It's difficult to understand how a show as wildly uneven as "Queer as Folk" can be so compulsively watchable, yet somehow, it is.
A gay soap opera that grooves to a dance-floor beat, the program quickly developed last year into the Showtime cable network's most-watched series and one of television's biggest surprises. It begins its second season Sunday night at 10, shortly after "Sex and the City," the HBO series to which it is often compared, returns with new episodes.
Last season reached a cliffhanger as Michael (Hal Sparks) moved out of town with a partner and his buddy Brian (Gale Harold) raced in too late to prevent an attack on his younger, on-again, off-again boyfriend, Justin (Randy Harrison).
Sunday's episode finds Michael back home in Pittsburgh, as both he and Brian cope with the fallout from those events.
Like so many episodes before it, this one--written by series developers Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman--veers between quietly effective drama and lurid visions of bare, buff men engaged in whatever activities Showtime's "no limits" corporate attitude will allow.
Many questions hover over the series as it moves beyond the story line set down in the British series on which it is based. In particular: Will the show begin to depict the gay and lesbian community in all its diversity? Or will it continue to focus on the dance, drugs and sex crowd?
Promisingly, the series' most stable couple, lesbian moms Lindsay (Thea Gill) and Melanie (Michelle Clunie), seem to be getting more screen time, as is Michael's rainbow-flag-waving, hug-dispensing mom, Debbie (Sharon Gless).
Meanwhile, the show remains as confused, conflicted--and improbably entertaining--as ever.