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The most entertaining and binge-worthy queer content arriving in January

Some of the biggest names in entertainment — from RuPaul to Bridget Everett and Jonathan Van Ness — start the year off with big runs on the small screen.
Imape: Cole Escola in "Search Party," clockwise from top left, Kerry Colby in "RuPaul's Drag Race," Jeron Hazelwood in "Cheer," Ronen Rubinstein in "9-1-1: Lone Star," and Rosamund Pike in "The Wheel of Time."
Cole Escola in "Search Party," clockwise from top left, Kerri Colby in "RuPaul's Drag Race," Jeron Hazelwood in "Cheer," Ronen Rubinstein in "9-1-1: Lone Star" and Rosamund Pike in "The Wheel of Time."Shahrzad Elghanayan / NBC News

After an impressive slew of Oscar-worthy December film debuts, January is all about small-screen productions. Wildly popular series return with splashy new seasons — including “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “Search Party” and “Euphoria” — while some of the biggest names in queer entertainment helm new shows from streaming giants.

Along with a bounty of TV shows to binge in January, a few notable films with dark sensibilities perfectly complement what is, really, the cruelest month.

Ronen Rubinstein in "9-1-1: Lone Star."Jordin Althaus / FOX

‘9-1-1: Lone Star’Ryan Murphy’s “9-1-1: Lone Star,” which follows the first responders of fictional company 126 based in Austin, Texas, has never been a run-of-the-mill procedural drama. When the show cast Brian Michael Smith (“Queen Sugar”) as firefighter Paul Strickland, he became the first out Black trans man to be a series regular on network television.

The romance between police officer Carlos Reyes (Rafael Silva) and paramedic T.K. Strand (Ronen Rubinstein), the son of Capt. Owen Strand (Rob Lowe), has become the show’s buzziest storyline since the relationship ignited in season one. Fans finally got a Carlos-T.K. sex scene in season two, after getting called out for scrubbing a kiss that was advertised in the season promo. Rumors are already flying about wedding bells in season three. 

“9-1-1: Lone Star” season three premiered on Fox on Jan. 3.

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

Kerri Colby on season 14 of "RuPaul's Drag Race."VH-1

Mother Ru is returning with season 14 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” The season features more than a dozen queens, who are all vying for the $100,000 grand prize and a chance to become a “Drag Race” superstar.

Recently the series sparked controversy for casting its first cisgender, straight male contestant, while it continues to lag behind on representation for transgender drag queens. Last year, Gottmik made history as the first transgender male competitor, and Kylie Sonique Love was crowned the series’ first transgender winner. Notably, the cast of season 14 includes two Los Angeles-based transgender queens, Kerri Colby and Kornbread “The Snack” Jeté.

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 14 premiered on VH1 on Jan. 7.

‘Search Party’

Nonbinary actor Cole Escola as Chip in a scene from "Search Party."Jon Pack / HBO

The cult dark comedy series “Search Party” is coming to an end with its fifth season. Created by Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers, the show follows a band of self-involved 20-somethings searching for a missing former college acquaintance.

Season four ended with a cliffhanger involving search party leader Dory (Alia Shawkat), who is presumed dead after a fire engulfed the home where she’s been held captive by superfan Chip (nonbinary actor Cole Escola). The show has always been a who’s who of both emerging and established comedic talents, featuring the likes of Susan Sarandon, Rosie Perez, Busy Philipps and Chloe Fineman in guest and recurring roles. This season, Jeff Goldblum has signed on to join the search. 

“Search Party” season five premiered on HBO Max on Jan. 7.

‘Euphoria’

Zendaya and Hunter Schafer in "Euphoria."HBO

In the season two trailer of “Euphoria,” starring Emmy-winning actor Zendaya and co-star Hunter Schafer as Rue and Jules, audiences get a peek into the chaos that ensues following the couple’s breakup in the season one finale. The trailer suggests more run-ins with the police, drug use and ever-present existential dread. In the snippet, Rue says: “When you’re younger, everything feels so permanent. But as you get older, you realize nothing is.”

This season will feature the return of queer actor Barbie Ferreira, who plays the sexually liberated, body-positive teenager Kat Hernandez. 

“Euphoria” season two premieres on HBO Max on Jan. 9.

‘Cheer’

Jeron Hazelwood of Trinity Valley Community College in "Cheer."Netflix

When the Netflix docuseries "Cheer" premiered two years ago, the Navarro College squad and their uncompromising coach, Monica Aldama, fascinated audiences with high-flying stunts and an all-consuming dedication to cheer. But the Emmy-winning first season was plagued by controversy, following the arrest of cast member Jerry Harris on a child pornography charge.

The new season picks up as its returning host of stars — including Gabi Butler, La’Darius Marshall, Lexi Brumback and Morgan Simianer — are processing Harris’ arrest and their newfound stardom, all while in the hunt for another championship title. And this time around, the Texas-based team shares airtime with its rival squad from Trinity Valley Community College.

“Cheer” season two premieres on Netflix on Jan. 12.

‘Somebody Somewhere’

Danny McCarthy and Bridget Everett in "Somebody Somewhere."HBO

The HBO comedy series “Somebody Somewhere” stars comedian and singer Bridget Everett as Sam Miller, a Kansan struggling to find acceptance and belonging in her hometown. In the seven-episode series, co-created and inspired by the comedian and Kansas native’s life, Everett leverages her talents as a singer to find her own voice and build community. It’s a kind of origin story for Everett, who has been a New York nightlife staple since finding success as a performer alongside drag queens and other queer performance artists at popular Manhattan gay pub Ritz Bar and Lounge.

“Somebody Somewhere” season one premieres on HBO Max on Jan. 16.

‘Single Drunk Female’

LGBTQ director and executive producer Leslye Headland (“Russian Doll”) unveils a series chronicling the experiences of Samantha Fink (Sofia Black-D’Elia), a 20-something with alcoholism who is forced to move back in with her mother to get clean and avoid jail time. The move comes after Fink has a public, embarrassing breakdown. Headland’s wife, Rebecca Henderson, joins the series as Olivia, a melancholic lesbian who greets Alcoholics Anonymous meeting attendees with acerbic wit.

“Single Drunk Female” season one premieres on Freeform on Jan. 20 and will be available on Hulu on Jan. 21.

‘The Gilded Age’

Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski in "The Gilded Age." Alison Cohen Rosa / Netflix

From Julian Fellowes, the creator of “Downton Abbey,” the new HBO series opens in 1882 as a young woman, Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson), moves from rural Pennsylvania to New York City to live with her wealthy aunts following the death of her father. Accompanying her is Peggy Scott (Denée Benton), a budding Black female writer whose relationship with the family raises more than a few eyebrows.  Queer “Sex and the City” actor Cynthia Nixon and gay icon Christine Baranski, known for her explosive roles in “Mamma Mia” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” play Marian’s monied aunts, Ada Brook and Agnes van Rhijn.

Much like Fellowes’ beloved BBC series about early 20th-century Britain, “The Gilded Age” explores the various social and racial issues that erupt during a time of great economic change in America.

“The Gilded Age” season one premieres on HBO Max on Jan. 24.

‘Compartment No. 6’

Seidi Haarla in "Compartment No. 6."Sony Pictures Classics

The Cannes Grand Prix-winning film from Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen “Compartment No. 6” is about an unlikely friendship that develops between an archaeology student, Laura, and a miner, Ljoha, when they meet on a train headed into remote Northwest Russia. Loosely based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Rosa Liksom, the film adaptation rewrites Laura (Seidi Haarla) as queer: The train journey marks the end of her relationship with a female professor and introduction to her boorish compartment mate, Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov). “Compartment No. 6” made the Oscars’ shortlist for international feature in December.

“Compartment No. 6” opens in U.S. theaters Jan. 26.

‘Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness’

Jonathan Van Ness.Nathan Congleton / NBCU Photo Bank file

Nonbinary advocate Jonathan Van Ness is hosting a new Netflix show based on their popular podcast series of the same name. Since the podcast launched in 2015, Van Ness has dedicated episodes to exploring everything from the building of the Panama Canal to the history of scissors. In the new TV series, Van Ness brings audiences along as they speak with experts about a wide range of issues they are curious about, including buildings, insects and gender.

On Dec. 31, Van Ness and the other hosts of “Queer Eye” premiered season six of the beloved reboot, also on Netflix.

“Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness” season one premieres on Netflix on Jan. 27.

In case you missed it …

‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’

Reneé Rapp and Midori Francis in "The Sex Lives of College Girls." HBO

Mindy Kaling’s show about the sexual exploits of four college freshman roommates feels like HBO’s commercial answer to its edgier teen hit “Euphoria.” While the leads of “The Sex Lives of College Girls” deal with weighty issues, from an affair with a married older man to sexual assault, the show maintains an undercurrent of empowerment and positivity. The queerest storyline belongs to Leighton (Reneé Rapp), the popular, blond daughter of a wealthy New York family, who struggles to trade her social status for living openly as a lesbian.

“The Sex Lives of College Girls” season one is available on HBO Max.

‘The Wheel of Time’

Rosamund Pike in "The Wheel of Time." Jan Thijs / Amazon

The new fantasy show “The Wheel of Time,” based on Robert Jordan’s expansive 14-volume series of the same name, stars Rosamund Pike as a powerful member of a magic-wielding sisterhood whose purpose is to protect the world from dark forces. Despite early rumblings about sapphic themes — perpetuated by the show’s female-centric storyline — it wasn’t until episode six that Pike’s character, Moiraine, stepped through a mystical doorway and into the arms of a woman.

“The Wheel of Time” season one is available on Amazon Prime Video.

‘Creamerie’

In the New Zealand show from creators and stars Roseanne Liang, JJ Fong, Ally Xue and Perlina Lau, three dairy farmers stumble upon what could be the last man on Earth after a viral apocalypse was believed to have wiped out everyone with a Y chromosome. Their discovery immediately puts them at odds with the cult-like organization, known as Wellness, which oversees the all-female society. 

“Creamerie” season one is available on Hulu.

‘The Real Housewives of Miami’

Julia Lemigova, right, and her wife, Martina Navratilova, at the Wimbledon Championships in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 9, 2016.Justin Tallis / AFP via Getty Images file

The Miami-based iteration of “The Real Housewives” returned after eight years off the air, and the new cast includes Russian model Julia Lemigova — the first openly gay housewife in the 15-year-old franchise’s 11-series run. Before Lemigova, who is married to tennis star Martina Navratilova, the show’s LGBTQ representation was limited to three cast members of “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” who came out as queer during and after their seasons’ filming.

“The Real Housewives of Miami” season four is available on Peacock.

‘The Novice’

Isabelle Fuhrman in "The Novice."IFC Films

In her feature film debut, LGBTQ writer and director Lauren Hadaway dramatized her own experiences as a competitive collegiate rower in a gritty thriller that draws inspiration from “Whiplash” and “Black Swan.” The film follows Alex Dall (Isabelle Fuhrman), a queer college freshman who undertakes an obsessive physical and psychological journey to make it to the top varsity boat, regardless of the cost.

“The Novice” is available in theaters and on demand.

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