The Weekend Binge: A trip to Barbary Lane

Murray Bartlett and Laura Linney in ‘Tales of the City’

Welcome to Queerty’s latest entry in our series, Queerantined: Daily Dose. Every weekday as long as the COVID-19 pandemic has us under quarantine, we’ll release a suggested bit of gloriously queer entertainment designed to keep you from getting stir crazy in the house. Each weekend, we will also suggest a binge-able title to keep you extra engaged.

The Essential: Tales of the City

In honor of Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin turning 76 this week, we can’t resist the temptation for an all-out Tales binge. For the uninitiated, Tales of the City began as a newspaper serial, and later, a series of novels about life in San Francisco. Maupin emphasized a group of LGBTQ characters living in and around the fictional apartment house of 28 Barbary Lane. The groundbreaking portrayal of day-to-day queer life won a wide readership for the series. Eventually, PBS came calling, adapting the first book into a miniseries. The all-star cast included Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Chloe Webb, Thomas Gibson, Barbara Garrick, Billy Campell, Ian McKellan and Donald Moffat.

The first miniseries–which featured (gasp) men kissing and both male and female nudity invited a right-wing backlash so big it almost got PBS defunded. Producer Alan Poul–who had already made plans for sequel series–took the series to Showtime, where he reunited most of the cast for two sequels. Netflix grabbed the torch last year, bringing back Linney, Dukakis and Garrick for a contemporary story that contrasts the 70s generation that experienced early queer liberation and AIDS with a younger one that grew up on Will & Grace and won marriage equality. The resulting series, which also stars Ellen Page, Murray Bartlett, Charlie Barnett, Jen Richards and Daniela Vega, pays special attention to its transgender-themed stories, and provides a moving, satisfying end to the series…for now. Somehow, we have a feeling we’ll have more tales of Barbary Lane in the future.

For the moment then, enjoy all the original series, or any combination thereof.

The first and fourth series stream on Netflix. The original three also stream on YouTube.