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.

Peacock's remake follows Brodie (Devin Way), a pompous but charming twentysomething who returns to his hometown of New Orleans after dropping out of med school, hoping to rekindle past relationships, like that with his ex-boyfriend, Noah (Johnny Sibilly). However, things get complicated when it's revealed that one of Brodie's best friends, Daddius (Chris Renfro), has been hooking up with Noah in his absence.

While we watch the tension of this love triangle unfold, we also follow the narratives of Brodie's brother, Julian (Ryan O'Connell), his best friend Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel) and her partner, Shar (Candace Grace), as well as a 17-year-old aspiring drag star named Mingus (Fin Argus).

The first episode emulates many of the original plotlines of the British and American versions before it, including the cocky, hypersexual protagonist at its center, a couple welcoming a baby thanks to the help of a donor, a teen sneaking into a club in an effort to find themself and more. However, this new Queer as Folk feels much fresher and more encompassing of the entire queer community. It's refreshing to hear Ruthie talk about openly being trans, or to see Shar addressed with they/them pronouns without anyone ever questioning it. In this version, we see characters who are queer and Black, queer and disabled, queer and fat and so much more. This adaptation offers so many perspectives that the previous versions failed to highlight.

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Peacock

However, one of the main ways in which the 2022 Queer as Folk differs is that it offers a much more emotional and somewhat triggering plotline from the get-go. In the first episode, a shooting takes place at a local bar called Babylon (also the name of the club that the characters frequented in the 2000 American series), and in the midst of a number of real-life shootings that have taken place across the U.S., this scene feels eerily topical and unsettling.

But, while this scene may be too raw for viewers in this moment, it also feels important when analyzed through the history of violence against LGBTQ+ people, especially the Pulse nightclub shooting from 2016. While Queer as Folk has gotten richer in the diversity of its characters, it also explores deeper storytelling, including the ways in which violence against queer people more often affects people of color.

However, while we watch the ensemble struggle in the wake of this traumatic event, the show is not only characterized by tragedy. Despite this horror, we watch these characters find joy in everyday moments, whether it's baby showers, walks through the mall, intimate hookups or more. The tone of the show can be a little jarring with the way it switches between sadness and ecstasy, but fans of the originals can rest assured that this new version hasn't lost any of the laughs, sex and frivolity.

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Peacock

However, if there's one thing that Peacock's Queer as Folk could have afforded to lose, it's the uncomfortable age gap between two characters at its center. In both the previous versions of the series, the first episode sees a successful marketing executive seduce an attractive young man, who he retroactively learns is in high school. But following their passionate first night together, the two end up developing a longtime connection.

In the past, this narrative may have demonstrated the ways in which young queer people had to find themselves through the guidance of older figures, but today, it frankly just feels unnecessary. With shows like Heartstopper successfully showing how high schoolers can find love amongst their own age group, it doesn't feel like we need to repeat this tired trope.

Yet, in the first episode, when Brodie (highly under the influence) meets the teenage Mingus and hooks up with him in the bathroom (and doesn't feel that regretful for it later), I couldn't help but sigh and wish they had left this plot point in the cutting room. Or at least, why couldn't it have been a college-aged student who he connected with at the bar? Something that would've been more realistic and less cringey.

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Alyssa Moran/Peacock

PureWow Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

For fans of past versions of Queer as Folk, there is plenty to love in Peacock's reboot, and for those who may have never seen the former shows, this adaptation does well in reaching out to a new audience (and depicting far more of the LGBTQ+ community along the way). However, viewers should be warned that some of the emotional aspects may be too unsettling in light of current events, and unfortunately, the show maintains the uncomfortable age gap that characterized the versions that came before it. But, if you can overlook those aspects, the series still manages to be a joyful, sexy and funny portrait of queer life.

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