|Queer as Folk|
|Based on||Queer as Folk|
by Russell T Davies
|Opening theme||"Spunk" by Greek Buck (seasons 1–3) |
"Cue the Pulse to Begin" by Burnside Project (seasons 4–5)
|Country of origin|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||83 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||44–58 minutes|
|Original release||December 3, 2000 –|
August 7, 2005
|Related shows||Queer as Folk|
Queer as Folk is a Canadian-American serial drama television series that ran from December 3, 2000, to August 7, 2005. The series was produced for Showtime and Showcase by Cowlip Productions, Tony Jonas Productions, Temple Street Productions, and Showtime Networks, in association with Crowe Entertainment. It was developed and written by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, who were the showrunners and also the executive producers along with Tony Jonas, former president of Warner Bros. Television.
Based on the British series of the same name created by Russell T Davies, Queer as Folk was the first hour-long drama on American television to portray the lives of homosexual men and women. Although it was set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, much of the series was actually shot in Toronto and employed various Canadian directors known for their independent film work (including Bruce McDonald, David Wellington, Kelly Makin, John Greyson, Jeremy Podeswa and Michael DeCarlo) as well as Australian director Russell Mulcahy, who directed the pilot episode. Additional writers in the later seasons included Michael MacLennan, Efrem Seeger, Brad Fraser, Del Shores, and Shawn Postoff.
The series follows the lives of five gay men living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Brian (Gale Harold), Justin (Randy Harrison), Michael (Hal Sparks), Emmett (Peter Paige), and Ted (Scott Lowell); a lesbian couple, Lindsay (Thea Gill) and Melanie (Michelle Clunie); and Michael's mother Debbie (Sharon Gless) and his uncle Vic (Jack Wetherall). Another main character, Ben (Robert Gant), was added in the second season.
Main article: List of Queer as Folk characters
Main article: List of Queer as Folk episodes
The first episode finds the four friends ending a night at Babylon, a popular gay club. Brian picks up and has sex with Justin, who falls in love with him and eventually becomes more than a one-night stand. Brian also becomes a father that night, bearing a son with Lindsay through artificial insemination.
Michael's seemingly unrequited love for Brian fuels the story, which he occasionally narrates in voice-over. Justin's coming out and the budding relationship with Brian has unexpected effects on Brian and Michael's lives, much to Michael's dismay, as Justin is only 17 years old. Justin confides in his straight high-school friend Daphne while struggling to deal with homophobic classmates and his dismayed, divorcing parents, Craig and Jennifer. Later in the second season, Justin and Michael co-create the sexually explicit underground comic Rage, featuring a "Gay Crusader" superhero based on Brian.
Brian's son Gus, being raised by Lindsay and Melanie, becomes the focus of several episodes, as issues of parental rights come to the fore. Ted is Melanie's accountant who once harbored a long-standing crush on Michael. He and Emmett begin as best friends but briefly become lovers later in the series. Their relationship ends as Ted, unemployed and with a criminal record earned from running a legitimate porn website that was targeted by a chief of police running for mayor, becomes addicted to crystal meth.
In the fourth season, Brian, who has lost his job by assisting Justin in opposing an anti-gay political client, starts his own agency. He also discovers he has testicular cancer and hides his treatment from his friends. Michael marries Ben Bruckner, an HIV-positive college professor, and the couple adopts a teenage son, James "Hunter" Montgomery, who is also HIV-positive as a result of his experiences as a young hustler.
Ted's affair with a handsome crystal meth addict, Blake Wyzecki, sets the pattern for Ted's later tragic but ultimately redeeming experiences with drug addiction.
Melanie and Lindsay's relationship, while on the surface seeming to be stable, is actually quite tumultuous. Each cheats on the other at various points in the series; both tackle on a threesome shortly after they marry and become separated for much of the fourth and fifth seasons. Melanie is impregnated by Michael (through artificial insemination, as Lindsay was) in the third season, and thus best friends Brian and Michael become co-fathers to Lindsay and Melanie's children.
Melanie gives birth to a girl, Jenny Rebecca, over whom Melanie, Lindsay, and Michael have a brief legal custody battle following the women's transitory breakup. Brian's new advertising agency, Kinnetik, becomes highly successful, through a combination of Brian's customer loyalty and his edgier advertising. As a result, Brian is able to purchase Club Babylon from its bankrupt owner.
In the fifth and final season the boys have become men, and the series, perhaps more comfortable in its role in gay entertainment, tackles political issues head-on and with much more fervor.
A political campaign called "Proposition 14" is depicted during much of the final season as a looming threat to the main characters. This proposition, like so many real-life recent legislative moves that have affected many U.S. states, threatens to outlaw same-sex marriage, adoption, and other family civil rights. The many ways in which such a proposition would affect the characters are depicted in nearly every episode.
Debbie, Justin, Jennifer, Daphne, Emmett, Ted, Michael, Ben, Lindsay, Melanie, and the children stand up and fight against this proposition via active canvassing, political contributions, and other democratic processes, but they are met with staunch opposition, discrimination, outright hatred, and political setbacks.
The show climaxes near the end of the series when a benefit to support opposition to Proposition 14 hosted at Brian's club Babylon (after repeated relocations of the benefit owing to discrimination) is attacked by a bomb that initially kills four people (and eventually another three) and injures 67.
This horrible event sets the bittersweet tone for the final three episodes, in which Brian, frightened by this third possible loss of Justin, finally declares his love for him. The two even plan to marry, but Justin's artistic abilities get noticed by a New York art critic and the two decide, for the time being at least, in favor of a more realistic approach to a stormy relationship that nevertheless works for their characters. Melanie and Lindsay, realizing they have more in common than not, resume their relationship but relocate to Canada to "raise [their children] in an environment where they will not be called names, singled out for discrimination, or ever have to fear for their life."
Emmett becomes a Queer-Eye type TV presenter but is later fired when professional football player Drew Boyd kisses him on the news to signify his coming out. Ted confronts his midlife crisis head-on and finally reunites with Blake. Hunter returns and the Novotny-Bruckner family perseveres.
The series came full circle with the final scenes staged in the restored Babylon nightclub. In the final scene, Brian dances to Heather Small's "Proud," a song that accompanied a pivotal scene between Brian and Michael in the very first episode of the series. It ends with a final narration by Michael:
So the "thumpa thumpa" continues. It always will. No matter what happens. No matter who's president. As our lady of Disco, the divine Miss Gloria Gaynor has always sung to us: We will survive.
The American version of Queer as Folk quickly became the number one show on the Showtime roster. The network's initial marketing of the show was primarily targeted at gay male (and to some extent, lesbian) audiences, yet a sizable segment of the viewership turned out to be heterosexual women.
Groundbreaking scenes abounded in Queer as Folk beginning with the first episode, which depicts the first sex scene between two men shown on American television (including mutual masturbation, anal sex, and rimming), though not as graphically as the scene in the UK version that it was based on.
Despite the frank portrayals of drug use and casual sex in the gay club scene, the expected right-wing uproar (aside from some token opposition) never materialized. Cowen and Lipman, however, admitted in 2015 that they were surprised by a backlash from some quarters of the LGBT community, fearing negative implications that may result from the show.
Controversial storylines explored in Queer as Folk have included the following: coming out, same-sex marriage, ex-gay ministries, recreational drug use and abuse (cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, GHB, ketamine, cannabis); gay adoption, artificial insemination, vigilantism, Autoerotic asphyxiation, gay-bashing, safe sex, HIV/AIDS, casual sex, cruising, "the baths," serodiscordancy in relationships, underage prostitution, actively gay Catholic priests, discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, the internet pornography industry, and bug chasers (HIV-negative individuals who actively seek to become HIV-positive).
The series at times made humorous references to its image in the gay community. A few episodes featured the show-within-a-show Gay as Blazes, a cheesy, dull, badly acted, and abundantly politically correct drama which Brian particularly disagreed with, and which was eventually canceled.
Acting as one of the pioneering dramas depicting gay characters from a complex perspective, alternative media, and platforms within Asia had also adopted the drama. In the case of South Korea itself, the Queer film festivals (first labeled as a "scandal" in 1998) were slowly accepted and even popularised across South Korean society. Queer as Folk played a significant role when it was screened during the festival in 2000, providing a narrative for an alternative lifestyle, especially with respect to the LGBT community.
The actors' real-life sexual orientation has been the subject of speculation from the public. In a 2015 Queer as Folk reunion, actors Gale Harold and Scott Lowell said they refused to discuss their own sexuality in the press, at least during the show's first season, in an effort to lessen distractions, which was corroborated by Lipman, who went on to say that during the show's first season, even he did not know their real-life sexuality.
In an interview on CNN's Larry King Live on April 24, 2002, show host Larry King described Randy Harrison and Peter Paige as gay, and Michelle Clunie, Robert Gant, Thea Gill, Gale Harold, Scott Lowell, and Hal Sparks as straight.
Three months after the interview on Larry King Live, Gant came out as gay in an article on The Advocate.
In 2004, Gill, married to director Brian Richmond at the time, came out as a bisexual in an interview with Windy City Times.
Meanwhile, Sharon Gless's life as a woman married to a man was already well known by the time Queer as Folk was in production, having married Barney Rosenzweig in 1991. She has been described as a straight woman.
In the years since Queer as Folk ended, Harold, Harrison, Lowell, Paige and Sparks have openly discussed their sexual orientation in gay publications.
The series was set in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is depicted with a good deal of creative license; one example is the numerous references made to the Susquehanna River which flows in the eastern and central parts of Pennsylvania whereas Pittsburgh is in the west. Pittsburgh was chosen as the closest parallel to the UK series' industrial setting of Manchester, England. However, since Pittsburgh does not have a large gay district like San Francisco or New York City, almost all of the Liberty Avenue scenes were filmed in and around the Church and Wellesley area of Toronto which is that city's gay village. In fact, not a single shot of the real Liberty Avenue was ever used in the series. Toronto was chosen as the production center of the series because of its lower cost of production and established mature television and film industry. And, as it happens, Toronto's gay village had the look the producers needed to bring their vision of Liberty Avenue alive.
Woody's, the central bar in this fantasy Pittsburgh, is the name of a leading gay bar in Toronto, whose real exterior was shot with only minor disguise. (In a Season 4 episode in which several characters traveled to Toronto, the real Woody's was dubbed "Moosie's".) Babylon was also the name of a real gay bar in Toronto, which was open during the show's run but subsequently closed, although the real establishment was a sitdown martini bar; the dance club scenes in the series were actually filmed at a different Toronto nightclub, Fly.
Main article: Queer as Folk Soundtracks
Gless, after seven weeks at Hazelden, concentrated on her personal life, becoming a first-time bride at 47, when she married Rosenzweig in 1991.
This past Sunday I had the opportunity to honor these seniors along with straight celebrity allies Sharon Gless, and Leeza Gibbons by attending the annual Garden Party fundraiser...
'I’m straight, but the character was too important to me to muddle his world with my private life.
I really loved the political "voice" that working on QAF gave me and was so happy to lend it as a straight ally to GLAAD and HRC.
O&A: As a straight guy, are you tired of being related to gay culture? Do other celebrities make jokes about all your money being gay money?
Sparks: No, actually I don’t think I would’ve taken the project if I was ever really concerned. I’ve been involved in the AIDS Walk for longer than I was on the show. I get more flack, I guess, about that from the gay community than support. Like, I must be tired of it because I’m straight. I must be wanting to get away from it because I am, then the reality. It’s really an awkward thing because I don’t know how one would handle it. It’s kinda like being on a date with someone, and they constantly don’t understand why you’re sitting across from them at dinner. It’s like, ‘I’m being nice, I’m being myself.’
My feeling always was, as an actor – and especially as one of the straight actors on the show...
Queer as Folk gained Woody's international attention. The show was set in Pittsburgh but shot in Toronto, and Woody's was one of its bars. Woody's was also used as another bar for the show, called Moosie's, for which they had to alter the exterior.
Also leaving the service in February are all three seasons Disney's Boy Meets World spin-off Girl Meets World, all five seasons of Showtime's Queer as Folk...