Tales of the City (Miniseries) (2019)

Oh, where to start with Netflix’s revival of Armistead Maupin’s classic LGBT series? It’s the sort of project where good intentions are outweighed by filmmaking-by-committee constraints. For instance, since we last saw the denizens of 28 Barbary Lane (in 2001’s “Further Tales of the City,” which was set in 1981), they’ve only aged about twenty years (despite this iteration being set in present time), which leaves a huge gap in logic, continuity and respect for the show’s built-in audience. Additionally, there are a number of millennial characters forced into the narrative despite bringing nothing to the table other than holier-than-thou lectures and solipsistic whining (in particular the insufferable quartet of Garcia, May Hong, Ashley Park and Christopher Larkin, who all seem to be acting in different shows). Finally, there’s a season-long mystery that ultimately adds nothing to the storyline, but does manage to take time away from time from the already-beloved older characters of the series. But worst of all is Ellen Page’s Shawna, who is set up as the ostensible lead simply because the screenplay says so, as the character is an arrogant, self-satisfied cypher who brings the show’s momentum to a screeching halt whenever onscreen. So ultimately, the show doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be: It wants to update the series and bring it into the new millennium but to do so means sacrificing continuity and disrespecting the show’s built-in audience, while it has no clue how to write millennials despite dedicating so much screen time to them. Ultimately, it’s a ten-episode bust that never justifies its existence and seems to have been designed for the Lifetime crowd with some R-rated inserts for their own sake.

Rating: ★★ (out of 5)

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