Queer as Folk

Fans of the American version of Queer as Folk need a fix so bad that the fizzle of the last two seasons will hardly matter as the rainbow sets on Pittsburgh’s mythical gaytropolis.After more than a year, the show hasn’t been hurt by talk of production and cast problems.The characters became the thing that sustained this show and made it Showtime’s biggest hit.For the last season the creators Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman wisely get back to making this a character-driven drama again instead of fitting them into overly greased plots twists.

The gang from Liberty Street was last seen in Canada in a bike race and at the wedding of Michael Novotny (Hal Sparks) and Professor Ben Bruckner (Robert Gant).It’s always a sign that series’ writers are out of ideas when characters are taken on the road and guest stars start popping up.Character arcs and plot resolutions are around every corner as everyone is put back on message by the antigay forces lurking to keep queer liberty down.Holy Homophobes, Rage!

Melanie Marcus (Michelle Clunie) and Lindsay Peterson (Thea Gill) are coping with their second child and in serious relationship woes.Gay marriages may not be recognized at the border of the US, but in Pittsburgh every gay couple is setting up house with careers, babies and same-sex soccer couples.Michael and Ben are feathering their nest, hell bent on becoming a Norman Rockwell painting.

Eternal Southern belle Emmett Honeycutt (Peter Paige) is friends again with ex-lover (accountant-cum-pornking-cum-crystal) addict Ted Schmidt (Scott Lowell) and the two are turned once again into comic relief, when they aren’t getting stuck at the bottom.Emmett gets hired at a local news outlet to be the "queer eye" for the three rivers and Ted ages suddenly, gaining twenty-five pounds and heading for a nip and tuck. Taking a page from the Broadway hit Take Me Out, Emmett’s closeted football player is back after being blackmailed and outed.

Justin Taylor (Randy Harrison) is back from Hollywood after the movie version of his comic book is killed.Brian Kinney (the unwaveringly intoxicating Gale Harold) is actually jealous of his wayward boyfriend, feeling his age more than his aging oats. The actor playing Rage tells Justin “When something’s over, it’s over.”You get the feeling they aren’t just talking about Hollywood.

Blue-plate Mama Debbie Novotny (Sharon Gless) has finally hooked up with detective Carl, her Andy Sipowitz knock-off.She apparently has recovered from the death of her brother Vic and now is meddling in the custody battle of the Mel-Lindsay-Michael (the sperm donor and Debbie’s son) menage and fending off the advances from abused newbie lesbian waitress played by Rosie O’Donnell.

Hunter (Harris Allan, terrific again as an ex-teenage hustler) runs away from Ben and Michael’s ideal gay household after his HIV status is exposed in front of his high school sending the professor into an emotional crisis.It’s good to see Ben knocked off of his philosophical pins and in a situation that wipes that forced smile off of his face.

Kinney’s ad agency is boffo business so he buys the club, his last big toy before manhood, so he can endlessly boff. “I got to keep the boys off the streets at night.Provide them with a warm friendly environment in which to use illegal substances and have promiscuous sex,” he tells Ted.

Continually annoying are the over-choreographed sex scenes by the principals that are often so sterile that you wonder if the actors are blow-up dolls.They are above sex, right above it.Contrast that with the casual full-frontals by the naked casts of faceless thousands.Brian’s sex challenge with the new gay hunk in town is a steal from Mesillina’s whoring in I, Claudius and was a cheap excuse for more sex-scenes.

Brian remains the PC wildcard, even as a "groom," staying true to character every time the writers want to soften him up.Harold is smart enough to keep his appeal a double edge sword, playing between his predictable lines.

Even while always returning to the stations of the gay cross, QAF bent over backwards to reflect the more explosive headlines about gay life– bashings, marriage, politics, promiscuity, substance abuse–to mention just a few. They have been as slutty politically as the backroom at Babylon, subjecting characters on both sides to being paranoid mouthpieces, even when doing so sacrificed engaging drama.So when an emotionally manipulative bomb is dropped on Babylon, you have to admire the alternative to ending a series with a case of expected schmaltz.And no matter what else happens, they make sure the dancing still sizzles on queerstreet USA.

Lewis Whittington

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Philadelphia, PA
Lewis Whittington writes about the performing and film arts for many publications. He is a renegade dance, theater and opera queen, a jazz-head and a civil activist.