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They're here, they're queer, and they make Sex & The City look like a demure tea party. Showtime's quintessentially American Queer As Folk--based on the British miniseries--pours on copious amounts of hot and steamy sex. This slick (and slickly entertaining) series shares the same basic concept as its British counterpart--centering on a group of gay friends living in a primarily industrial city--but after that, all bets are off. Whereas the British version focused on the gritty, realistic drama of its characters, the American QAF is a glossy, fun soap opera that occasionally tackles big issues but never lets you forget that life at times can be a party, and you shouldn't be one of those poor suckers starving to death. A good part of the show's charm lies in its cast--boy-next-door Michael (Hal Sparks), ruthlessly seductive rake Brian (Gale Harold), out-and-proud Emmett (Peter Paige), wallflower Ted (Scott Lowell), and nubile teen Justin (Randy Harrison)--who grew from standard gay prototypes to intriguing characters by the first season's end. And while some subplots didn't work (such as Emmett's farfetched foray into gay-conversion therapy), others were quietly affecting, including Brian's coping with his father's death. Some may object to the show's relentless fixation on sex (and gay men--there are just two lesbian characters), but this is a series that in its own polished way is both engrossingly fun and truly groundbreaking. It's liberating to watch an American TV series in which the straight world is only peripheral. Let's hear it for the boys! --Mark Englehart
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