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‘Visible: Out on Television’ From Apple TV Plus: TV Review

As with just about any phrase that gets repeated over and over throughout the years, “representation matters” has threatened to become a benign catchall for Hollywood’s ills. But the saying is nonetheless rooted in a simple, powerful sentiment: that seeing a piece of yourself meaningfully represented in media can enable deeper understanding for you and the broader audience alike. Beyond mere entertainment, representation has the capacity to change minds — for better and for worse.

This conflict forms the spine of “Visible: Out on Television,” a new docu-series from Apple TV Plus that conveys the breadth of LGBTQ+ representation on American television from the medium’s beginnings through today. It’s a hugely ambitious project, and it takes its mission seriously, featuring a genuinely astonishing breadth of research and dozens of interviews with LGBTQ+ actors (including executive producers Wilson Cruz and Wanda Sykes), writers, allies and activists. It’s fascinating and educational to see archival footage from across decades of TV genres — and even moreso to understand just how much TV has been used both as a weapon and a balm to long-suffering wounds.

“Visible” unfolds chronologically over five episodes, each relatively framed around a specific theme: “The Dark Ages,” “Television as a Tool,” “The Epidemic,” “Breakthroughs,” “The New Guard.” The first three chapters are particularly strong, especially as they examine areas of media coverage like news reports, reality shows, soap operas and talk shows, all of which have heretofore been underserved in the larger conversation about LGBTQ+ representation on TV.

“The Dark Ages,” for example, doesn’t just mention that the first iteration of the word “homosexual” on television occurred during the McCarthy hearings, but details the ripple effects in media and beyond. (Former “Project Runway” mentor Tim Gunn speaks movingly

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