In ABC’s Modern Family, the Emmy Award for Best Comedy Series, the titular family is an extended one. This hilarious mockumentary follows the adventures of the Pritchett clan. The curmudgeonly patriarch Jay Pritchett (Ed O’ Neill) is married to a much younger Columbian woman, Gloria Delgado (Sofia Vergara), and helps raise her wise and worldly son, Manny. Jay’s daughter, Claire (Julie Bowen), is married to Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell), and their three children match wits and words with their parents at every turn. Her brother, Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), a prickly, uptight lawyer, just adopted a baby girl from Vietnam with his flamboyant partner, Cameron (Eric Stonestreet). As they navigate the unique world of parenthood, the pair offers one of the best portrayals of a gay couple on television. (Modern Family: The Complete First Season, Amazon; $19.99).
Glee, a high school musical that delves into the world of competitive show choirs, is a marvelous wreck, swinging wildly from suburban parody to afterschool special from frame to frame. Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) steers a group of high school misfits, including prim and perky Rachel Barry (Lea Michele), who have been shunned by their peers for their glee club membership. Emmy Award winner Jane Lynch often steals the show as the caustic Sue Sylvester, a cheerleading coach who acts as Will’s main foil. Meanwhile, Chris Colfer, who plays openly gay teen Kurt Hummel, offers an emotionally gripping performance that balances out the show’s comic core. (Glee: The Complete First Season, Amazon; $29.99).
Singer-songwriter Chely Wright, who graced our June cover, issued one of the best country albums of the year with Lifted Off the Ground, a candid song cycle that chronicled her coming-out process. The emotional centerpiece, "Notes to the Coroner," is sung from the perspective of a woman whose died of a broken heart. On "Like Me," a spare, intimate ballad, she questions an ex-lover struggling with her sexual identity: “Who’s gonna end up holding your hand?/A beautiful woman or a tall handsome man?” Wright, who considered suicide after a series of personal and professional failures, has emerged from the darkness to discover a newfound faith. "Heavenly Days," a pop-gospel hymn, is a peaceful chant that’s sweetened with the sound of her warm alto. The companion autobiography, Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Singer, is a must-read. (Amazon; $9.99)
Rufus Wainwright’s All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu is an affectionate tribute to his mother, famed singer Martha Wainwright, who passed away last year after a long bout with cancer. The album, which features a trio of Shakesperean sonnets set to music, exposes Rufus’ various stages of grief: his operatic tenor leaps into the stratosphere, and then descends back into a thoughtful, intimate pose. To put the focus squarely on his pain and yearning, he’s guided only by a series of intricate piano melodies that are as vivid as his lush, expressive voice. (Amazon; $9.99)
Blue Boy, the debut novel by Rakesh Satyal, is a sharp take on growing up gay. Kiran, the only son of hardworking, religious immigrants from India, is an excellent student who is a favorite of his teachers. He’s also a loner, the only Indian student in his school, likes to play with dolls, and has been known to wear his mother’s makeup. An awkward fit for his society, he strives to balance the expectations of his peers and his parents with grace and humor. As a mild distraction, he worships Hindu god, Krishna, and begins to mold his life in honor of the gender-bending idol. It would be a pity to spoil the ending, but Whitney Houston’s joyous classic "How Will I Know," plays a major role in Kiran’s coming out party. (Amazon; $4.25)
Athletic supporters can appreciate the fine form on display in the 2011 Nashville Grizzlies calendar, featuring full-color images of the rugby team on and off the pitch. (http://www.grizzliesrugby.org, 7.5" x 8.5"; $15)