The gossip columns go crazy. Interviews with the glamorous starlets are scheduled, and they say things like, "well, I love men, but women have such soft lips and are such great kissers... there's really nothing like it!"
Commercials announce that your favorite good, wholesome man-loving female character is about to take a walk on the wild side. The ad spots will inevitably show the two ladies facing each other, lips pursed, faces nearing, only to cut away before the good stuff happens.
Well, it must be Sweeps.
This is an Always Female variation on Tonight Someone Kisses where a straight or Bi the Way female character kisses another woman (usually a tertiary character or one-episode guest star). The long-term implications are generally negligible and the female regular characters remain straight. The non-regular's remaining screentime in the series will generally be measured in minutes rather than hours or seasons. This is all assuming, of course, that the whole thing isn't taken entirely out of context, and the footage taken from an Accidental Kiss, Fakeout Makeout or, worse, Imagine Spot.
Often classified as fanservice, this is mostly just a Ratings Stunt, calculated to get more viewers while creating a manageable amount of blowback from the Moral Guardians, who, while generally disapproving of lesbianism, have a sufficient Double Standard concerning depictions of male and female homosexuality that they generally save their outrage for, you know, serious dangers to society, like Dogma or Brokeback Mountain...
There's one other explanation for the lack of outrage over the most recent Sweeps Saphistry, and that's that people are losing interest in women making out in prime time. Since the mid-2000's, the lesbian sweeps kiss seems to be getting increasingly diminishing returns in the ratings. The LGBT community is no longer desperate for whatever non-negative representation they can get, and critics are no longer impressed by a showrunner's "bravery" by including it. Further, when you can see far more bizarre things on YouTube (to say nothing of other cornersof the Web), and far more extreme or daring things on non-network television, the Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss is clearly in danger of becoming a Discredited Trope.
See Les Yay, Faux Yay.
Don't act like you weren't interested in Jennifer's Body after both seeing her get intimate with another female and say, "I go both ways."
L.A. Law: New Bi the Way lawyer C.J. Lamb kissed series regular Abby Perkins in the parking lot in one Sweeps episode; they rarely referenced it again and C.J.'s actress, Amanda Donohoe, left the cast the next season.
Picket Fences: The sheriff's teenage daughter kissed her friend at a sleepover. The network was so panicked by it that they darkened the room to prevent it from being seen, though it was visible in the news and other outlets. The daughter decided that she was straight.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Jadzia Dax, who is a host-symbiote character, kissed and got romantically involved with another woman of her species in one episode. Though the Star Trek universe has implied acceptance to gay people, the relationship was inappropriate because their relationship was based on a relationship had by a previous (male) Dax host with the other woman, which is disallowed. The other woman was never seen again. Notably, that episode at least tried to tackle a social issue - they did it again in the seventh season and it was gratuitous even in context, purely there to show the Mirror Universe is Darker and Edgier.
Party of Five: Neve Campbell's character, Julia, kisses another woman (played by Olivia D'Abo). D'Abo's character appears just one more time in the series.
The O.C. had a kiss and bisexual relationship between Marissa Cooper and a short-lived female character named Alex. Alex got Put on a Bus in about four episodes after the kiss (after a brief relationship with a male character). Marissa, of course, went directly back to boys and did not pass Go or collect $200. While the kiss did happen during sweeps, the rest of the trope only applies because of Executive Meddling. Marissa and Alex's story was supposed to play out over the rest of the season and once they broke up, Marissa was supposed to continue on being bisexual. Fox said no to both.
Curiously, it had its "lesbian" kiss a couple weeks beforeSweeps when a female villain with a Green Rocks-powered kiss that causes face-melting hallucinations needs to do something about a witness (Lana, of course). She, ahem, uses her power on Lana, an act that seems to disgust both of them. One could speculate that the reason this episode didn't make it to Sweeps was that it simply wasn't very good Fanservice.
Babylon 5 mostly averted this trope; the lesbian relationship between Ivanova and Talia Winters had no on-screen kiss and was completely understandable based on their characters. After the relationship was revealed, however, Talia was Put on a Bus and later suffered a Bus Crash due to disagreements with her real life actress; there's a left over Chekhov's Gun saying she will come back.
Desperate Housewives did a textbook example recently. In what is perhaps a sign that this trope is starting to become discredited, both lesbian and mainstream reviewers responded with a yawn and a "Seriously? In 2009?" Viewers, apparently, weren't impressed, either.
Winona Ryder showed up as an old friend with a crush on Rachel. Winona kissed Rachel, then promptly disappeared from the series forever, her purpose fulfilled... or perhaps not, since the episode didn't even win its timeslot.
That kiss was immediately followed by Phoebe kissing Rachel "just to see what all the fuss is about."
In the season finale of Courteney Cox's struggling FX series Dirt, Cox's character shared a liplock with a rival played by Jennifer Aniston in a last ditch attempt for ratings. Aniston's character was never seen again. The kiss caused a minor stir among entertainment publications, but unfortunately for Dirt, the angle was less "OMG Rachel and Monica kissed!!!" and more "Wow, Courtney Cox's show is desperate for viewers," thus proving again why this trope is becoming discredited.
Similar to Dirt,Heroes had a notorious example between Gretchen and Claire Bennet in its final season. Since Claire's bisexuality was never touched upon in previous seasons, however, this scene not only had Unfortunate Implications, but also was seen by even the loyalest of fans as a cheap ratings stunt, which effectively doomed the show. Slight subversion, though, in that it was (reportedly) Hayden Panettiere's idea.
Roseanne's (in)famous kiss with Nancy's girlfriend at a lesbian bar. While said girlfriend only appeared one more time (albeit at a gay wedding complete with male kissing), openly-bi Nancy remained on the show for the rest of the series.
Surprisingly, the normally quite un-desperate Gilmore Girls featured an instance, although it was played more as a bizarre example of Paris's ironclad determination not to lose out on anything college might have to offer. Downplayed as it was well out of sweeps, and outside of an overheated New York Postarticle with many errors about the show (calling Michel 'gay' and Paris 'butch'), it was completely downplayed by the network (said promos mentioned in the article were more Hilarity Ensues than anything else).
Beautifully averted by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Willow and Tara's first kiss was neither gratuitous nor shown in the previews. (First on-screen kiss: the characters had been a couple for almost a year at that point.) Not only that but it appeared on a Wham Episode that was about something extremely, disturbingly different.
The show managed to doubly subvert this in its second season - the hype in the lead-up to the last episode of February sweeps mostly focused on a straight kiss between a girl and a gay guy. Also, it's interesting to note that the very next episode after sweeps was the one where Santana gives her Anguished Declaration of Love to Brittany, and it didn't show them doing anything as obscene as they'd done in other episodes.
A Sweeps Week Lesbian Hookup (since the characters were never shown to actually kiss, but we do see them both pre- and post-coital) occurred in "I Do" between Santana (an out lesbian) and Quinn, now a guest star who as of now isn't scheduled to reappear any time soon.
Boston Public had a sweeps week episode in which Sheila, a Psycho Lesbian student stalks Kimberly, a teacher. The preview showed Sheila telling Kimberly "I love you." Both characters are Put on a Bus after this episode.
"Know what Paul (Shaffer) and I are doing for our season finale? A lesbian kiss."
Charlie's Angels (the 2011 remake) tried to generate some publicity by having Minka Kelly and Rachael Taylor kiss. It didn't work and the series was cancelled after only eight episodes, without airing the episode in question. They actually ended up cutting the lesbian kiss scene out of the eighth episode, perhaps as a reaction to the cancellation. When it aired on UK television, the scene was notably absent.
30 Rock: Salma Hayek's guest character, Elisa Padriera, plants a big one on Liz Lemon to bid her farewell, after which, Liz seems intrigued by the gesture.
Blade The Series: From the beginning, the promos for the series played up the sexual tension that was present throughout the series between Krista and Chase, until finally, Chase kisses Krista much later on, when most viewers had lost interest.
Cougar Town: Promos for an episode featured Jules adopting a mannerism possessed by her mother, by greeting and bidding farewell to close friends (specifically female friends) with a kiss on the lips. TBS went to town with those promos.
Paige and Alex's kiss initially seemed like a textbook example of this trope: it was midway through the season and guest-starred Jay And Silent Bob in the conclusion of a plot arc involving a movie shot at the school. Alex and Paige (who had a decent amount of Belligerent Sexual Tension) had finally become friends, got drunk at the wrap party, and went back to Alex's horrible home for a late night kiss in the dark. Unusually for this trope, the kiss led to a several-season-long relationship between the two, and led to arguably the greatest amount of Character Development for both characters.
The series repeated this trope several seasons later with Fiona and Holly J, and while the advertising played it up as a more overt version of this trope, the kiss itself naturally fell into the much larger arc of Fiona coming to terms with her homosexuality. Her later-season kiss with Imogen barely even made a ripple in the advertising because there was nothing to really exploit.
During Eric Bischoff's tenure in the WWE, one of his trademarks was to promise the fans "HLA" (short for "Hot Lesbian Action"), wherein two stunningly attractive – but otherwise heterosexual – female wrestlers would engage in kissing each other in the ring. This began as a one-off ratings stunt in 2002, where two actresses with little actual wrestling training were invited into the ring to "entertain" Bischoff by kissing each other, but the whole act was used to continue the push of Bischoff's tag team Three Minute Warning (a pair of vicious Samoan wrestlers who ran into the ring at random to beat up anyone who was unfortunate to be in their path).
Despite the outcome of the initial in-ring skit, "HLA" would occasionally be used to draw male audiences to the show until Bischoff's departure. Whenever an "HLA" act was planned for the show, Bischoff would – during his in-ring promo – announce, one letter at a time, that such was going to happen sometime during the show; color commentator Jerry Lawler would always play up the "HLA" match by getting unusually (even for him) excited in anticipation of the act.
Technically the Foxxy Love/Princess Clara kiss from the Drawn Together pilot was a few days before sweeps, but it served the same purpose for the new series. The show is in all ways a Genre Savvy parody, though. Though neither cartoon participant left the show, they barely referenced the kiss after Clara has a pregnancy scare stemming from the kiss. The characters move on completely after the first season. However, it was all over the advertising for the show for a while afterwards.
The Cleveland Show/Family Guy used a nearly textbook version of this (though it was series regulars Lois and Bonnie who kissed) when promoting an episode that leads to the spin-off of with promos that talked up the kiss and then cut away to reaction shots.