Your reaction to the 2022 version of QUEER AS FOLK might depend on whether you've previously had a relationship with the material. For some, the 1999 British version by Russell T Davies set a standard for characters who enjoyed celebratory sex and created a chosen family. Relationships are kindled and flame out, a child is born to a lesbian couple, while there is always a slight threat of danger in the streets of Manchester. The central romance is between sexually addicted 30-something Stuart and Nathan, the 15-year-old student who falls for him.
The same character archetypes were seen in the American version, which ran from 2000 to 2005. Now set in Pittsburgh, this telling seemed slightly less edgy, but still features many sex-positive characters and events. The older character loved by the much younger man is Brian, and the young man who adores him, Justin, is of legal age. Sparkling Sharon Gless stood out for her portrayal of Debbie, a waitress, and matriarch of the queer tribe.
The new QAF, set in New Orleans, starts when our feckless hero Brodie (Devin Way) returns after dropping out of med school. Brodie's ex, Noah (Johnny Sibilly) is now with Daddius (Chris Renfro). Julian (Ryan O’Connell), Brodie’s brother who has CP, comes out to his brother, Mingus (Fin Argus) is now a high school student stuck on the older Brodie who he meets on a fateful night at the Babylon bar. Brodie hooks up again briefly with Noah after that night when Daddius is killed. But soon Julian replaces his brother in Noah’s bed. Brodie has provided sperm to Char, who gave birth to twins on the same night of the shooting. That is a lot of plot!
Fin Argus is charming as the young drag queen, and Juliette Lewis plays his eccentric mom. Deaf queer activist Nyle DiMarco has a nice cameo as a sex worker. All of the other ensemble players are fully committed to telling this tale, resulting in a very authentic evening.
What struck me as odd was starting the series with a mass shooting - revealed in all of the trailers and promotional materials - making the comedy that follows shallow. The characters may have had weeks to adjust and grieve, but the audience has not had that time. Plot points involve a 'survivors fund,' which some cheat. We see charlatan preachers gaining PR as they give away free cars to the parents of those who died. When death hovers, It makes it hard to laugh.
QAF's most notable success is the vast diversity of cast employed to bring the story alive. Like Fire Island on Hulu, a rainbow of race, gender, and differently-abled characters populate this chosen family and are featured in both the political and romantic storylines.
The show seems more intent on making statements than its predecessors, as politics and parties are here hand-in-hand. QAF still has a high-energy soundtrack and is always easy on the eyes, but the locations in New Orleans are surprisingly dull and underpopulated. The last few episodes are more concerned about the emotional connections of the leads. And of course, the series concludes in a way that makes you wonder 'what will happen next season?'
As each generation retells its own stories, Russell T Davies' characters taught us much about parenting, partnering, the power of love, and choosing a family. I look forward to another version in 10 years to see what that take on LGBTQ reveals.
QUEER AS FOLK is on Peacock.