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Jodie Dallas (Billy Crystal), “Soap” (1977)

Jodie Dallas (Billy Crystal), "Soap" (1977)

Before "Harry Met Sally," Jodie met Dennis. The wacky send-up of daytime melodrama was controversial enough, with its adulterous marriages and mob ties, but also it introduced one of TV's first series-regular gay characters.

TV commercial director Jodie Dallas's relationship with pro football player Dennis Phillips came under fire by people on both sides of the argument. Despite the fact that standards and practices ensured that Jodie and Dennis never touched each other onscreen, conservative religious groups didn't want the topic covered in their living rooms. And gay rights activists were also up in arms by the depiction, especially given that Jodie planned to have a sex-change operation.

Jodie abandoned his plans after Dennis left him over fears of the public backlash. After that, Jodie was strictly a ladies' man. First he had a one-night stand with Carol, who had his baby. Then he chose her over Dennis, who returned to try to win him back. Ultimately, he proposed to a private eye named Maggie who tried to track down Carol after she kidnapped their daughter. But upon seeking therapy, he awoke to believe he was a 90-year-old Jewish man. Confused? What did you expect? It's "Soap."

The Evolution of Gay TV Characters

There was once a time when portraying a gay character on a TV show was taboo. As the American public becomes more accepting of nontraditional couples, same-sex relationships have been increasingly common in sitcoms and dramas. And they are no longer stereotypes added in for a cheap laugh but instead an important part of their shows, portrayed with depth and range. From "Modern Family" to "Revenge," TV's not just about straight folks anymore. Here's a rundown of the evolution of gay characters on TV. Amy and Nancy Harrington, Yahoo! Contributor Network