HOUSTON VOICE • JANUARY 14, 2000
OUT ON THE BAYOU
*" Continued from page 17
And indeed, the series shows aspects of
the gay life that many gay people would
gladly join in covering up. Premiering as it
did just in time for the Parliamentary
debate over lowering the age of consent for
gay sex, "Queer" seemed tailor-made for
"Why doesn't anyone stop me?" taunts
the lusty Stuart, the right-wing's worst
nightmare of a sexual compulsive as he
rushes off to "shag" his teenage lover. "It's
not my fault—they should stop me."
Try though he might, the self-centered
Stuart seems incapable of generating more
than a casual interest in Alfred, his son,
born to a lesbian friend in the first episode.
In the series' most chilling incident, one
character collapses after snorting a line of
heroin. The trick who gave him the drug
simply slips out, leaving the victim to die
alone on his kitchen floor. Later at the
wake, Stuart memorizes the mother's
heartbroken lament and cell-phones it into
the office to use In a mortuary's ad campaign. With keys he swipes at the funeral,
Stuart raids the dead man's house for his
porn collection. Stuart laughs at death—but
not at age. His impending 30th birthday
(still months away) fills him with incalculable dread.
"Frankly, I was expecting criticism from
the gay community," said Russell T. Davies,
the series openly gay co-creator and writer.
"I know a lot of these gay politicians and
gay spokespeople work hard, but they've
fallen into the trap of living in a world of
political correctness. That's not my problem; it's theirs. Not any of it has given me a
"I think I'm a little naive," said Nicola
Shindler, the executive producer. "Me and
Russell have a different threshold for shock.
I don't think we were quite prepared for the
level of impact it had. We were aware we
would be attacked, because we weren't
putting across positive images; we were
putting across real people."
"Everything you see in other programs
with gay sub-plots are issue-led," Davies
said. "You give them three episodes before
the gay character walks in and says, 'Oh,
I'm HIV-positive,' or i was just beat up on
the street.' [TV writers] have to stop introducing characters where his or her only
characteristic is they're gay. That's not a
character. That's rubbish."
According to one film industry insider,
working on "Queer" was no picnic. Mark
Levine now lives in Atlanta, but while he
was a vice president-development with a
production company working at Sony
Studios, he met Charlie Hunnam, the 18-
year-old actor who played Nathan.
"Charlie said the entire process was a
really miserable shoot. They were filming
on a couple of drafty soundstages in
England. The crew was an old-school,
traditional, beer-drinking, straight blue-
collar crowd. The actors would have to
do all these wild sexual antics in front of
the crew, and they were being harassed
and snickered at.
"It was a really terrible environment, and
by the end of the eight episodes, nobody
wanted to come back," Levine said
Hunnam told him.
As word of the shocking show spread, its
audience grew—eventually to more than 3
million. When the eight-week series ended,
audiences wanted more of Nathan, Stuart
and Vince. They'll get their chance when
two one-hour sequel episodes air this year
on Channel 4.
Writer Davies said to maintain its
integrity, the show must end, not drag on
for years. "We could have trotted it out; a
lot of people would have been happy. 1
"Thing is—if I do say so myself—there
was such energy and originality in that first
series, and that vitality has to be maintained. It has to stay fresh, it has to stay one
step ahead of what everyone in bog-standard-telly would do. And this is the perfect
solution. It was never a soap, it was a story.
And every good story has an end."
But will it end?
Channel 4 has reportedly asked for plots
for 20 half-hour episodes of a spin-off show
to air later in the year.
"We found a huge enthusiasm for the
show, and it was quite clear we hadn't run
out of stories," said Commissioning Editor
Jonathan Young. "It's been a very successful show for Channel 4."
Furthermore, American audiences will
get a U.S. version of "Queer" thanks to
Showtime. Gay director Joel Schumacher
("Flawless," "Batman and Robin") is set
to direct a two-hour pilot to introduce
the U.S. series.
The show would seem to fit in with
Showtime's bold slogan ("No Limits")
and with its established reputation for
testing boundaries (its "Sex and the City"
prompted a rash of complaints when it
aired in England).
But at least one big change from the
original already seems certain: In
Showtime's version, look for Nathan to
be 18, not 15. And that change was recommended not by pro-censorship conservatives but rather by the image-conscious folks at Gay and Lesbian Alliance
Against Defamation (GLAAD).
"When it comes down to that, that's an
illegal act. It's statutory rape," Scott
Seomin, GLAAD media director, told the
Los Angeles Times. "Gay men since forever
have been linked by the religious right and
other groups [to] pedophilia."
The furor that greeted "Queer as Folk"
in England only seems likely to escalate
when the show debuts in its
Americanized form. Shooting for the U.S.
version—set in New Jersey—should
begin this spring. Stay tuned...
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