Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Folk Icons

Like every American gay man in 2000, I was glued to the TV for the premiere of Queer as Folk, the US version of the critically-acclaimed yet controversial British series of the same name.  I had heard about the "no-holds-barred" show from across the pond, with its frank depictions of gay life in Manchester and all its notorious scenes of sex, drugs and house music, but was still floored by what I saw onscreen.  Was this really on TV? (To paraphrase their competitor's slogan, no "it's Showtime".)

I became an instant fan of the US QAF, even if the writing tended to be over-the-top and the acting was questionable at times.  Naturally, as with most "Americanized" adaptations of British television (from The Office to Being Human), there were plenty of cries of "the original is better", yet I was never able to actually watch the UK QAF to see if all the nay sayers were right... until now.


Available today on DVDfrom Acorn Media is Queer as Folk: The Complete UK Collection, a three-disc set that includes all ten episodes of the original QAF (series one, originally aired as eight half-hours, is presented here as four one-hour episodes).  Even though it has been 12 years since the series' faithful debut on England's Channel 4, QAF UK still feels fresh and vibrant and equally daring, and far from just a curiosity piece for those who have only seen QAF US.

For those viewers there will be plenty of deja vu moments while watching the original, as the US version borrowed heavily from it during its first year.  And the basics are the same:  Stuart (Brian in the US/played by Aiden Gillen) is the king stud of Canal Street (Liberty Avenue), always accompanied by his put-upon best friend Vince (Michael/Craig Kelly) and followed by the "one-night stand that wouldn't go away", 15-year-old newbie Nathan (Justin/Charlie Hunnam).  Other familiar characters, such as Vince's overly-supportive mom Hazel (Debbie/Denise Black) and flamboyant fashionista Alexander (Emmett/Antony Cotton), are also on hand, but here the stories focus mainly on the three points of the dysfunctional love triangle at its center.


Minus the glitzy sheen that permeated America's, this QAF is grittier and more down-to-earth. This realism is no more so apparent than with episode three's tragic end to sad sack Phil (Jason Merrells), known as Ted in the US. Even so, the original still feels less cynical than its American counterpart, at least until its infamous final episode, where series creator Russell T. Davies seemingly gives up on any semblance of reality and logical character motivations half-way through and starts blowing stuff up.

Davies supplies a lengthy essay on QAF's origins for the set, which also features a healthy selection of bonus materials, including cast and creator interviews, photo galleries, deleted and extended scenes, trailers and the "making of" feature What the Folk?

Click hereto purchase Queer as Folk: The Complete UK Collection from Amazon.com.

2 comments:

  1. I've had the UK "Queer As Folk" on DVD for years. I bought Series One shortly after the US version debuted and got Series Two later that same year. They just have never been available as a complete set. My husband and I differ on whom we like better. I prefer Aiden Gillen and he likes Gale Harold. I even went to see "The Low Down" in the movie theater just because of Aiden!

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  2. I have the complete QAF US set, but I would wouldlove to watch the UK set. Thanks for the heads up.

    Ray

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