Binge & Repeat: Meet the residents of Barbary Lane

Tales of the City
Tales of the City

Happy Pride, folks! In recognition of Pride month, I decided to binge Netflix’s reboot of “Tales of the City.” This particular series is based on Armistead Maupin’s columns turned into novels, with the first television adaptation of the books airing on PBS in the ’90s. After a conservative pushback against the original series for its depictions of drugs and sex within the LGBT community in 1970s San Francisco, the series was pulled from PBS after airing only a handful of episodes.

Netflix’s reboot of the series takes place 25 years later with Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis reprising their original roles with Linney’s Mary Ann returning to Barbary Street a few decades later to celebrate Anna’s (Dukakis) 90th birthday. The series follows residents of Barbary Lane LGBT friendly community as it reels from Mary Ann’s surprising return and Anna’s secret.
Mary Ann tries to get to know Shawna, the daughter she left as a toddler, and finds that while she still feels quite at home at Barbary Lane, some of the characters are less than impressed with her homecoming. While Mary Ann sorts through her family drama, Anna’s home comes under attack when a mysterious person blackmails her over a shameful secret from her past.
This vibrant reboot touches on the LGBT community’s history by exploring violence against transgender people in the the 60s and later the AIDS crisis. While the series layers in elements of the LGBT community’s past, “Tales of the City” maintains a lighthearted joy as the characters celebrate each other, hang out at the LGBT burlesque club and live their most authentic lives.
Dukakis plays the pot smoking matriarch of Barbary Lane with grace, allowing Anna’s love for her adopted family to shine through the screen. Linney’s guilt-riddled Mary Ann adds humor to the series as her clueless character constantly bulldozes her way into others’ more intimate moments. Garcia plays Jake, Barbary Lane’s newest transgender resident, with a fragile honesty as Jake examines his evolving identity. Ellen Page plays Shawna, a character determined to keep others at arms-length, with a simmering intensity.
It should be noted that the series cast LGBT actors for LGBT roles with the exception of Dukakis, who was grandfathered in as she previously played Anna in the original series.
“Tales of the City” has one season on Netflix. The series is rated TV-MA. Audiences looking for more LGBT friendly content (after exhausting all the Queer Eye seasons) should check out Netflix’s “Sense 8,” a show about a group of strangers from around the globe who share a psychic connection. “Sense 8” features is a diverse show that casts LGBT characters in leading roles.