Serving as Showtime’s best programming representative and an ideal compilation package, “Queer as Folk: The Complete Second Season” deftly demonstrates how series television can best utilize the DVD format. Inclusive and easy to navigate, this six-disc treatment of cable’s most provocative skein — including anything on rival HBO — arrives on Feb. 25 and is a simple and uncomplicated collection, a textbook illustration of instant gratification.
Full access is the prime selling point of television DVDs; like video on demand or TiVo, it’s consumer-controlled, a right of entry to someone who missed a few hours, people who don’t subscribe, or, in this case, viewers who get fed up with having to endure other nights of Showtime, which continues to suffer through an identity crisis amid dull originals.
But “Queer as Folk” is the exception: the British import that has been uprooted to Pittsburgh is routinely Showtime’s highest-rated hour (new season starts on March 2) and packs plenty of emotional punches. Watching hour upon hour of the gang’s love affairs, disappointments and fears will make auds feel even closer to Mike (Hal Sparks), his proud mom Debbie (Sharon Gless), hottie Brian (Gale Harold); pretty boy Justin (Randy Harrison); flamboyant Emmett (Peter Paige); and lesbian couple Lindsay (Thea Gill) and Melanie (Michelle Clunie).
The 20 episodes, like those in the first boxed set, put into perspective how soap opera-esque “Queer” is, whether it parades itself solely as gay television, a counterpart to Armistead Maupin’s PBS classic “Tales of the City” or just another relationship primer. The best moments of the year — no other show even approaches gaybashing and same sex marriages, for example — still stand out to anyone who’s followed its trail, but placed within the context of an entire cycle, “Queer” rises to a higher level. And it’s obvious from a controlled environment standpoint that the creatives who brought this Stateside truly have a passion for it’s messages and its meanings.
Surprisingly, there is nothing dedicated to the Manchester-set version, which has for years been one of Channel 4’s most popular shows. As for the other bonus tracks, best of the bunch includes a tour of the sets, a day in the life of the promo engine — Sparks leads a video trip of travels to malls and music stores — and the ability to watch every episode via a jukebox guide: find any song, and it will jump directly to its featured scene. There are no director commentaries, usually a waste of time anyway for any TV-to-DVD transfers.