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Queer as Folk is returning to television.
Peacock has handed out an eight-episode, straight-to-series order for a reimagining of creator Russell T. Davies’ original groundbreaking British series. The new Queer as Folk is from creator Stephen Dunn (Little America), who has been developing the project since late 2018 when the drama was originally set up at Peacock sibling Bravo.
The new Queer as Folk is described as a vibrant reimagining of the British series that will explore a diverse group of friends in New Orleans whose lives are transformed in the aftermath of a tragedy.
All told, Dunn’s take will be the second time Davies’ Queer as Folk will be adapted for U.S. audiences. Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman created Showtime’s Pittsburgh-set version. Davies’ original British series debuted in 1999 and chronicled the lives of three gay men (played by Aidan Gillen, Craig Kelly and a young Charlie Hunnam) and ran for eight episodes with a two-part follow-up wrapping the storylines in 2000.
The Showtime drama, starring Gale Harold, Randy Harrison, Peter Paige, Hal Sparks and Sharon Gless, took stories from the original series and expanded them over a five-season, 83-episode run from 2000 to 2005. It marked the first hourlong American TV drama to put gay men at its center and helped usher in a new era of programming that put LGBTQ characters front and center.
“It is a surreal honor to adapt the notoriously groundbreaking series by Russell T. Davies,” Dunn said. “When the show originally aired, the idea of unapologetic queer stories on TV was so provocative that I felt I could only watch Queer as Folk in secret. But so much has changed in the last 20 years and how wonderful would it be if the next generation didn’t have to watch Queer as Folk alone in their dank basements with the sound muted, but with their family and friends and the volume cranked all the way to the max….”
In a March interview with The Hollywood Reporter’s TV’s Top 5 podcast pegged to his breakout hit It’s a Sin, Davies said he was optimistic that Dunn’s show would get made. “We’ve read the scripts and I gave a few notes. I hope it happens, but it’s not my show anymore and I’m happy to hand it over,” he said when asked if he’d revisit Queer as Folk today. “I don’t think I should be, sitting here at my age, revamping my old property.”
Peacock’s Queer as Folk is produced in-house at Universal Content Productions. Dunn will exec produce and direct the pilot. Lee Eisenberg, who worked with Dunn on the latter’s GLAAD Award-nominated “The Son” episode of Little America, will exec produce alongside Emily Brecht, Davies and his producing partner Nicola Shindler, and Richard Halliwell on for Nent Studios U.K.
“Queer as Folk was more than just a show, it was a groundbreaking and necessary voice for so many people. Stephen’s new version for Peacock arrives at yet another pivotal moment in our culture,” said Lisa Katz, president of scripted content at NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. “Alex Sepiol, exec vp drama programming, and his team have championed this project from the first moment it landed on their desks, working to ensure the script became the series we’re announcing today. The entire team is so excited to be a part of introducing a new generation to this type of authentic and affirming storytelling.”
Originally developed for Bravo, Queer as Folk was among the projects that moved in 2019 as NBCUniversal began focusing on originals for Peacock and as the reality-focused cable network exited the scripted space. Sepiol headed drama for Peacock at the time the project moved to the streamer under then-head of originals Bill McGoldrick. Peacock is now part of a content portfolio that is overseen by Susan Rovner, with Katz heading up scripted for the streamer, NBC and cable networks including USA and Syfy.
Queer as Folk also becomes the latest scripted series produced in-house by Peacock sibling Universal Content Productions, joining a roster that includes Battlestar Galactica, Punky Brewster, Angelyne and Dr. Death, among others. The show also marks one of the first series greenlit under new UCP president Beatrice Springborn, who took over the studio last year after heading originals at Hulu.
“Queer as Folk is a transformative show, that in its past iterations, was a pioneer in representation of the LGBTQ community and we’re excited to continue that legacy,” Springborn said. “Stephen Dunn brings an energy and modern lens to the series through characters we’ve fallen in love with. We can’t wait to bring it to Peacock for viewers to enjoy this visionary and vibrant show.”
Dunn, who is also adapting the novel Yes, Daddy at Amazon, is repped by WME, Mosaic and HJTH.
The news arrives as LGBTQ-focused programming has greatly evolved since the Queer as Folk creators received death threats when they were making the Showtime series. Showtime, it’s worth noting, revived The L Word — the first lesbian-focused show for U.S. audiences — for a new generation, while FX broke ground with Pose. The latter series will wrap this year after three seasons. Davies, it’s worth noting, said Queer as Folk needed to come first before he could explore the story of HIV/AIDS with his 2021 breakout It’s a Sin.
“[My shows are] all in the wrong order. If you watch them in order, it would go It’s a Sin, Queer as Folk, Cucumber. If you do that, you’ll get the story of one man’s life. If you mention that the lead character survives through all those three different shows, you’ve got my take on a modern gay male,” he told TV’s Top 5. Listen to Davies’ interview, below.
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