Acorn Media recently released Queer as Folk: The Complete U.K. Collection. From creator Russell T. Davis (Torchwood, Doctor Who), Queer as Folk follows Stuart (Aidan Gillen, Game of Thrones, The Wire), a promiscuous, ornery gay man in Manchester, England. His considerably quieter best friend, Vince (Craig Kelly, Coronation Street) has a crush on Stuart that isn’t exactly secret. Then Stuart picks up a fifteen year old boy named Nathan (Charlie Kunnam, Sons of Anarchy, Undeclared), disrupting their lives in many ways.
Queer as Folk aired more than 10 years ago in Britain, and its American remake put in five seasons on Showtime. Thus, if one is interested in the material, it is likely a great deal is already known about the plot. What may have been forgotten over the years is the large amount of controversy that Queer as Folk caused upon its debut, and the special features do everything they can to remind fans of that.
Queer as Folk is a show that people either love or hate; those against the show were quite vocal about it when it aired. The show’s critics have argued that the series is a bad representation of the gay community, and promotes dangerous and destructive behavior. There is graphic sex depicted between a man and an underage boy; characters pop pills. Any reference to safe sex is subtle. Many gay individuals have claimed that Queer as Folk has nothing for them to relate to, as they live far more ‘normal’ lives.
The argument that creator Davies and his cohorts make is that they never set out to provide fair representation. That would have been a less exciting documentary. Instead, they want to tell a story, a drama of three men, their friends, and a very special, specific time in their lives. Davies, as a gay man, uses his experience to tell the story, knowing that the circumstances don’t apply to everyone.
Under these arguments, most of the complaints appear to be baseless. After all, are television series featuring straight people attacked for not being representative of all straight people?
Then again, Queer as Folk was, and is, held to a higher standard by many because of what it was: the first big, dramatic television series to focus on homosexual individuals. In that light, perhaps some viewers expect it to be something more than entertainment. Davies and his crew are not worried about the larger implications. Thus, there is a disconnect between what is being made, and what comes to screen.
Queer as Folk The Complete Collection contains the entire run of the British version. Series 1, originally aired in eight half-hour installments, is presented as four, hour-long episodes. Series 2 includes two episodes, making the total run less than six hours in length, an unexpectedly short television series for all the impact it has had.
The three-disc set also contains a wealth of extras. There is a 20-page booklet with reflections by Davies, many of which pertain to those things mentioned above, as well as the production process for the series. A 45-minute feature called “What the Folk…?” follows some of the behind the scenes stories, again, with a large focus on the controversy, and reuses clips from the series and the other features quite heavily. A shorter, seven minute behind the scenes feature talks of the real Canal Street, and how the gay main characters are played by straight men. Much of the interview material predates the series airing, not exactly making it new, but at least collecting it in a convenient location.
The expected bonus features are present, too. There is almost an hour of deleted and extended scenes, a huge trove, considering the short air time. Three teasers and five trailers are included, as are almost five minutes of still slideshows. Cast filmographies for the three leads are present, updated to this year.
There are also two bits from other shows. A short interview of two cast members on T4 is on Disc One, as well as an 11.5-minute segment from Right to Reply, a series that, among other things, lets “normal” people confront the minds behind the series they watch. In this case, a gay rights activist and a “typical” gay man are allowed to confront an executive producer and network rep. The latter don’t fight back as much as they probably should against the negative accusations.
It is welcome and appropriate, though, that such an important series gets such a nice, complete DVD treatment.