It's been more than 25 years since audiences first fell under the spell of that boarding house on Barbary Lane in San Francisco. Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City arrived at a very different time for LGBTQ visibility on television. We'd only just gotten The Real World, after all. Sitcoms and primetime dramas were not yet there with gay characters (many of them still aren't), and basic cable too, was quite a ways away. But first in the UK and then in America on PBS, we got Tales of the City, a frothy, soapy tale of women and homosexual men finding themselves among like-minded strangers in San Francisco. It's not hard to see why a generation found much solace and entertainment in the series.
When Showtime revived Tales of the City for two subsequent miniseries, it complemented the network's own groundbreaking series Queer as Folk and The L Word. Now, in 2019, with a revival on Netflix that reunites stars Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Barbara Garrick, and Paul Gross, the series returns at a time when TV is as (relatively) flush with queer characters as it's ever been. But Tales of the City provides something further still; something that isn't present in most of TV, even the shows with gay characters: a recognizably queer space. Tales of the City isn't just about the people, although Mary Ann Singleton and Anna Madrigal and the rest are irreplaceable. It's about a place. San Francisco; Barbary Lane; Anna Madrigal's house for wayward souls. It's a place of convocation and communion. It's a place we needed to have back again.
SERIES REVIVAL: The new season of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City sees Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney) returning to San Franscisco with her daughter (Ellen Page), and falling right back into the arms of her chosen family at 28 Barbary Lane. For fans of the novels or the earlier miniseries, it's a chance to reconnect with old friends and meet some new ones. A better Pride activity one could scarcely imagine. (Oh, okay, there are a few.) Streaming on Netflix
SERIES PREMIERE: The CW's The Big Stage jumps on what is somehow the hottest trend on network TV: the talent show. Former Celebrity Big Brother rivals Shannon Elizabeth and James Maslow host. 9:00 PM ET on The CW
SPECIAL PRESENTATION: Having premiered to strong reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, XY Chelsea is a documentary that takes an up close and personal look at Chelsea Manning, a figure of much fascination and polarization. Manning was tried and convicted of espionage for leaking thousands of classified military documents to WikiLeaks, and then sentenced to serve time in a men's prison, despite being transgender. Manning is a lightning rod of strong feelings and high emotions. Showtime's documentary lets her tell her own story. 9:00 PM ET on Showtime
SERIES PREMIERE: In a way, each of the disperate threads of Jon Favreau's career come together on The Chef Show, a cooking/chat/celebrity show that combines the essentials of Favreau's film Chef — where he trained with real-life chef Roy Choi to be the 5-star food truck wizard he is in that film — and his old IFC series Dinner for Five. And now, Mister Big Shot Blockbuster Director gets to invite all his MCU pals — including Tom Holland, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Robert Downey Jr. — over to enjoy his and Choi's food. Streaming on Netflix
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.