One of the good things about the “Queer as Folk” reboot is that it’s not smug about where the country is right now regarding LGBTQ people. No, everything is not perfect since “Will & Grace” was a Top 10 show and same-sex marriage was legally recognized. The whims of a Supreme Court with a conservative majority could undo the right to marry, and it was less than a week ago that 31 members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, were arrested before they could riot at a gay pride event.
I don’t have a problem with lighter, feel-good LGBTQ fare such as Netflix’s “Heartstopper.” The original American “Queer as Folk” was positive in some ways, too, and it failed to incorporate the AIDS crisis into its melodrama. But it’s also valuable to see character-driven shows that recognize political and social realities, and the new “Queer as Folk” tries. Early in the series, which is on Peacock, the gay community of New Orleans is thrown into chaos and grief when there’s a mass shooting at a club, much like the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting. The massacre is the foundation of much that comes after it, it changes some of the lives of some of the characters, and it grounds the show in the present tense.
Also, unlike those in the original American “Queer as Folk,” the new folks are a racially and ethnically diverse group, and various enough to represent different ways of being queer, including a non-binary character, a guy in a wheelchair, and a man with cerebral palsy (Ryan O’Connell from “Special”).
And yet there’s something distant about this new take, which tends to overly define its characters in relation to their sexual activity. It’s hard to see who they are beyond their labels and outlines. There’s plenty of emoting going on, and the issues at stake are clear enough, but there’s not enough character depth and warmth in the air. The characters seem self-absorbed, and, alas, their romantic histrionics and struggles didn’t move me.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.