The Peacock streaming network’s reimagining of Queer as Folk has finally arrived and proves that the show is ever adaptable to the times.
The catalyzing event in Peacock’s new Queer as Folk is a horrific act of violence. Midway through the first episode, an unnamed shooter enters a New Orleans gay club called Babylon and opens fire on the crowd of partiers. Most of our main characters are among them, and for the rest of the eight-episode season, they’ll grapple with their lingering guilt and grief, with the unthinkable ways their lives changed that night, with the holes it left in the center of their community.
Yet despite the heavy premise, the series as a whole is surprisingly light on its feet. Sure, here and there are painful excavations of trauma or equally tear-jerking moments of defiant joy. But for the most part, the series allows its characters to be every bit as messy or silly or sexy or serious after the shooting as they were before. And its refusal to define their lives through that tragedy feels like a gift, not only to the characters but also to an audience who has heard far too many news stories just like this one, or maybe even brushed up against some similar horror themselves.
Stephen Dunn’s Queer as Folk is billed as a “reimagining” of Russell T. Davies’ groundbreaking gay drama from the turn of the millennium, and fans of the original will spot the occasional Easter egg or pick up on echoes of certain characters or plot points.
But you don’t have to know or have seen either previous iteration and it feels new.
Both Queer as Folk and its characters are downright allergic to anything that might be deemed tragedy porn, inspiration porn or a teachable moment. The gang brush off strangers who think they’re just “so brave” for surviving, reject their loved ones’ concerned nudges toward therapy and roll their eyes at “Babylon, Babyl-Strong” events held by an annoying acquaintance who, they snicker between them, gives off “Mayor Pete fake gay vibes, but like, evil.”
Instead, their idea of memorializing the dead involves throwing wild parties that offer the chance to, as Bussey puts it, “remember our friends not as symbols but for the messy adults we knew and loved.” Queer as Folk‘s candid approach to sex scenes — this is a series that opens with two men enthusiastically fucking as hardbodies gyrate on a TV nearby, and cheerfully takes up any opportunity to admire a cute butt, a toned chest or even the occasional schlong — feels like a reflection of that same unapologetic spirit.
Queer as Folk begins streaming Thursday, June 9 on Peacock.