The audience was shocked by the opening episode of Britain’s Strange how the people in 1999, when 15-year-old Nathan (Charlie Hunnam) learned all about rimming.
Russell T. Davies’ seminal drama only ran for 10 episodes, but it was groundbreaking for gay audiences and sparked an American adaptation that ran for 83 episodes.
But while the show was essentially about family, a lot has changed since then: same-sex marriage, social media, gay families, non-binary teens, Grindr, #metoo, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, war in Ukraine… .
Television has also unleashed a surge in LGBTQI+ content, including the affirmative teen series Heartstopperprovocative trans series poseHIV-AIDS drama It’s a shameperiod drama Gentleman Jackmore Watching, Schitt’s Creek, Special, Please Like Me and more.
The challenge for a new Strange how the people he’s finding his role as much as his voice, but writer/director Stephen Dunn’s new take (with Davies to executive produce) gives him a red-hot spin.
Relocated from Manchester and Pittsburgh to New Orleans, it’s still about family but with a more inclusive twist. The central character is Brodie (Devin Way), a sexy young man of mixed ancestry who has twins from two lesbians, Shar (Candace Grace) and Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel), who is also M2F.
The irresistible Brodie catches the eye of non-binary teenager Mingus (Fin Argus) skateboarding at the Babylon nightclub—there’s a nod to that controversial sex scene when the two butt heads.
Brodie, who is on his way home from Baltimore, is also having an affair with hunk Noah (Johnny Sibilly) who is keeping his affair a secret from a mutual friend, Daddius (Chris Renfro). Meanwhile his wealthy parents – who supposedly adopted him as a baby – played by Kim Cattrall and Ed. Begley Jr. can’t keep tabs on their son and brother Julian (Ryan O’Connell) is barely maintaining a relationship with he.
Also there is Juliette Lewis as Judy, mother of Mingus, Armand Fields as drag queen Bussey Horewood, bilateral amputee Eric Graise as Marvin and Brandon Gilpin as a high school friend of Mingus.
It would be easy to try and relate the new characters to the originals (Brodie is clearly Brian/Stuart and Mingus is Justin/Nathan for example), but Stephen Dunn has also turned things around by moving or perhaps axing characters. I suspect Kim Cattrall adopts the maternal role played by Sharon Gless, but I have a hard time pinpointing who Michael/Vince, formerly the center of the QAF extension universe.
What it has retained is the sense of family uniting these characters, which was a rich life-affirming in an age of HIV-AIDS. But there are new crises to face in America and a real-world incident seems to be the inspiration for a major plot point in the first episode…
There are also scenes of facial sex, hints of nudity, and hard-hitting dialogue like “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.”
New Orleans serves as an eclectic and colorful backdrop for the high soap, with magentic Devin Way as the gorgeous and self-absorbed Brodie, bold Fin Argus as the proud Mingus, and rock solid Ryan Connell as the shy but grounded Julian. Jesse James Keitel is also one to watch in his constant anarchy.
This Strange how the people restores his world, which may be a challenge for rusty fans, but deserves a chance to light a fuse for the next generation.
Queer as Folk premieres Friday June 10 on Stan.