Sexy, joyous and tragic, the new-look Queer as Folk is a real winner

Queer as Folk ★★★½
Stan*, from Friday

At first it looks like the New Orleans of this new reimagining of Russell T. Davies’ Queer as Folk (1999) is going to be the kind of frictionless fantasyland where a young gay man can float around on a cloud of self-absorption getting his rocks off left and right without a care in the world. Soon, though, we see that things are a lot more complicated than that.

Some episodes are extremely dark, while others are illuminating and thought-provoking as series developer Stephen Dunn extends representation to characters who have a variety of sexual orientations, gender identities and intersectional challenges. And there’s loads of sex, of course, most of it leaving little to the imagination.

Brodie (Devin Way) and Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel) in Stephen Dunn’s re-imagining of Queer As Folk.Credit:Peacock

The central figure and agent of chaos is Brodie (Devin Way), who has just dropped out of medical school and come home to New Orleans but doesn’t want to stay in the upscale family home with parents Brenda and Winston (Kim Cattrall and Ed Begley jnr) and brother Julian (Ryan O’Connell).

Brodie figures he can move back in with his ex, Noah (Johnny Sibilly), not thinking for a second that Noah might have moved on in the years that Brodie has been away at college. Brodie also wants to check in with his trans pal Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel) and her non-binary spouse, Shar (CG), for whom he happens to be the sperm donor.

Then comes tragedy: a mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub that inflicts a communal grief and trauma that will hang like a pall over the whole season.

There’s a lot going on, and the series takes a vigorous two-lane approach to stereotypes and television cliches. The fun ones get to stay – so we see teenage drag performer Mingus (Fin Argus) skateboarding wildly through his busy highschool campus in a plaid skirt while blasting the energetic punk of Le Tigre (Juliette Lewis is great as his adoring mother, too).

Armand Fields and Fin Argus in Queer As Folk.Credit:Stan

Less helpful stereotypes get shot down straight away. Party enthusiast Marvin (Eric Graise), who has had both legs amputated, explains at some volume: “Yes, I have a dick. And yes, it f—ing works.”

The series is especially interesting in its examination of sex and disability, particularly in the affectingly insightful episode written by O’Connell, who has cerebral palsy.

Some viewers will find the thoughtless Brodie and his sitcom shenanigans too grating, but the series’ thoughtfulness and its sense of joy, inclusion and community make it a real winner.

My Fake Boyfriend ★★★
Prime Video, from Friday

Australian Keiynan Lonsdale (right) elevates this otherwise preposterous romantic comedy.Credit:Stephanie Montani

An accomplished and beautifully judged performance by Australian Keiynan Lonsdale elevates this preposterous romantic comedy, which could easily have been a complete turkey.

Lonsdale plays Andrew, a soap-opera stuntman (really!) who can’t stop getting back together with his toxic ex, the show’s ridiculously good-looking but manipulative leading man (Marcus Rosner). To try to keep them broken up, Andrew’s annoying friends Kelly and Jake (Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland and former Disney Channel star Dylan Sprouse) create him a fake boyfriend who quickly becomes a huge social-media star.

This becomes a huge complication when Andrew falls for a sensitive dreamboat of a restaurateur (Samer Salem) who naturally assumes that Andrew is already in a committed relationship. Director Rose Troche (The L-Word) captures a terrific chemistry between Lonsdale and Salem, and some of the supporting cast are very funny, not least Tricia Black as the manager of the gym that Andrew finds himself working in at one nadir. Hyland’s and Sprouse’s characters are a drag, though, as is some obtrusive product placement. The less you expect, the more you’ll be pleased.

Dark Winds
AMC+, from Sunday

Zahn McClarnon as Joe Leaphorn in Dark Winds.Credit:Michael Moriatis

The New Mexico desert provides stunning backdrops for this immediately engrossing new series in which stern and sorrowful Navajo Nation Police officer Joe Leaphorn (Longmire‘s Zahn McClarnon) contends with human threats – and possibly supernatural ones. The fact that it’s 1971 and he also has to contend with an unenlightened FBI agent (The Americans’ Noah Emmerich) doesn’t help. McClarnon gives a powerfully measured performance, as if Leaphorn’s grief and anger can only be vented one teaspoon at a time.

Everything I Know About Love

Bel Powley in the breezy and nostalgic Everything I Know About Love.Credit:Stan

It’s bright and breezy Millennial nostalgia as best friends Maggie and Birdy (Emma Appleton and Bel Powley) begin their adult lives in a share house in Camden. Maggie is immediately smitten by a smug and completely unsuitable hipster musician named Street (Connor Finch), while Birdy fancies Street’s less colourful flatmate (impressive Australian Ryan Bown). The female leads are appealingly ebullient and writer Dolly Alderton (adapting her own memoir) and director China Moo-Young keep the excitement, optimism and hand-to-mouth penury of youth very much to the fore.

Mad God
Shudder, from Thursday

One of several creatures by visual effects legend Phil Tippett in Mad God.Credit:Shudder

Visual effects legend Phil Tippett brought us unforgettable scenes in the original Star Wars and Jurassic Park movies, among others. His feature-length stop-motion masterwork, Mad God, has been more 30 years in the making and is a stunning technical and creative achievement that will remain a disturbing landmark for decades to come. If there’s a narrative, it involves a figure in a leather coat and gas mask who descends from the heavens in a rusted diving bell to brave an underworld of grotesque human and industrial cruelty.

How To Be a Cowboy

Rodeo rider Dale Brisby in the goofy reality show How To Be a Cowboy.Credit:Netflix

You wouldn’t think that Dale Brisby is a real cowboy. With his long hair and beard he looks more like an outlaw country singer, while his social-media game and branded merchandise betray a serious dedication to marketing. But he is in fact a champion rodeo rider, and as this goofy reality series shows he trains up-and-coming bull riders on the Texas ranch that he runs with the help of a small and colourful crew. It’s eye-opening and entertaining – though obviously not for the bulls.

* Stan is owned by Nine, the owner of this masthead.

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