My friend Jay writes great reviews on Facebook, and until he takes my advice on starting his own blog, I am going to post his reviews here! With his permission of course!
QUEER AS FOLK is a vibrant reimagining of the groundbreaking British series created by Russell T. Davies, exploring a diverse group of friends in New Orleans whose lives are transformed in the aftermath of a tragedy.
My thoughts on the new Queer as Folk’s first two episodes. I’m sorry it’s this long, and I’m also sorry I didn’t make it longer.
When discussing important LGBTQ shows, one of the first ones that comes to mind is Queer as Folk. Whether you’re talking about the 1999 British original or the more popular 2000 Canadian/American remake, it was the first scripted show to feature a primarily queer cast and to approach queer topics from the perspective of queer people. Well… white gay cisgendered men that is, and an occasional lesbian or bisexual.
Yes, despite the two previous series launching in 1999 and 2000, there’s little to no diversity in it. The 2000 American/Canadian version is rather notable, too, as it’s set in Pittsburgh, a city with a large minority population, and filmed in Toronto, which has an even larger minority population. Even amongst the extras, you’ll see a wave of white boys. Even for its time, Queer as Folk USA (as it’s been dubbed by the fans) put its wrong foot forward, despite the show actually handling and addressing complicated queer issues well and building some great characters (for at least the first three seasons, anyway).
Aside from that glaring issue, Queer as Folk remains beloved and relevant to this day, as a whole generation has discovered both previous series on streaming and syndication (note: avoid the highly edited syndicated episodes if possible. The music is replaced with weird public domain stuff, and it kills the editing). With its steadfast historical importance to the community despite the very dated fashion, music, and language, it was only a matter of time before Queer as Folk USA returned in some fashion, and with many false startups and even a divisive spinoff of the original British version, Cucumber and Banana (technically two shows, but that’s a whole other topic), we finally have one… Queer as Folk on Peacock. This time, with a much more diverse cast.
First, the question remains… is this a remake or a legacy sequel. Answer: Uhhhh, maybe?
Originally, when announced, fans assumed it was a remake, prompting a PR statement assuring fans it was a legacy sequel… but this feels like a remake. The original character archetypes are all here, despite it being new characters, and many plot ideas from the previous versions are intact, but this version definitely takes more inspiration from the Canadian/American version. We have Brodie/Brian, who is an attractive, popular, and obnoxious ID driven character who tells it like it is, the lesbian couple (Jesse/Lindsay and CG/Melanie) who had his baby despite one being his best friend and the other hating him, the very comfortable in his skin Eric/Emmett who built a life around his challenges and theater personality, the successful but mentally tormented successful man in Noah/Ted, Fin/Justin as the 17-year old kid who sneaks out to gay bars, his mother Judy/Jennifer, his straight best friend who is 100% a stand-in for Daphne, Julian/Michael as the socially awkward little brother figure Brodie grew up with, and his ally mother Brenda/Debbie.
So… everyone’s here, which does scream “remake” but, despite being the general archetypes and, in these early episodes, having more or less the same motivations, they are different characters. The show, from the first two episodes I’ve watched, is walking that tightrope but walking it well. At the same time, they could connect this to the original series and bring in an occasional old cast member… but I have strong doubt they are going to do that. The show’s definitely trying to stand on its own, and there’s room for debate here as to if it does that or not, but I feel, despite the superficial similarities I just brought up, it does.
Aside from diversity, there is another area the show is already doing better than its predecessor, and that’s with connecting the cast members. They all know each other, and we get a good sense to the character dynamics with each pairing pretty quickly. In the previous Canadian/American remake, we saw the cast seldom all interact with each other, with certain characters really only interacting with other certain characters. This was an area I always criticized the previous show on, so it’s nice to see so many interactions right out of the gate here, and I do hope it stays that way instead of putting characters into separate camps they seldom are allowed to escape.
And now for the elephant in the room… the tone of the show.
You probably know where I’m going with this if you’ve seen the trailers or the show, but, if you don’t, you might want to stop reading to avoid a big spoiler, but…
Queer as Folk on Peacock’s connecting plot thread for the main cast is… a Pulse-like mass shooting.
And this bugs the hell out of me.
The previous Queer as Folk shows were about asking hard question in the queer community… should you be out if it poses a risk to yourself or your career? Do we still need Pride? Is corporate Pride a moral hypocrisy? Where do young gay kids go if the whole culture is built around the bars and drinking? How do you adjust to being part of a youth-driven community as you age? Mixed in with that, you have a healthy mixture of soap opera, music, and fashion. Yes, Queer as Folk USA did occasionally showcase a story about hate crimes such as when Babylon was bombed in season 5 or Justin was attacked by his bully in the first season finale, but nothing on this scale. I would be lying if I said the moment it happens, it didn’t bother me. The fact that the whole series is built around that initiating event doesn’t really feel like Queer as Folk, nor am I convinced that the series will examine it enough to be worthwhile. Granted, I’m early in, so I might be proven wrong by the end, but it just seems like such a misguided decision that might overshadow the many other good decisions and castings the series has made.
In the end, Queer as Folk on Peacock may not have the historical significance of its predecessors, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to fall into irrelevancy or not take a stand. Despite my misgivings on the mass shooting plotline, I have to commend them for trying to tackle a complicated issue right out of the gate.
The cast is solid, however, in terms of talent and I’m curious to see how they’re developed. I am disappointed there’s (so far) no continuity between the Canadian/American remake, but I am definitely invested.
Back to Mitch – I have a Peacock subscription, do you? Peacock (peacocktv.com)