“Tales of the City” series is a delightful tribute to the LGBTQIA+ community and all its different colours. “Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City” is a drama miniseries that debuted on Netflix on 7 June 2019, developed by Lauren Morelli, based on the Tales of the City novels by Armistead Maupin. Laura Linney, Paul Gross, Olympia Dukakis, and Barbara Garrick reprised their roles from previous television adaptations of Maupin’s books: the original “Tales of the City” in 1993, and the sequels “More Tales of the City” (1998) and “Further Tales of the City” (2001).
“Tales of the City” rescues the saga of Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis), a transgender woman who has just turned 90 and is a kind of matriarch and owner of a boardinghouse turned apartment complex at 28 Barbary Lane, in San Francisco where characters from the LGBTQIA+ community live. The series’ sequel begins with the return of one of the main characters, Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney), exactly to celebrate Anna Madrigal’s birthday party, after leaving 23 years ago her friends Anna and Michael “Mouse” Tolliver (Murray Bartlett), and also her husband Brian Hawkins (Paul Gross) and daughter Shawna Hawkins (Elliot Page) to pursue their dream of building a career in broadcasting, far from San Francisco. Now ‘babycakes, as she is affectionately called by her best friend Michael “Mouse”, returns and will have to come to terms with the past, especially with Brian who never got over being left by his ex-wife and Shawna, the queer girl daughter who feels rejected by her.
In parallel to Mary Ann’s story, we follow the life of Anna Madrigal, who now at 90 years of age is blackmailed by someone mysteriously who knows a horrible secret involving her past, capable of tarnishing her entire reputation within the LGBTQI+ community. Because of this secret, the legendary Madrigal is at risk of losing her beloved Barbary Lane house.
We see the charming Michael “Mouse” in a relationship with Ben (Charlie Barnett) a younger boy and the generational conflicts that are explored through this relationship, for example, Ben is on Prep and wants to have sex without a condom, but Mouse is not comfortable with it. Michael still has to deal with the return of ex-fiancé Harrison (Matthew Risch), who abandoned him in the past after discovering he has HIV. Plus, the series brings back DeDe Halcyon Day (Barbara Garrick), former Barbary Lane resident, now a widowed socialite, who loves living life with class and fun. She is a great friend of Mary Ann.
In this series season, in addition to the old characters, the story introduces new characters on Barbary Lane as the conflict between transgender man Jake Rodriguez (Garcia) and his lesbian girlfriend Margot (May Hong). After his transition, Jake finds himself attracted to men and this feeling undermines the solid relationship between him and Margot, who in turn misses the time when Jake was just a woman. Also, Claire, a mysterious young woman who is producing a documentary about the history of the San Francisco LGBTQIA+ scene and who becomes Shawna’s love-interested after a one-night-stand.
There is also the story of twin brothers Jennifer (Ashley Park) and Jonathan (Christopher Larkin) who represent the millennium generation obsessed with social media and the need to build a name as digital influencers, capable of anything to gain new followers and likes. In addition to the 28 Barbary Lane setting, the series features Body Politic, a burlesque bar run by drag queen Ida Best (Caldwell Tidicue) and the venue where Margot performs with her band.
In my humble opinion, the reboot miniseries has some mistakes, but also many successes. I think the story of the twin brothers very boring and out of context, and the actors do not cause any empathy. This story is unnecessary. It’s waste of time.
I think the moments that the series seeks to be funny and make a comedy, just doesn’t work, it doesn’t sound natural. The jokes sound dated and unorganised within the narrative, for example when Mary Ann and Shawna go disguised to try to find out about the secret behind why Madrigal will sell 28 Barbary Lane, or also in Mouse’s silly jokes.
On the other hand, when the screenwriters bet on the drama, they get it right and even, from the dramatic moments, naturally comical and amusing situations occur, such as the first night of love between Mary Ann and Brian, after they waved for a reconciliation, showing that time has passed and they no longer have the same physical condition and vitality.
Overall, the series is well-developed and current, has managed to keep up with the evolution of the LGBTQI+ community over the years and its new nuances, challenges, conflicts and identities, but has kept the essence of the structure and narrative of the 1990s series ( although I haven’t watched the previous seasons, I only saw videos, but I was still able to identify those elements in this issue).
“Tales of the city” is undoubtedly a series that teaches us the meaning of friendship, love and family. It is a series that shows that gays, lesbians, transgenders, heterosexuals are human beings, with qualities and defects and that together, with their uniqueness. After all, the meaning of the family is the place where we find affection, support, acceptance, fondness, love and respect. Family is made up of all those we choose and those who choose us to share our journey on this planet. And for that, it doesn’t matter the blood, gender or sexual orientation. May we all find our own 28 Barbary Lane to be our home.
Watch the official trailer