Queer Lives Up to the Hype

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In the fight for ratings, it's the buzz, stupid. Home Box Office had it and now Showtime will certainly have it with its adaptation of the British series
Queer as Folk
.

It's a compelling multicharacter drama that focuses on a group of gay friends in Pittsburgh. But the almost clinical specificity of some of the sex scenes, especially the depiction of the deflowering of a newly out 17-year-old, will have the homophobes shrieking.

This viewer was more concerned about the lack of a safe-sex message, especially since recent data has indicated that the younger generation is, in greater numbers, adopting a fatalistic attitude about AIDS. Safety needs to be reinforced-even if it cuts into the drama-because passion is what this series is all about.

A group of friends are hopelessly drawn into the circle of animal magnetism exuded by Brian (Gale Harold). Most of the characters here are clichés, and Brian's the slut. He treats his friends poorly yet they can't leave, obviously because they envy his power.

His friends include his best pal, Michael (
Talk Soup's

Hal Sparks), who has more secrets than the fact that he is passing for straight at his job; Ted (Scott Lowell), who wants a stable relationship but can't face the fact he may be too old to attract the hottie of his dreams; and Emmett (Peter Paige), the screaming queen.

Girls get attention, too. Brian has donated sperm to satisfy the motherhood aspirations of a couple of friends, Lindsay (Thea Gill) who loves both Brian and her lover Melanie (Michelle Clunie). Hovering not quite at the edges is Michael's mom, the fierce protector of her son and his pals (Sharon Gless, in a hairdo even Bozo the Clown would reject as over the top.)

The drama is set in a very insular world: the gay scene is little more than a few clubs and eateries. Tonight's love will be at your elbow at the bar tomorrow. But most of the sex is less important to the dramatic arc than the gritty depiction of tribulations of growing up and getting on with gay life.

By the end of the four preview episodes, I was hooked-because I cared about who these people are and not what they do.


Queer as Folk

debuted Dec. 3 at 10 p.m., followed by hour-long episodes each Sunday in that slot for its 22-week run.

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