It's time to catch up with the Queer as Folk boys if you missed season 4 on Showtime. And be prepared, because they've pretty much gone from boys to to men.
The change in mood is apparent from the all-new opening credits, with a much more mellow, chill out track, and artistic (but still sexy) black and white clips of dancing go-go boys, and for the first time ever, the cast themselves—all looking spectacular. In fact, the atmosphere has changed so much that when the season 4 soundtrack was released, many a queer boy threw his arms up in the air—and not because the soundtrack was filled with gay dance anthems…but because it WASN'T. The music this season reflects the more pensive moods of the cast.
Don't want to spoil things, but I'll try to sum up what you can expect this season. Ted is in rehab, trying to get control of his life again, distancing himself from his friends at first but then trying to reconcile with them. Brian is starting his own ad agency—in the abandoned bathhouse! But just as things pick up, he faces a serious health issue, and keeps it from all his friends. Justin becomes involved with an extremist, vigilante gay group. Emmett has an affair with an incredibly hot bodied, closeted, married ball player. Michael and Ben struggle to retain custody of Hunter when his mother comes to take him back (DEFINITELY the storyline that found this show trying to jump the shark—and landing right in it's gruesome jaws…). Uncle Vic meets a man, and Deb faces a terrible tragedy. And, while Melanie is pregnant, Lindsay become confused by her feelings for an arrogant artist—a MALE artist. And to wrap things up, the gang participates in the "Liberty Ride" to Canada…where gay marriage is legal, which made this season timely when it first aired.
Truly, things have changed on Liberty Avenue. Some of the issues may seem repetitive and rehashes of old storylines, but they are given new angles, and dealt with in a much more mature tone as our characters grow, most noticeably young Justin, who is really becoming an adult. Gone is that sometimes ridiculous soap opera cheese feel the show has had in the past. The sexiness is still there, but seems like it's more there as a part of everyday life, and not to exploit to draw in fans…you know, like it did five years ago. Ironically, there's barely a "cliffhanger" at the end of this season, and I could have walked away from the show without looking back. It looks like things will soon be wrapping up for the gang.
The show is presented in its anamorphic 16X9 widescreen format, as originally aired on HD Showtime. And maybe the problem is that I watched it in glorious HD on my TV, because I was horribly disappointed in the picture. The opening credits always look crystal clear, but the episodes themselves are a tad grainy and soft with some edge enhancement. I literally spent half the time fiddling with the setting on my TV, refusing to believe that something that looked so crystal clear when originally aired could have lost so much quality in transfer. I mean, it's nothing horrible, but it's sure not the quality of newly filmed material that is being released on DVD.
You have 3 options: Spanish mono, English stereo 2.0, and Dolby Digital 5.1. Happy to say, the audio track delivers, filling the room with lush sound and crystal clear bass. And the dance tracks make you feel like you are standing right in Babylon.
An interesting array of extras. For starters, the 15-episode season is spread across 5 discs. The first 4 discs each contain 3 episodes. The last disc contains 2 episodes and the extras. There are only 4 DVD cases, and the fourth and fifth disc share a case. Interestingly, each episode has 4 chapter breaks, AND you can CHOOSE to watch the "previously on" clip or not—only thing is, there's no way to track right into the episode if you do watch it, so you're thrown back to the menu and have to select the episode. Also, there are TEXT summaries of what to expect from each episode! It's sort of like the little blurb you'd see in a TV listing. Other extras are:
BEHIND THE BABYLON TOUR LOS ANGELES—Interviews with promoters of the club at Avalon in Hollywood. There are clips of hunks dancing in the club, plus shots of fans who got to meet the stars, as well as a quick clip of adorable DJ Manny Lehman.
WARDROBE CLOSET—no joke, this is text describing the styles and brands each character wears, including Deb.
BEHIND THE SCENES OF PETER'S DIRECTORIAL DEBUT—Peter "Emmett" Paige has written and directed an enjoyable looking film called "Say Uncle", and here are interviews with him, as well as clips from the film. 6 minutes.
SNEAK PEAK OF MICHELLE & GALE'S LATEST MOVIE—Believe it or not Gale "Brian" Harold and Michelle "Melanie" Clunie have done a movie together called "The Unseen." Their performances look outstanding.
PHOTO GALLERY—stills of cast during episodes.
BIOGRAPHIES—text bios of al the main characters.
WIN AN ATLANTIS CRUISE—a promo commercial for the contest.
TRAILERS—for this boxed set, plus other Showtime releases: The L Word Season 1, Fat Actress, Reefer Madness.
Queer as Folk Season 4 sees a maturing cast facing more hardships than ever before, and in a much less melodramatic soap opera style. Their lives have never been so real—only downside being, as a result, the show feels like it's heading towards a conclusion.