We usually keep up with the adaptations on Netflix and hear about them months in advance so imagine my surprise this week when I logged on to see Tales of the City available to Netflix. Here’s what I’ve learned since I saw the adaptation!
Firstly, it’s a reboot, or a revival, or whatever you want to call it, because the first instalment of Armistead Maupin’s LGBT-inclusive adaptation appeared on Channel 4 (UK) in 1993 with two more instalments in 1998 and 2001. Thankfully they’re still available on 4OD and for streaming if you’re not in the UK so you can watch those before you start this reboot if you so wish.
But to go back further than that is to go back even further than the books. Tales started as a serialised narrative in the San Francisco Chronicle before expanding the stories into books that were later adapted to these series. Despite the series being pretty long, Channel 4 only took the story so far and now Netflix has picked up where they left off to continue the tales of 28 Barbary Lane, bringing the 70s based narrative to life on the screen once again.
While it’s easy to pick up the Netflix series without watching or reading any of the previous instalments, it’s worth noting that Tales of the City was the very first show to depict LGBT love on the small screen, whilst also breaking new barriers for sex and nudity. The first series is set in 1970s San Francisco, as the city blossomed in queer culture and it’s an interest look at how gay culture was growing before HIV and AIDS devastated the communities in the following decade.
The new revival is set after the events of the previous adaptation and follow further the life of the characters of 28 Barbary Lane, and while some of the actors has changed, the storyline is pretty linear from the Channel 4 adaptation to the Netflix revival. Here’s a trailer from the Netflix revival:
If you wish to read the books before delving into the series, then the four books below are what we’d recommend to get as close as you can to the Barbary Lane stories that have been adapted as they are the first four books in this huge series.