Queer as Folk Season 1 DVD

Starring: Michelle Clunie, Thea Gill, Sharon Gless, Gale Harold, Randy Harrison, Scott Lowell, Peter Paige, Hal Sparks, Jack Wetherhall, and Chris Cooper.

Synopsis

Justin and Brian, Queer as Folk

Season 1 of Queer as Folk highlighted these storylines:

  • Brian and Justin meeting. And Justin refusing to go away.
  • Melanie and Lindsay dealing with new parenthood, and the added strain of Brian being the biological father.
  • Justin’s troubles at home and at school after he comes out.
  • Ted forever being drawn to the young and cute who generally don’t reciprocate. Except for Blake. Which just leads to other problems.
  • Michael eventually moving beyond his unrequited feelings for Brian and into a relationship with an older (but gorgeous) man, Dr. David.
  • Michael’s struggles with being closeted at work.
  • Emmett’s AIDS scare and its aftermath.
  • Brian’s troubled relationship with his father.

Comment

“The thing you have to know is, it’s all about sex.”

Michael

Not only is the above the first line of the series, it’s also kind of true. This is not a sanitized Will and Grace sort of portrayal, in which the gay characters talk about sex all the time but are never seen to be having any. Nor are these all fine, upstanding individuals. They smoke. They take drugs. They get drunk. They have casual sex. They aren’t (all) committed to their jobs. They hurt each other. They behave badly.

But the thing is, I kind of love every one of them anyway. Not in every scene, not all the time, but this is the only show I can think of where there isn’t one character that I wish would just go away. That’s the one thing that makes this show special and worthwhile.

Well, that, plus all the hot sex.

…which, it has to be added, will not be to everyone’s taste. (Personally, I got serious heebie-jeebies from the leather episode.) But it is relevant to the plot and character development, and you do have to recognize the creative ways in which those scenes are filmed: the swirling, zooming camera work to illustrate the moments of attraction and release; the pulsing techno music during the “action” sequences; the slow build-up in the way the scenes are framed, teasing you with glimpses, then gradually showing more and more…

Umm. Anyway. Let’s talk about the plot and the pacing, because that’s where this show runs into its biggest difficulties. Cases in point:

1. The break-up of Melanie and Lindsay. So one episode, they totally in tune and “finishing each other’s sentences,” then the next they’re completely alienated from one another? Sorry, not buying it. I can’t believe that a long-term couple like this would still be arguing about such basic things, even with a new baby in the mix.

Thing is, though, once the troubles started, they seemed to play out in a perfectly reasonable way—even the slightly odd “Guillaume” sub-plot borrowed from the British series. So it’s too bad it didn’t start better.

2. Emmett’s “going straight.” Contrary to the Mel and Linds plot, this one started out believably: Emmett so freaked out by the idea that he might be HIV positive that he renounces men. His eye-rolling introduction to the “See the light” group is both believable and hilarious. So I could never buy that this character, the one who seems most comfortable in his skin, would ever go along with the lines that self-hating group was spouting. And that continued for a number of episodes.

It’s also sad that this was the only real plotline Emmett had all season. A waste of a great talent, and a great character. (Although his The Way We Were homage was quite amusing.)

3. Michael the snob. Within two episodes Michael goes from being uncomfortable with his new life with David to being completely embarrassed that his old friends aren’t acting “appropriately.” I could see this happening—but not that fast. (Especially since the show’s own timeline makes it clear that this sea-change occurred over about two weeks.)

4. Blake and Ted reunite. Why would Ted show any interest in the guy who left him for dead? And the two are claiming they love each other after, what, one night together? OK, sure…

That said, in the light of what I know happens in Season 3, it’s absolutely fascinating to look back now on the Season 1 dynamic between Blake, Ted, and Emmett. Talk about your foreshadowing…

What works? Well, anything to do with Brian always seems to be spot-on:

  • His ambiguous feelings about being a father, given the father he has, and his fear of aging.
  • The cold relationship he has with his parents—explains a lot about the man he became.
  • His push-pull relationship with Justin, the one person who’s managed to pierce through the “I don’t fall in love” armour of Brian. But it’s going to take Brian years to even admit that, let alone deal with it.
  • His manipulative handling of Michael and Dr. David. That he does want the best for Michael yet fears losing him also explains a lot about Brian’s psychology.

Speaking of which, with the Justin/Michael/Brian love triangle extending to a quadrangle that includes Dr. David, I have to say that it was a great idea to just get Ted and his supposed attraction to Michael out of the mix, never to be mentioned again. (After all, that was borrowed from the British series, in which the Ted character died…)

Rating: ***½

The Extras

A very nice set of extras. Three of the episodes are “Special Editions,” in which the scene slides over periodically and one of the actors or producers comments on the action. More interesting than the usual “invisible voiceover” that you get. (Also fun is noting how much cuter Hal Sparks is in his clothes than in Michael’s, whereas Gayle Harold looks pretty bedraggled out of Brian garb. And Peter Paige is not to be confused with Emmett…)

Also available are deleted scenes, introduced by Hal Sparks. He used to be a stand-up comedian, so his intros are quite amusing, and the deletions are worth watching. Running commentary-free is an outtake reel which is a lot of fun also.

Keeping up the “doing it better than usual” approach of the whole disk, the character backgrounds aren’t just static text, but also feature a video clip of each actor discussing his or her character, and the photo gallery is animated, not just a collection of images you to browse through. Trailers are available to preview each upcoming episode (like that—the Buffy/Angel DVDs should so do the same thing), and there are special trailers for the series as a whole. The Season 2 “sneak peek” would probably have been more interesting if I hadn’t already watched all of season 2 already.

Usability

This collection should win some sort of usability award. It drives me crazy how most Television series DVDs force you to go digging through each disk to try to figure out what episode is where, exactly what bonus features are available, which episodes have commentary…

The Queer as Folk set tells you everything, everywhere. The box lists exactly what is on each disk. Furthermore, each and every disk has a Full Index to what the whole set contains! So you’re good even if you lose the box. It’s very easy to navigate through the menus; the default selections are the logical ones.

Another detail I really appreciate is that the disk menus do not feature the irritating theme song with its migraine-inducing psychedelic images. Instead it features the very cool song called “Straight to Number 1,” and displays a lovely animation set of each character. Plus, every episode is introduced with a brief synopsis, so you can be sure that it’s the one you want before you start playing it.