The first time I discovered the American version of Queer as Folk (2000), I was in college, desperately scrolling through every streaming service I had, hoping to find something to satiate my hunger for gay TV. I grew up in the era of Glee and Pretty Little Liars, a unique moment in television where mainstream networks slowly started to accept queer stories, albeit always relegating them to the side. So, you could imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this turn-of-the-millennium Showtime series that focused on a group of unapologetically queer men and women in Pittsburgh, PA, who were clubbing, doing hard drugs and having graphic sex in nearly every episode. It was a dream come true (and I watched as many episodes as I could that night before passing out from exhaustion).
However, having found the show nearly two decades after it was first released, I was able to recognize the ways in which it hadn't aged perfectly. For instance, the main cast was entirely white (as were most of their romantic partners), the gay mens’ perception of the lesbians on the show was often problematic and there was also an uncomfortably inappropriate age gap between two of the main characters.
Yet, I also learned the many ways in which this reboot of Russell T. Davies’s short-lived British series was also a landmark for American television. It was the first TV show to simulate gay sex on American TV, it was one of the first shows to depict a character living with HIV/AIDS and it highlighted issues of adoption, marriage, violence and more within the LGBTQ+ community that had practically been nonexistent in U.S. television before. Its characters were funny, smart, sexy and they didn't cater to straight people (and the writers didn't cater to a straight audience). So, while the show certainly had its flaws, it undeniably changed the landscape of American television for the better.
Flash forward to 2022 and Queer as Folk is getting adapted yet again, in a new series from Peacock. And while it feels like we've been getting remakes ad nauseam these days, Queer as Folk feels like the perfect choice. For a show that was revolutionary, why not give those cringeworthy aspects a face lift in a time where companies are scrambling to cover their products in rainbows every June? And for the most part, the new Queer as Folk succeeds, with a winning cast, emotional complexity and more (if only they had left one plot point in the past). Keep reading for a full review from someone who loved the first American adaption of Queer as Folk.