Oh, No! Summer Reruns!
What's a Queer as Folk fan to do?!
Don't worry, honey, have we got a website for you
by Larry Collins Jr.
The sitcom days of campy gay sidekicks and Jack Tripper of Three's Company pretending to be gay so that he can have two female roommates have gone the way of the Macerena. Clichéd gay television is quickly becoming a distant memory. Leading this new age of fresh and groundbreaking gay-themed television is Queer as Folk, its brutal realism and family of characters making it Sex and the City for the gay community.
Houston abounds with Sunday night QAF-watching parties. When OutSmart asked the community what you thought about QAF, people told us, "It's my childhood," "There's finally a show that tells the truth," "Gets better every week," and "Who put my life on tape?"
Bringing this show to its ever-growing group of enthusiastic fans and becoming a household name is not a simple task. Most especially, as QAF heads into summer reruns, how will it keep the buzz going?
The answer, hope QAF producers, is the Internet. With the Queer as Folk website, fans still have a place to go for their weekly fix of Justin, Michael, and Brian as they await the start of the next batch of shows. In what has become Showtime's most visited Internet location, new viewers are finding their way down the online equivalent of Liberty Avenue every day.
Online writers have created diaries and faux e-mail from the characters. They even offer such mundane salacious details as the contents of character's refrigerators. Michael must have milk for his Captain Crunch every morning and the ever-glamorous Emmett would die without his purple and clear nail polish chilling in the refrigerator.
The man masterminding the QAF website is Showtime executive Gene Falk.
He says that the site is simply a way to let fans feel as if they are living on Liberty Avenue with their favorite characters. The website comes into play "when an hour a week just isn't enough."
He toils for countless hours to ensure that regular viewers of the series will have a place where they can follow the show and its characters in an atmosphere that makes them feel as if they were a part of the action.
Falk is no stranger to gay issues, having served as chair of the board of directors of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). A gay man himself, he has found a way to use his profession to foster understanding of aspects of his personal life. Falk explains that the series is important to the gay population because it is realistic and issue-oriented. He and likeminded producers were ready to take gay issues to the forefront and out of the broadcasting closet.
"Where I love and admire Will and Grace, they are not going to talk about police entrapment," he says.
Aimed at QAF faithful viewers, the website does not so much promote or explain the show, as provide a continuation of the series for the audience. Creativity is the key to keeping viewers returning to the site. Surfers are able to travel down a virtual Liberty Avenue and stop in at landmarks from the show to chat or buy music. It offers producer and actor commentary on episodes in the same manner that is common on DVDs.
In the spirit of daytime soap operas, fans are able to write "fan-fiction" stories in which they can take a character's life in any direction that imagination leads. They create their own couples and love stories. Fans who aren't happy with a Justin/Brian pairing are able to rock the boat a bit and send Justin straight into the arms of Lindsay if they felt the urge.
The most popular feature of the site are the chat sessions with the actors, with upwards 5,000 fans participating at times. Everything is fair game. One participant asked series regular Hal Sparks (Michael) about a rumor involving the actor and his dog. He wrote, "Someone told me that you kissed your dog to practice for the show. . . . Who kisses better, Chris Potter [David] or Spot?"
You may want to start wedding shopping now, because Sparks answered that he and the pooch are an official item.
The message boards of the site also see a great deal of traffic. Falk says that this is where the fans are able to truly discuss the show and all of its components with other members of the dedicated audience. Many a young man has posted messages about finding someone he can relate to in the teen character of Justin. Or the dysfunctional household of Lindsay, Melanie, and Baby Gus gives rise to discussions about the ever-pressing issue of having children.
Message boards are also a fertile ground for criticism, for example, from older viewers that feel a bit disenfranchised from the young characters of the show.
In answer to this, Falk says the show is dedicated to a younger demographic. Although there are characters that all parts of the gay community can relate to, the majority of the storylines and drama surrounds a group of core characters that are of a certain age.
"In the same way that Friends is about a certain age bracket . . . so are we."
The site also takes a responsible stance by offering gay resources and links. "We are a television network and are not equipped to provide a lot of information, but we can send [viewers] to places that can help," Falk says.
Many of the issues that characters face on the show are presented on the website with further information for viewers, with articles on drug addiction and coming out resources, as well as links to organizations such as PFLAG and the Gay Law Net.
Due to the nature of the program, it is important that age restrictions are in place and practiced. Based on language and strong sexual content, the actual television show is intended for an audience that is over the age of 18. For the website, Falk and site developers tried to reign in the explicit content; web surfers should not expect to experience the complete frank and graphic material that makes the show such a landmark production.
"Showtime has the advantage of being invited into people's homes . . . online it is open to anyone," he adds.
Although characters of the show seem to only use the Internet for cruising and watching live strip shows, producers hope that fans can find a virtual home on the Queer as Folk website. Pull up a seat at the Liberty Diner and feast your eyes on what makes your favorite characters tick or trick.