Queer As Folk
Season Two
Showtime, 2002

American Adaptation:
Ron Cowen and
Daniel Lipman

Alex Chapple, John Greyson, Michael DeCarlo, Bruce McDonald, Thom Best, David Wellington

Gale Harold,
Hal Sparks, Randy Harrison, Peter Paige, Scott Lowell, Sharon Gless, Thea Gill, Michelle Clunie, Robert Gant

Unrated, (20) 40 minute episodes


The Boys Are Back In Town
by Michael D. Klemm
Reprinted from Outcome, February, 2002


When we last left the boys of Liberty Avenue, Michael was moving to Oregon with Dr. Dave, and Justin was assaulted by a homophobic jock after dancing with bad boy Brian at his prom. Queer as Folk is back for its second season and it's business as usual for the guys - and gals - of Showtime's highest rated original series. Expectations for the new season are high. Will it measure up to its groundbreaking first year?

QAF, as most readers probably know, is the most unapologetic gay television program ever to hit the airwaves. Based on a similarly "shocking" British series, QAF does not compromise its honesty in order to appeal to straight audiences. Airing on Showtime has its advantages; it is not bound by network restrictions.

Unlike Will and Grace, QAF holds nothing back, shocking even gay viewers with its candid portrayals of drug use and promiscuous sex. A cover story in The Advocate even asked if the show was good for our image. My own view has always been that if straight sex shows like Red Shoe Diaries can peddle soft porn on cable, why can't QAF push that envelope too? Furthermore, the show isn't just about sex. Between the fun and games are compelling issues that America needs to hear, and QAF tackles them in dramatic and entertaining ways.

QAF's executive producers, Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman (who are also partners in real-life) gave a taste of the new season during an interview that appeared on's website. They spoke optimistically about the new season while also addressing the gay community's criticisms of the show. Addressing the flack they received for not including bisexual and transgender characters, (not to mention people of color). Lipman countered that "there is a great landscape of gay characters on our show which will only increase this season."

Many lesbian viewers have complained that the women aren't given enough airtime. I have written previously that Lindsay and Melanie have far more to do than their British counterparts did. Cowen stated that, while QAF features a true ensemble, the emphasis is still the triangle between Brian, Michael and Justin. One of their biggest challenges, he said, has been to integrate the women into more storylines because "gay men and women don't always socialize together in the same way" and his observation is in fact quite valid. He promised however that the women would be making a "further commitment to each other" and also that one of Melanie's former lovers would become a recurring character this season.

Michael will have a new lover now that Dr. Dave is out of the picture. Cowen describes this as "a very significant relationship and pertinent to a lot of us in the gay community - something we haven't seen yet on the show." Justin's gay bashing will also profoundly affect Brian and "propel their relationship to a new level."

Based on the two episodes that were aired before presstime, QAF is off to a good start. Viewers of a new season are often put off by illogical changes that are made while a show is on hiatus and thankfully this is not the case here. The characters are the same; they have grown and developed but the writers haven't suddenly transformed them out of recognition. Most importantly, a major cataclysm ended the first season and its implications are being explored without glossing over them.

It is interesting that the producers ended the first season on such a down beat. The first year had its share of drama but, let's face it, everyone mostly remembers the sexual shenanigans of its colorful leads. That the season ended with Justin almost dead at the hands of a gay basher was a shock that many viewers didn't expect. The new season obviously couldn't begin with everyone partying as if nothing had happened.

A month and a half elapsed in the interim. Michael has returned to Pittsburgh after breaking up with the control-freak Dr. Dave. Party boy Brian deals with his pain over Justin's beating in a manner consistent with his character - by taking his passion for drugs and sex to even greater heights than before. He also secretly stands outside of Justin's hospital room every night without telling anyone - including Justin.

Justin comes home suffering deep physical and psychological damage. His mother is being overprotective while Michael's mother Debbie is arranging PFLAG support for Justin at the jock's upcoming assault trial. Justin just wants to see Brian again and their eventual meeting packs an emotional wallop - especially when Justin discovers that Brian is wearing the bloody scarf from the attack under his shirt. Is it possible that television's biggest bad boy might grow up this season?

On the lighter side, Lindsay's sister is getting married and has asked that Lindsay and Melanie bring male dates to the ceremony. Lindsay goes along with this until her sister "thanks" her for not embarrassing the family by flaunting her lifestyle at the wedding (which is her third, by the way) and Lindsay counters this insult by asking Melanie to marry her in front of all the assembled guests.

Once again, QAF has managed to entertain its audience while also addressing serious gay issues. Gay marriage is debated in Lindsay and Melanie's newest story arc. Lindsay would like a romantic white wedding while Melanie scoffs that such a ceremony is only a "dated hetero ritual" which isn't legally binding anyway. Also on the agenda is football jock Hobbs' trial for assaulting Justin. Despite the fact that Hobbs should have gone to jail for his actions, a homophobic judge sentences the boy to community service instead. (Does everyone remember the "twinkie defense" in the trial of Harvey Milk's killer?) While Debbie plans a protest march, Brian sees to it that the judge's butt gets glued to a toilet seat in the courthouse.

Justin's age is no longer an issue now that his character is 18. The fact that he was 17 when he went home with Brian in the first episode was a bone of contention even amongst gay viewers. Putting aside moral issues for the time being, Justin's character being in high school has allowed to writers to address the problems of gay teenagers and his ordeals have made for some very compelling television.

It is heartening to see Showtime's commitment to QAF. Television executives are finally recognizing gay demographics and catering to them. It has been reported, both on the web and in TV Guide, that Showtime and MTV are currently discussing plans for a gay subscription cable channel.

For those who missed the first season, it is now available on video. (And, believe it or not, I saw the DVDs for rent at Blockbuster Video.) The DVD includes all 22 episodes, letterboxed and channeled in surround stereo. Both the picture and the sound are superb. Also on the menu are three episodes with split-screen commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, character and actor bios, and a preview of Season II. Love it or hate it, QAF seems to be here to stay and its presence on Showtime is entirely welcome.


Reviewer's note 2008: I never reviewed any of the other seasons but I was a regular viewer up until the end of its fifth and final year. During that time, I laughed, I cried and, at times, I rolled my eyes. Robert Gant would join the cast as Michael's HIV positive lover Ben later in the second season, and Justin would enjoy a brief romantic fling with a young violinist. The plotline involving Ted's porn site got tiresome quickly but it resulted in a compelling storyline in season three when he was arrested as part of a sting operation by a homophobic police captain who was running for Mayor. One of these days, I'll pen an essay that looks at the entire series but, for now, I'll just say that QAF still remains my favorite queer television show of all time. A guilty pleasure perhaps, but one that I really enjoyed.

Reviewer's Note 2007: Out and gay Canadian playwright, Brad Fraser, joined the writing staff of Queer as Folk in the third season. Though he says, in my 2004 interview with the playwright, that he isn't completely responsible for the dark turn that some of the storylines took in seaeson three, his well-known edgy writing helped keep QAF from getting stale in the later years. Fraser is the author of Unidentified Human Remains And The True Nature Of Love (filmed by Denys Arcand as Love And Human Remains), and Poor Superman (which he directed on film as Leaving Metropolis).


Robert Gant also appears in:
Save Me

A Portrait of James Dean: Joshua Tree, 1951

Sharon Gless also appears in:
Hannah Free

See also:
Queer As Folk the British series
Queer As Folk Season One
Queer As Folk Season One (conclusion)