The teaser for Netflix’s upcoming relaunch of Tales of the City is, dare we say, just about perfect. Set to trans icon Anohni’s song “For Today I Am a Boy,” from her Antony and the Johnsons project, somehow the 87 seconds packs in the promise of enough queer representation on television to almost make up for the lack of so much of it elsewhere on the dial. We’ve got Ellen Page falling in love with Zosia Mamet, the Russian Doll breakout actor Charlie Barnett in a leather harness, multiple shots of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10 winner Bob the Drag Queen (and is that Katya we spy officiating a leather-themed wedding?), someone doing genderfuck burlesque while a woman with purple bangs casually plays ukulele in the background, a view of San Francisco that doesn’t make it look like a tech-bro nightmare, and snippets of Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney delivering strong monologues (and while neither of those actresses identify as queer, legendary actresses delivering fierce monologues is most certainly part of queer culture). It’s all enough to make you hold out hope that one of these streaming services has finally—finally—delivered on the promise of a big, queer piece of prestige television.
Ironically, Netflix did have to dip into the past to find it. Tales of the City began all the way back in 1976, when the reporter Armistead Maupin first began writing serialized short stories for a San Francisco newspaper that were eventually collected in a set of highly addictive novels. Britain’s Channel 4 adapted the stories into a string of three separate miniseries starting in 1993, with Laura Linney as Mary Anne Singleton and Olympia Dukakis as her mysterious but nurturing landlady, Anna Madrigal.
Now, 43 years after the original newspaper story, the characters are finally making their way to Netflix for a 10-part miniseries set to debut on June 7. Of course a whole lot has changed, both in the world and the gay rights movement, since then, and the series has stepped up to acknowledge that. While Dukakis will reprise her role as Madrigal, a transgender woman, the trans actress and activist Jen Richard will play the character in flashbacks. The series has also recruited trans directors and writers, and introduces a new trans main character, played by Josiah Victoria Garcia. A Fantastic Woman’s star, Daniela Vega, will recur as a character named Ysela. In addition, the show has also recruited Looking’s Murray Bartlett to take over the role of Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, and Victor Garber, Michelle Buteau, May Hong, and Molly Ringwald also join the cast.
The series will premier just in time for Pride month, but it doesn’t seem that Netflix intends for you to necessarily have to watch the original trio of miniseries to get on board with the sequel, considering that the company didn’t snap up the rights for them. Indeed, you apparently need to sign up for AcornTV to watch the 1993 original.