The first images of the newly reimagined Peacock series Queer As Folk are a cheeky callback. Anyone who watched the American/Canadian version of Russell T. Davies’ now iconic series (yes, this 2022 take is a reboot of a remake) is likely to remember the writhing go-go dancers at Babylon that graced the show’s opening credits sequence. It was neon. It was sweaty. It was quintessential gay ’90s. Only here, those images are housed within a screen and the camera soon pans away. You may think you know what you’re getting, this bait-and-switch tells us, but you have no idea. For soon, what’s in front of us is a pair of gay men having very steamy sex (again, a lovely call back to the Showtime show, which gave plenty of us delicious sex scenes to stream in what was then a nascent video platform called YouTube). And so, just as we’re yanked into 2022 (“punish my white ass,” one half of the fucking couple exclaims), we are quickly alerted that this is a decidedly contemporary take on Queer As Folk—which, when it hits, is a glittering accomplishment.
One may be tempted to try to map the original QAF characters onto the ones we’re introduced to in this New Orleans-set series. And you can, sort of, for the most part. There is a Brian and a Justin and a Lindsay and a Melanie, but Stephen Dunn (Closet Monster), who developed this newest iteration, worked hard to not merely replicate what was there before (namely, a show about how queer friendships and communities survive and thrive) but to capture its essence and refract it into something that feels familiar but thrillingly new.
At the center of QAF (2022) is Brodie (Devin Way), the kind of beautiful gay man who moves through the world with a swagger that’s allowed him to get away with everything and anything he’s ever wanted. His grin is devilish and you often see others unable to refuse him—including his ex Noah (Hacks’ Johnny Sibilly) and his BFF Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel). It’s his arrival back in NOLA which kickstarts our story. Brodie has left med school and is eager to rebuild his life back with his friends, his ex, and the life he’d left behind. Sure, Noah has been moving on without Brodie just fine, and Ruthie has her hands now full with a very-pregnant girlfriend (Candace Grace’s Shar), and even his brother Julian (Special’s Ryan O’Connell) seems to have found a way to grow into himself while Brodie was away. It’s no surprise to find him connecting with the alluring Mingus (Fin Argus) who, as it turns out, is decidedly younger than they’d care to admit (read: Ruthie is their high school teacher).
As the pilot introduces us to all of these interlocking relationships, Dunn and his creative team offer us a vibrant portrait of an ebullient local queer community. Then the unimaginable occurs. As the ensuing episodes track the fallout (watch out for the expert skewering of banal trauma-driven activism), Queer As Folk emerges as a welcome intervention into how to tell authentic queer stories in the 21st century. Namely: How do you unfold narratives that deal with trauma but don’t become solely about trauma?
Somehow, Queer As Folk finds ever more delicious and delirious ways of offering prickly story beats and character arcs that refuse to flatten or homogenize the LGBTQ+ community. Frank conversations about “crip sex,” sexual desirability post-transition, and the importance of gay nightlife spaces stand alongside gorgeous moments of drag artistry, rollicking sex parties, and dour rallies. Dunn and his very talented group of performers give us the highs and the lows, the high drama and the lowly camp, the tea and the shade, and everything in between. (Also, the casting of Juliette Lewis as Mingus’ mom and Kim Cattrall as Brodie and Julian’s mother alone is worth the price of admission). If some lines fall flat here and there, and some plot turns show their narrative cogs a tad too nakedly, all is excused for the joyous attempt to probe queer stories for all they are worth.