There is now an Americanized version of Queer as Folk here in the US, broadcast on the cable network Showtime. Basically, it is a terrible ripoff. The cute and spunky 15 year old Nathan in the British series has been replaced with a lame, queeny bleach blond dumb ass 17 year old, because they didn't think Americans could handle a relationship between a 15 year old and a 30 year old. Oh well. Also, Showtime has increased the run of the show from one hour to two, in order to fit the long and numerous sex scenes in.

Is there really so much difference between fifteen and seventeen?

Not from the vantagepoint of thirty five, I can tell you. I also doubt there's that much difference between a 15 year old boy in the UK and a 17 year old boy in the USA. Either boy having a relationship with a 30 year old man would excite comment of the scandalous variety in both countries.

I'm finding the American version enjoyable, even if the first couple of episodes were nearly, uh, shot for shot remakes of the British series.

It's extremely refreshing to me to see gay men portrayed as something other than penis-less comic relief. For the first time outside of gay pornography, American gay men have been portrayed as the selfish, self-centered insatiable rutting sex pigs they most certainly can be, and most likely, have been. Let's face it, all we queers know a Brian Kinney (played really really well by newcomer Gale Harold). I find it also pretty remarkable to consider that we also probably know a queeny seventeen year old like Justin (played by another newcomer Randy Harrison). We've come a long way, baby.

For so long I've heard my queer brethren bemoan the lack of a realistic portrayal of the gay lifestyle in popular entertainment. You know, one that shows the boys, the sex, the loneliness, the assholes, the drugs, the friends, the freaks and the family in something approaching a realistic light.

Now that it's here, a lot of those same people are upset that it's somehow not as flattering as they expected.

Reality is seldom flattering.


Update 10 May 2001

I've now watched the entire first season of this show, and it never failed to hold my interest. I found some of the stuff to be high soap opera ... I mean, we're talking Melrose Place, here. However, some bits held tellingly true, and special mad props must go out to the actress that plays Justin's mom. What a terrific job she's done, and is now on my short list of actors to watch. I stand by my original comments more than ever.

Does QAF portray homosexuals and their lives accurately? Absolutely. If you're gay and couldn't find anything at all in the show with which to identify, you're just a damned liar, and you need to get over it.

Also, do all shows about heterosexuals begin with an apologetic message that states that the show one is about to watch doesn't necessarily portray the lives of all heterosexuals in existence? Of course not.

My gay brethren really need to lighten up, methinks. The show has broken ground here, my brothers and sisters. Said ground now ready for tilling. If you can do better than Queer Eye, I'll buy your DVD's too!

What?

Now (2003) in its third season, Showtime's Queer as Folk follows a cast of gay men and lesbians in their life-like scenarios. In contrast to many of the TV shows that resonate with queers in the United States (i.e. Will and Grace), QAF also contains a component that probably accounts for much of its appeal: sex.

Queer as Folk (US) is based on a British TV series of the same name.

Who?

Arguably, there are many regulars on the show, and at different points in time, different individuals are key figures in the plot. However, a few folk have been around since the beginning.

Brian Kinney
Described as brutally honest and completely detached, he's not a Zen master. "I don't believe in love. I believe in fucking." Nearly every night, this ad-exec goes out on the town and finds yet another new sexual partner.

Brian is the stud of the series. If you are watching to see sex, it's most likely that he is who you watch. Much of the plot revolves around his sexual activity, from the 17-year-old he sleeps with at the beginning, to the best-friend he never quite had sex with.

Michael Novotny
Michael is the best-friend in question. They've been together since high school, and couldn't be more different. Michael is the regular guy. He likes comic books. He's looking for love, and sometimes he seems to find it.

His relationship with Brian has a smoldering sexual component to it, stemming from the time Michael's mother walked in on them in a mutual masturbation session. It seems that Michael hasn't quite gotten over that event, though, and sometimes even jealousy can stem from the incident: when Brian starts seeing Justin regularly, the animosity is sometimes thinly-veiled.

Justin Taylor
Justin shows up in the first episode, sneaking into the gay club Babylon, where he soon hooks up with the hottest guy in the place: Brian Kinney. With Brian as his first gay experience, Justin quickly latches on and expects a relationship, but that doesn't fit well with Brian's emotion-free motif.

Despite conflict and difficult, Justin finds a lot of support in Brian's group of friends, including Michael and his mother.

Debbie Novotny
The ultimate PFLAG mother, Debbie (almost) always has good advice for the queer folks to go with, even if they don't want to take it. Michael's mother works at a diner on Liberty Avenue, the center of the show's gay universe. Debbie plays a maternal role to almost all the gay boys running around, but is ready with wisecracks to put people in their places at any time.

The extent of her support is demonstrated when she brings Justin, whom she has dubbed 'Sunshine' into her home (Michael's old room, no less) when he runs into a lot of problems with his family while coming out. It can also be seen in her relationship with Vic, her HIV positive gay brother.

Lindsay Peterson and Melanie Marcus
The lesbian couple plays out as a couple throughout the series. Lindsay's identity seems to be much in line with the everyday housewife, if you add-in that the housewife is a lesbian who gave birth to the child of her gay best-friend, Brian Kinney.

Melanie appears to be the more masculine of the two, a Jewish lawyer who steps quickly into conflict with Brian but loves the trio's son, Gus. It's probably because the two are so alike: she is also described as having a tough, no-nonsense attitude.

Ted Schmidt
Ted. Starting the series, Ted is a boring accountant without a lot of character, but quite a bit develops throughout the series. Originally, his work-life is a bore and his love-life a snore--but watch out. A little web-porn business can go a long way.

Ted is almost inseparable from his best-friend, Emmett.

Emmett Honeycutt
The queen of the group, Emmett is one of the two regular cast members who is gay in real life. Originally from Mississippi, he brings Southern comfort to new levels as he helps to take care of his friends' relationships and develops a few for himself as well.

Paraphrasing something he once said: some may contain their flame down to a little pilot light, as for Emmett, he'll let his flame burn bright.

Where?

Most of Queer as Folk takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It's not exactly the gay mecca that one might expect, but when the show focuses on Liberty Avenue and Babylon, you wouldn't know the difference. Much of the setting serves to sell more sex, but also provides space for academia (a la the Institute of Fine Arts and Carnegie-Mellon University), business (Brian's ad firm), and suburban home life (the home of Lindsay and Melanie).

Other places of interest include Michael's mother's home and Brian's loft.

Critiques

Racism?
Many people of color express disappointment at the very, very few queers of color depicted in the show. Aside from a couple minor flings, almost no racial or ethnic minorities are shown whatsoever. The weight behind this critique is the fairly common view that there are no queers of color.

Life isn't like THAT!
Other viewers feel the need to clarify that, as gay folk, they're not so promiscuous as shown on TV, nor do they have so much fun as the people here. The return criticism is that the show is life-like. In order to appeal to as many folks as possible, many different experiences and situations are shown.

It's not likely that anyone would be fired from their job for masturbating at work, create a porn business, have a near fatal drug overdose, and end up sleeping with their best friend...but hey, it COULD happen.

Sources

Video
Queer as Folk Season One and Two are both available on DVD as of this posting. Each season seems to come out right before the start of the next, so as to allow people to catch up. As far as research goes, there's no better way to understand a series than to see it for one's self.

Web
Some detail has been clarified here using the official Queer as Folk website as a reference. That website can be found at queer.sho.com.

Showtime (heh!)

Queer as Folk airs Sundays at 10pm ET/PT. The show's contract has been renewed for a third and fourth season, at 14 episodes each.


Note: there are no trans or bisexual 'folk' on the show thus far.
Please feel free to /msg me with any suggestions or critiques for this node.

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