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‘Queer as Folk’ launches in the UK today on STARZPLAY – is the reboot worth watching?

Is the third iteration of the show a must-see?

‘Queer as Folk’ was created by Russell T Davies and it launched in the UK on 23rd February 1999. The show proved to be controversial thanks to its explicit sex scenes and its central storyline, which saw older man Stuart (Aiden Gillen) seduce a 15-year-old schoolboy Nathan (Charlie Hunnam) before the two embarked on an on/off relationship. The show ran for two series and is considered a classic for its ground-breaking depiction and representation of gay men on TV, something that just didn’t really happen back in the late 90s.

The show was remade in the US in 2000 by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, and it took elements of the original series but transplanted it to Pittsburgh in the US (although it was actually shot in Toronto, Canada). The US version of ‘Queer as Folk’ ran for five seasons and it focused on man whore Brian (Gale Harold), his best friend Michael (Hal Sparks), schoolboy Justin (Randy Harrison) and their circle of friends. For me, it was stronger than the original UK series in large part to a higher standard of acting from the ensemble cast, but like the original it tackled topical issues that affected the gay community.

Now ‘Queer as Folk’ is back for a third iteration and this one is set in New Orleans. It aired in the US earlier this year but now it’s coming onto premium streaming service STARZPLAY in the UK, with the first two episodes available today. Two more episodes will be made available weekly until all eight instalments of the first season are available for viewers to stream. The big question though is whether the series is worth watching? Does this ‘Queer as Folk’ have anything to say that the other two iterations haven’t?

Queer as Folk
Credit: Peacock / STARZPLAY

The answer to that is a resounding ‘yes’. While it’s not clear (at least from the three episodes I’ve seen) whether or not this exists in the same universe as the previous US series, this ‘Queer as Folk’ is the most representative iteration of the show yet. Centred around Brodie (Devin Way), a black openly gay man who returns home after dropping out of medical school, this series provides a much more realistic look at a modern gay community. While it takes elements from the two previous iterations – in this series Brodie is the sperm donor for his friend Ruthie (Jessie James Keitel) and her partner Shar (CG), and he hooks up with teenager Mingus (Fin Argus) without realising his hook-up’s age – the series is very much showcasing an LGBTQ+ community that incorporates all the colours of the rainbow.

Rather than just exploring issues that affect gay men, ‘Queer as Folk’ widens the net. Once all the characters are introduced – Ruthie is a transwoman, Brodie’s brother Julian (Ryan O’Connell) has cerebral palsy, Brodie’s ex Noah (Johnny Sibilly) is secretly seeing their mutual friend Daddius (Chris Renfro), and Mingus is non-binary – a shooting takes place in the nightclub ‘Babylon’ (the club shares the name of the club from the original series) that changes everyone’s lives forever. That moment is tastefully done and is surely a nod to the ‘Pulse’ nightclub shooting that took place in Orlando in 2016.

Queer as Folk
Credit: Peacock / STARZPLAY

The first episode has a lot of set-up to get through and it does so pretty well. Fans of the original two series will likely wonder if the explicit sex scenes will still be part of this new iteration and they most definitely are… from the opening moments of the episode. The characters are as relaxed about hooking up with one another, and talking about sex, as they’ve ever been in the franchise and you should prepare your eyes to see plenty of buttocks across the opening two episodes.

Outside of the main cast there are supporting roles from Kim Cattrall as Brodie and Julian’s mother Brenda, Juliette Lewis as Mingus’ mother Judy and Ed Begley Jr. as Brenda’s husband. Later in the series there promises to be appearances from the likes of Lukas Gage, Nyle DiMarco and Big Freedia, and it’ll be interesting to see how they fit into the show.

‘Queer as Folk’ is very much its own show and it’s very different to the previous series. With the vibrant New Orleans setting and a cast of characters that truly represent modern society, the show is going to appeal to a wider audience, and provide much-needed visibility for parts of the community that have been over-looked. Based on the first two episodes, ‘Queer as Folk’ is going to be a heady cocktail of drugs, sex and drama, and that should be enough to hook in fans of the franchise and attract viewers who are watching ‘Queer as Folk’ for the very first time.

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