel’ in 2011. Channel 5 have been seen to handle trans issues very well indeed. One or two CSI imports aside (that had a little transphobic content), but to be fair one of those entitled, ‘CH-CH-CH-Changes’ is based on some factual issues, and as unpleasant as it is, does remind us just how dangerous life can be for a transperson. It was timely scheduling too being broadcast around the time of the ‘Transgender Day of Remembrance’ (or TDOR as it is otherwise know). This may just have been coincidental, but if it was not then this demonstrates even more thought and consideration.
Of course the jewel in their crown was Big Brother 2012, and the fantastic job Endemol did compared to some rather negative issues we have reported here in this blog (see our archive) in the past.
‘The Wright Stuff’ and its present Matthew Wright, again managed to ‘swiftly move on’ with some trans stories as he could see the risk of a joke from panelists or audience members. Matthew did a great job, but not as many trans stories were handled this year – this is actually a good thing in a way. This was perhaps due to the Leveson Inquiry, the press were trying to keep their collective head’s down and behave.
And finally ‘Live with Gabby’ who won our best magazine show last year was replaced with repeats of ‘Removal Men’ – that was a shame, Gabby had some great trans guests and is sadly missed.
Best Programme of the Year
This was pipped at the post by ‘Live with Gabby’ last year, but this year in 2012, there was little doubt that Emma and her co-hosts delivered one of the best trans-aware programmes I can remember for a long time.
This show has a lot going for it, not least it has a younger audience, one who needs these positive messages. The very fact that Luke Anderson was in Big Brother (and won!) still did not knock ‘Bit’ on the Side off the top spot. Big Brother was far and away the best reality programme too (see below), but ‘Bit on the side’ was peerless in 2012! If you want to know why they won here is the full story.
Second year on the trot win for Matthew showing last year was not just a fluke. It has to be said that Matthew just has a knack of managing controversial issues very well indeed.
Although there were less stories with a trans angle in 2012, he remains a safe pair of hands for them when they do arrive. I know many transgender people now watch his show (and more since his award last year, maybe this is the rating increase Matthew?) and do trust him to deliver issues in a sensitive and fair way. Transpeople do not want ‘special treatment’, they just want fair and balanced treatment, and Matthew Wright does just that. A well deserved second year win for Matthew – well done. If you want to read more on why this show continues to remain at the top click here.
Examples this year were, 25/04, where Matthew and the panel discuss the story of ‘Mystery DNA and 26 pairs of women’s shoes in dead spy’s flat.’ Of course plenty of opportunity to make light of trans issues, but no(!) he remained focused.
The panel member says – “26 pairs of women’s shoes? Maybe he was a transvestite?”
“Maybe he was? I don’t care about that,” says Matthew.
Actor, Phil Davis responds, “Nor me…”
So again, the focus is on the story of the murder and not made light of perhaps due to trans issues. We can easily see just there the opportunity for it to go awry, but a good host can foresee and control it before it goes wrong.
Another topic that could have gone pear-shaped was that of Transgender Teen Ria ‘wanting to be male again’ as reported in the papers. A difficult subject well handled, good callers mainly transgender. Male pronouns used for Ria, but that was due to the assumption that the person in question wanted to be a male again – this was a rather confused topic in the press. But either way Matthew and the gang could not have done it any better.
Princess Productions deliver good shows as in part 2 with their then ‘Live with… ‘ series.
25/04, Channel 5, ‘Live with Gabby’ which ended earlier in the year and was replaced with ‘Live with’ – as they had different presenters and Gabby was off to the Olympic Games to present. Fern Britton interviewed a teenage transsexual, Campbell Kenneford who decided it was time for her to transition after seeing Lady Gaga. And all very nice it was too.
So again well done to Channel 5’s morning team and of course Princess Productions who produce ‘The Wright Stuff’ and ‘Live with’ in 2012.
Always a tough one this, as ITV also has ‘Lorraine’ which often pips them to the post due to it being on earlier in the morning than the rest, so Lorraine can nab the trans guests. The main broadcasters have breakfast shows, the BBC has their ‘One Show’ on in the early evening. So this is sometimes very difficult to decide. So, as they say, it often comes down to ‘bums on seats’. Not only did ‘This Morning’ have the best variety of transgender guests for 2012 (and have also already got off to a good start in 2012), Co-presenters Phillip Schofield (and especially Eamonn Holmes) have just loosened up more with the whole issue of trans guests – long gone are Eamonn’s folded arms (well for now).
Over the years we have watched everything they have done very closely. In 2011, ITV1’s flagship, ‘This Morning’ Magazine Show has had some great transgender guests, but then there always seemed to be something that soured it on another occasion. This clearly was unintentional, but when judging presenters and programmes every little helps.
In 2012 it was all change! I think the balance was well and truly tipped in its favour when Phillip (and Holly) appeared on ‘Text Santa’ this year. The idea being that If they raised a certain amount of money for the charities Holly and Phillip would swap outfits, the sum was obviously made achievable within his section as it was too good an opportunity to miss. Now Holly was not such a big deal wearing his suit – women already have ‘total clothing rights’ (a term used by Eddie Izzard to describe the unfairness in this socially). But Phillip did carry it off with panache, and in a simply ‘Phillip is wearing a dress get over it’ fashion rather than ‘drag-up’ and somehow mock transpeople. He ‘went for it’, and in a way demonstrates that crossdressing is just clothes after all, and nothing to get hung-up about – I dread to think what Alan Carr would have done. Good on Phillip for doing that. ‘Total clothing rights’ is what is needed.” Now we have to wait for him to wear it to his day job (wink).
Here is the list of guests: Jenny-Anne Bishop 26/01; Transsexual who slept with a 1000 men 03/02; Saffron James and her young child Livvy defend their right to choose their gender 22/02; Eamonn Holmes and Emma Willis (Emma is a regular winner of our awards) interview a transwoman who later appears on Embarrassing Bodies 02/03; Ria (of Channel 4 teen transsexual) 15/06 interviewed by Eamonn and Ruth; Transgender Single Mum Carla Lamprey 08/10; FTM Steven George (nee Alison) appears on ‘This Morning’ to explain about the abuse ‘she’ then suffered at the hands of Jimmy Savile 12/10; Jackie Green in advance of her documentary ‘Transsexual Beauty Queen’ later appears on the show to talk about her life 20/11.
Well done to ITV, the ‘This Morning’ team, Holly and Phillip, Eamonn and Ruth, Emma and Matt and keep it up!
Of course there are many other programmes that feature transgender issues and here are the best (and worst) of those.
Programmes featuring transgender people were documentary-heavy yet again, and this never seems to change – still waiting for the dramas and regular acting roles to arrive. However there were a few worth watching in 2012 and they made waves.
1. ‘Jackie Green – Transsexual Teen’, Beauty Queen BBC3 20th Nov.
2. ‘May Dad is a Woman’ – ITV 1st March.
3. ‘Ladyboys’, SKY LIVING 14th May. This new documentary series travels to Thailand to explore the transgender culture there.
We have a number of similar Thai docus on file, it covers the usual subjects. Why men are attracted to transgender women? Why some have surgery and some do not? And it was interesting to see transwomen achieving political power there. One of the few times the term ‘Ladyboy’ is acceptable in UK lexicon, as it is in context of Thailand and used by transwomen to self-describe (it is their word for them to use). It is not applicable here in the UK unless their cabaret dancers are touring for example. However, if we just forget for a moment that the build of Thai people makes ‘passing’ as women much easier and as a result more sexually attractive. Thailand is far more accepting of transwomen than the UK. This is in part because they feminise well, and are ‘out’ in sufficient numbers for their presence not to be ignored. When we compare the UK and the numbers out in this country, it is clear we still have a very long way to go. It would have been interesting to have seen how transmen live there for a change (note to broadcasters maybe one to pencil in as being different? No charge!). Social acceptance is important for transwomen, and it plays into the very article we wrote here recently . Youth and beauty has a direct correlation with increasing abuse in the media. As passing well can appear as a deceit or ‘tricking people’ who then feel threatened or embarrassed they they never saw it (transpanic). Those that do not pass are easier to read and less likely to ‘surprise’ those they date. But that is another story and worth reading the media research article here about that. Thailand, is a “what happens on tour stays on tour” island. But should it really be a ‘dirty little secret’ for UK men visiting in 2013? Especially when many transwomen struggle to find long term partners in the UK?
Special Mention for Pick TV and the repeat of ‘Make Me a Man‘, 08/10. And ‘Sex Change Soldier‘ (Repeat first aired 2007) 24/09 Pick TV (Freeview Sky 11). And of course the perennial ‘Transvestite Wives‘ 27/10 on Pick TV/Sky Freeview 11. ‘Diary of a Teen Transsexual’ – Channel 4 in November. http://forum.transgenderzone.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=3056
1. Degrassi, Viva.
In season 10, Adam’s transgender secret is revealed. It is a shame the UK cannot provide anything for our community other than an absent Hayley in Coronation St which we will look at later. But fortunately you can find this older series on Viva.
Worth watching as it has a similar storyline (That is where Hollyoaks got it from I think) to that of Jason (FTM) in Hollyoaks.
This was more interesting in 2012 with a few choices on offer. There was ‘Hit and Miss’ from Sky Atlantic, and ‘The Accused’ from the BBC staring Sean Bean. The Accused was a believable story of someone dealing with their transgender life and desire for a companion. Whereas ‘Hit and Miss’ bordered on the fantasy, with some very odd moments indeed. But both sadly failed to cast a transgender person, and that is a serious oversight in 2012!
1. The Accused – Sean Bean – BBC
2. Hit and Miss – Chloe Sevigny- Sky Atlantic.
For Very Important People, 27th April, Channel 4
Morgana Robinson won ‘Best Comedy Breakthrough Artist’ at the ‘British Comedy Awards in 2012’ (Channel 4). I am in total agreement here, she is one of those rare women who takes being a man seriously, and her Danny Dyer impression is very good, as is her Russell Brand and Frankie Boyle. It is very rare for women to play men and do a good job, and laugh at a character rather than at the crossdressing. We need a ‘male Morgana’ to play women, because comparing someone like her to Alan Carr’s hideous crossdressing efforts is point proven. I think she is in a whole different league and class. When she started out I was a bit uncomfortable with her style – especially mocking people with learning disabilities. Fortunately that has now gone and she has ‘arrived’.
1. Rob Brydon – BBC – is the consummate professional host, his other show being ‘Would I lie to You’. Unlike panel shows such as ‘8 Out of 10 Cats’ on Channel 4, Rob played a blinder with his chat and lightness of touch with Grayson Perry (no pun intended). It is all too easy to mock trans issues in this instance, but Grayson was taken seriously and they laughed together over a number of topics.
Very nicely done, and other hosts should take some lessons! Joined by Sarah Millican (pictured right), and voted Queen of Comedy at the British Comedy Awards last year, it was all very nice and cosy. Image (Images: Talkback/BBC)
2. Big Brother’s Bit on the side – Channel 5
Big Brother’s Bit on the Side deserves a mention here – they deliver a very funny show.
3. Very Important People – Channel 4.
Futurama last year was awarded best animated programme with a repeat of ‘Bend Her’, where Robot Bender is changed into a ‘femme bot’. Which was one of the few times the creators of ‘The Simpsons’ managed not to offend with a trans storyline. Since then the Futurama stable has been busy, and their latest series has some actual trans characters.
I think the creator of the Simpsons, have now realised just how transphobic much of their back catalogue was, and sadly it is often repeated on Channel 4. The Simpsons are improving, But ‘Futurama’ has always been ahead of the game, and richly deserves the award yet again this year.
I have long since said it was a shame they axed Futurama for a time – it’s far better than ‘The Simpsons’ – unless they sing!
Then Comedy Central brought it back, and now in a more adult form, even better!
This series now is also available in Box set on DVD. It has ‘grown up’ and avoids transphobia, they address many issues of our time from our obsession with apple i-series products, to green issues and equal rights, but the comedy roots of a hapless team of space delivery staff remain the same.
They also address intersex, gender roles and transgender topics within the series.
Episodes of note:
‘Proposition Infinity‘ that features a transgender bot. During a pride protest march for the acceptance robot and human love.
“The right to marry who or what we want!” Bender stands on the stage – “Every other couple has the right to marry! Robot and femme bot! Man and Woman! Man and Man! Inter Racial! Interplanetary! Even ghost and horse! But not robot and human!”
Fry sees a robot change shape – “Kewl! Can you change into a race car? “”No I am a pre-op Transformer.”
‘Irreconcilable differences‘ featuring a ‘cross-species dresser’. Clever!
And in ‘Neutopia‘ (below) they all swap genders, showing the futility of gender roles, and being gender-neutral maybe the best way to be – some don’t even want to change back!
“Our genders are all reversed!”
Other shows this year of note is ‘Bender’s Game’ above. And in another older one we see Fry become the leader of a new faith. Speaking for the alien he says, “The monster’s name is Yivo, lover of all things male and female, but Yivo has no gender! So Yivo has proclaimed instead of he or she, we are to use the word ‘Sklee’.” Instead off her or him we are to use the word ‘Sklim’ or ‘Skler!’.”
Hermes retorts, “Phew! I’ve been sweating over the nomenclature all week!”
Funny! And shows that with a little thought writers can make inoffensive funny gags with a trans slant in this way.
Special mention for – The Cleveland Show ‘Mama Drama’ 30/05 E4. Where Donna’s transgender Aunty turns up.
Special mention for – ‘The Simpsons’ – sadly it has no more than a passing gag feel, but better than nothing. In this latest episode when the ‘Parson’ comes to town. Resembling Bing Crosby, Ned Flanders treats him like a member of ‘One Direction’ by swooning all over him. When speaking to his old friend Tim the local reverend (Reverend Lovejoy) The Parson mentions Lovejoy’s wife Helen. Parson – “I remember when she was Helen Schwartzbaum. In fact I remember when she was Harold Schwartzbaum!” (Hayley in Coronation Street used to be Harold – Trivia).
“You what?!” Retorts Rev Lovejoy. Parson – “I’ve said too much!”.
Couple this with a banner outside the school welcoming back yet another FTM teacher. Empowering or just a throwaway gag?
Big Brother 2012 – for choosing FTM Luke Anderson and him winning of course.
Big Brother’s Bit on the Side – Channel 5.
This is a carbon copy award of last year – it is a ‘no-brainer’!
Sensitively dealing with transgender issues, guests and invited transgender audience members. I would go as far as saying Emma Willis is the best female television presenter currently available. Very likeable, smart, and quick-witted, yet can take control when needed. Fantastic! Well done Emma and the gang!
Special mention for Four In A Bed – Julia Grant – A review – Channel 4.
1. Coming Out Diaries – BBC THREE
After last year I was wondering if BBC Three had any hope of showing something good (see our awards list for more on that for 2011). But then comes along, ‘The Coming Out Diaries’. What a little gem it was too. Well paced, interesting views, both a trans man and a trans women talk about their lives, the fear of transition, and telling others. A great piece of television and an unusual twist on the regular documentary offerings. (Also features a young lesbian).
2. All In The Best Possible Taste With Grayson Perry -All through June.
A bit of a recovery for Channel 4 here.
A title obviously taken from the late ‘Kenny Everett Show’, we see Grayson travel to working class Sunderland. Grayson gets all dolled-up and goes out with a group of women for the evening. I wonder if Grayson had just gone into town on her own with a hidden camera if it would have all gone so swimmingly? A camera crew does create some safety. In a later episode about middle-class we see Grayson dressed in a more conservative way. Sadly he didn’t cross dress for the upper-classes? I wonder why?
3. Big Trouble In Thailand – 29/11 – Pick TV.
One of those rare times the term ‘Ladyboy’ is used in the correct context. We hear many stories from the Thai sex workers. So unlike the myriad of times it is said in the UK if it is not a Thai transwoman speaking about herself then it has no place in the hands of a UK comic. http://saynototranny.transgenderzone.com/. Good programme that features the bad behaviour of tourists and the unusual multicultural ‘Tourist Police’ there.
Special mention for 24hrs in A and E.
Best Talent Show
Unfortunately even last year we had to go to the USA and Chaz Bono (fresh from his documentary ‘ Becoming Chaz ‘) for ‘Dancing with the Stars’, this year in the UK practically zilch, although a few transpeople no doubt tried to get onto X-Factor or BGT. It has been felt that due to Peter Kay’s Channel 4 transsexual character ‘Geraldine’ and his X-Factor Spoof. The whole Geraldine characterisation may have hoovered-up the hopes and dreams of many a transperson. It has resulted in transgender talent being taking less seriously, as direct comparisons will naturally be made – especially by the press showing a photo of Geraldine beside them. Transgender people are almost invisible in talent shows, this seems odd for a country where crossdressing is at the foundation of our entertainment culture, be that Shakespeare or Danny La Rue – note to production companies – must do better in 2013! If you doubt this just look at Nadia in 2004 and Luke Anderson in 2012, both transsexual, both winners of Big Brother. Simon Cowell put transpeople on your show – it is clear people will vote for them! Do do not compare them to Geraldine – please try to erase that from your minds, as difficult as it is.
Best Serial Drama Performance
Unfortunately nothing worth noting, and demonstrates a vacuum in television, even Julie Hesmondhalgh (Hayley) in Coronation Street was very weak this year. Compared to The FTM Jason Character (Victoria Atkin) in Hollyoaks last year, this year was a wash-out. Shame!
Sean Bean for The Accused – BBC
When I watch a television programme I ask myself do I ‘believe’ and ‘care’ about this character?
Although in a perfect world she would have been played by a transperson, I feel the juxtaposition of the very masculine alpha-male roles Sean usually plays, be that a James Bond baddie, a hero, or a tough soldier like ‘Sharpe’. For Sean to wear a dress and have the audience buy into him as a transwoman, and one that does not pass as a female very well, was a job well done. When I initially reviewed this (see link above) I think I was a little hard on it. Since then I have spoken to a number of crossdressers who felt that Sean’s role was accurate, and there are many crossdressers who do struggle to pass in public, and they have had these reactions. I have also spoken with many transwomen who find the whole idea of dating difficult, and often they do become ‘the dirty little secret’ that a man (often a married man) is happy to bed, but not so keen on walking into their ‘local pub’ with them on their arm.
I have since watched this again. And feel that I just had a level of sympathy for his character I did not have for Chloe Sevigny in ‘Hit and Miss’ (Sky Atlantic). Plus, as I will mention later with Andrew Hall as Marcia in Coronation Street. It is possible for Sean Bean to be a crossdresser like this, but it is impossible for Chloe to be a transwoman. Actors pretend, that’s their job, however, a white guy can pretend all he likes, but he will never be cast as Obama unless it is for a joke. And that’s the main issue here. Now had Chloe played a man, that could be a whole different story.
I have since heard that a number of transwomen had gone up for the role in ‘Hit and Miss’ but were rejected for a ‘non-trans woman’, what does this actually say about the casting agents? It does not paint them in a very good light. This I feel was a mistake. Even a wooden performance by a transwoman would be better than a good one from a ‘bio female’, because part of you is not fighting the ‘deception’. She is trans so therefore its a lot less work to be interested in the story than having the barrier of a non-transperson having to sell the story and their gender to you, also there is more spin-off benefit, she would be on ‘This Morning’ and other shows talking about it and making waves, as this would be a novelty, and great exposure for the show. but rather than that, the show kinda just felt awkward, if you did not have Sky Atlantic then it is likely this is the first time you have ever heard of it. ‘Hit and Miss’ did leave on a cliff-hanger so will likely be back.
This maybe cheating a bit as it has not been on UK television (yet) so we have added 2 ‘special mentions’ below to cover for that. But as a DVD. It is something ‘new’ that you may go and watch due to this being highlighted. It may also be on the terrestrial broadcasters ‘to buy’ list from seeing it here.
See Review here.
Special mentions to Film4 for avoiding ‘Breakfast on Pluto’ and ‘Rocky Horror’ for a moment and showing ‘Transamerica’ (2005) 15/03 Film4. Sadly tucked away (no pun intended) on Film 4 at 01.23-03.30am in the morning. Nevertheless for now (and until some transgender actors get cast for similar roles) this is probably as good as it gets.
‘Valkyrie’ 11/11, Channel 5. Historical drama starring Tom Cruise and Kenneth Branagh. During the height of World War II, an army officer leads a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler (2008). Features a nice cameo by Eddie Izzard as a German officer.
This year in Radio was very good, and this stretched from BBC Radio One’s ‘Sexuality Night‘ with Paris Lees, to a repeat of ‘The Change‘ 08/04 BBC Radio 4 EX that first aired in 2001, this included Diane A from WOBS (Women of the Beaumont Society). Other programmes included Grayson Perry on Radio 6 Music choosing his favorite tracks on, ‘Grayson Perry’s 6 Music Playlist‘ 09/12, and ‘Thinking Allowed‘ 07/05 Radio 4 discussed, ‘Transgender Body Modifications’ and other award winning books. Interesting programme built around the recent award winning book on ‘Recognising Transsexuals: Personal, Political and Medical Embodiment.’ Start the Week, 04/06, BBC Radio 4, Grayson Perry (Transvestite Potter and Turner Prize winner) promotes his new Channel 4 series about ‘class and taste’ – Interesting programme. Saturday Live, 15/12, RADIO 4. Radio 4’s Saturday morning and the transgender love story of Victoria and Emma Cantons.
Transgender Media Critic – Ice Maiden