Queer as Folk is back, newly reimagined and aimed at addressing some of the more problematic aspects of the American version which ran from 2000-2005, and to a lesser extent the original UK version, which ran from 1999-2000.

The reboot of the iconic LGBTQ television franchise features an entirely new group of characters, played by a pleasingly diverse Queer cast, featuring actors of colour, as well as non-binary, transgender, and disabled actors.

This is undoubtedly a welcome change from the first two incarnations of Queer as Folk which overwhelmingly featured white actors, many of whom also identified as heterosexual.

Diversity of the New Cast is Undeniably a Positive Step

The diversity of the new cast is undeniably a positive step toward greater inclusivity, particularly when compared to the “whiteness” of the American and UK versions. However, the new series is, unfortunately, let down by a lack of focus on the quality of the scripts.

The first three episodes, which were made available to critics prior to the premiere, lack a sense of originality, and like a number of other recent reboots of classic series, the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the writers.

The downfall of the reboot is certainly not the fault of the actors, who are all attractive and charismatic and do their best to make the material work; but sadly their efforts aren’t enough to fully recommend this new take on the classic show.

Devin Way (Grey’s Anatomy), Jesse James Keitel (Big Sky), CG, Ryan O’Connell (Special), Johnny Sibilly (Hacks) and Fin Argus round out the principal cast with Eric Graise, Armand Fields and Chris Renfro in support. Kim Cattrall and Juliette Lewis add star power in recurring guest appearances.

The Entire Cast Delivers

The entire cast all delivers good performances, though it is CG as Shar, Argus as Mingus, and Lewis (as Mingus’s thoroughly accepting mother) who make the strongest impressions amongst the cast.

The reboot, which has been in the planning stages for the past five years, is set in New Orleans and follows a group of people whose lives are changed, following what press releases vaguely refer to as a “tragedy.”

However, the trailer for the show clearly shows that the tragedy in question is a horrific mass shooting at Babylon, the gay bar which has served as the epicentre of LGBTQ life in all three incarnations of the franchise.

(In response to the recent mass shootings in the US, the premiere episode will now include warning cards at the beginning.)

Writer and producer Jaclyn Moore said, in a recent panel discussion of the show, “The story of queer joy has always been that queer joy comes out of queer trauma.”

Incorporating a tragic event like a mass shooting is unquestionably timely, especially after the horrors of Uvalde and Buffalo. In fact, survivors of the Pulse attack in Orlando served as consultants on the series, so it is frustrating that the Queer as Folk fails to build compelling storylines from such a powerful incident.

What could have been a truly gripping season-long storyline, focusing solely on the before and after-effects of a mass shooting and showing how people’s lives are forever changed by violence, particularly violence directed at the LGBTQ community, is instead strangely underplayed. Many of the characters present at the shooting seem strangely detached from the horror they lived through, and the first few episodes feel emotionally aloof.

First Few Episodes Lack an Emotional Urgency

In the first few episodes, only small glimpses are shown of the characters coming to terms with the shooting (which is not shown onscreen) and having survived it while many others didn’t. While substantive stories may evolve later into the series, the first few episodes lack an emotional urgency.

One of the series’ biggest faults is the lead character of Brodie (played by the undeniably attractive Devin Way), who becomes very tiresome, very quickly. Without giving away major plot elements, Brodie coasts through the show, propelled by an arch arrogance, but it is exactly this arrogance and entitlement which makes it hard to root for him. He is distant, aloof and unlikeable. In fact, many of the lead characters are hard to relate to. They remain cold, hard and remote.

In the third episode, Brodie complains about how empty local gay spaces have become following the shooting. He decides (unbelievably) to take his survivor fund payout to throw a big party. It is a trite and shallow response to a major tragedy. The series also takes us to several survivor vigils, which are particularly poorly written.

As one would expect, there is a lot of sex in Queer as Folk but that’s actually part of the problem. The numerous (and explicit) sex scenes feel somehow forced, and unnatural. The opening scenes of episode two show the entire principal cast masturbating and then at the end of the episode, each of them are again shown having sex. It just feels as though everyone is working too hard to be provocative.

A Missed Opportunity

Queer as Folk, unlike many other recent reboots, has the benefit of being a show which is ripe for reinvention. The brand of the show can be transplanted to just about any location with any set of LGBTQ characters, yet nothing about this reimagining feels very fresh.

There is undoubtedly room for a show focusing on LGBTQ stories but Queer as Folk is sadly not the show we need it to be or want it to be. It’s trite and half-baked.

It feels like a massive missed opportunity. If only the producers had decided to take a more honest approach to the material, and given us a cast of real characters, experiencing and living with serious trauma and learning to survive it, Queer as Folk could have been something special.

If there had been intimacy and realness to the show, much like we had in HBO’s superlative Looking, then we could have had a true winner. In fairness, future episodes may delve more deeply into the horrors of the shooting and its aftermath but so far from what has been shared, Queer as Folk leaves a lot to be desired.

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