I’m Selina, Awards Circuit’s queer Girl Friday for everything LGBTQIA+ in TV! The summer TV season is coming fast, with our favorite streaming shows gearing up to return with new episodes. Netflix’s LGBTQIA+ middle child, “Sense8,” has announced a release date for its two hour finale that hardcore fans fought for last year, along with a new poster for the episode. While the demise of TV’s queer rainbow-hued paradise is a tough pill to swallow, Netflix has also announced a revival of iconic TV series “Tales of the City” with original stars Laura Linney (“Ozark”) and Olympia Dukakis (“Moonstruck”) returning alongside lesbian actor Ellen Page (“Tallulah”). That proverb about doors closing and opening comes to mind (but I’m still not ready for “Sense8” to be canceled).
Netflix broke their radio silence on canceled, then resurrected drama series “Sense8” earlier this week with two tweets, thanking fans for their “p8tience” and announcing a June 8 release date for the series finale.
— Netflix (@netflix) April 24, 2018
The announcement was accompanied by a new poster for the “Sense8” series finale, featuring the sensate cluster we’ve been following since their birth in Season 1 and the words “Together Until The End” stamped across the top of the poster. I’m assuming this means they will find wayward sensate Wolfgang, whose location was left up in the air at the end of Season 2 (and necessitated a more satisfying end to the series).
A teaser trailer for the upcoming finale was previously released last December, featuring behind-the-scenes interviews and moments with director Lana Wachowski and actors Freema Agyeman, Max Riemelt, Toby Onwumere, Miguel Angel Silvestre, Jamie Clayton, Tina Desai, Tuppence Middleton, Doona Bae and Brian J. Smith. The trailer acknowledged the show’s loyal fanbase and included clips of the “Sense8” stars greeting fans from around the world.
While I’m not looking forward to the end of “Sense8,” there weren’t many options for show creators Lana and Lilly Wachowski to pursue after the show was originally axed by Netflix last year. According to NME, Netflix boss Ted Sarandos revealed at a 2017 PGA conference that the show’s production costs (which rivaled the “dragon money” budget of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”) weren’t supported by big viewing returns for Seasons 1 and 2. Even if “Sense8” was shopped to other networks after Netflix called it quits, it’s unlikely that they would have found a streaming platform to call home. The only site that came forward to express interest in “Sense8” was the porn site Xhamster, who noted their high site traffic and massive revenue would provide the money “Sense8” needed for a Season 3. However, producing the critically acclaimed series with a porn site would’ve done more harm than good: it would be nearly impossible for the series to be taken seriously if the Xhamster did board the project.
I hate to see “Sense8” go, but I’d rather see a well-done, definitive goodbye to the cluster than watch a queer paradise go down in flames. “Sense8” is one of very few TV series that has portrayed LGBTQIA+ characters as fully-realized characters, with sexual desires, hopes, dreams, and a circle of friends a queer person might actually have in real life. “Sense8” has done what the Wackowskis wanted to achieve: tell a fantastical story with a diverse, talented cast of characters that could make you laugh, cry, and commiserate about the perils of an overly-regimented, close-minded world.
On a more positive note, the era of the reboots and revivals has found another dinosaur to revive from the TV graveyard. “Tales of the City,” originally based on the book by Armistead Maupin, has snapped up a 10-episode order from Netflix, with production handled by Working Title Television and NBCUniversal International Studios. Variety has already revealed that original stars Linney and Dukakis will reprise their roles as Mary Ann Singleton and Anna Madrigal, with Barbara Garrick (“Blue Jasmine”) also set to return as Dede Halcyon Day. According to W Magazine, Page will portray Mary Ann’s daughter Shawna, a pansexual alt-lit novelist and blogger. Lauren Morelli, writer and co-executive producer of “Orange Is The New Black” and spouse to former OitnB star Samira Wiley, will serve as “Tales in the City’s” showrunner, writer, and executive producer. Maupin and Linney will also executive produce with Working Title Television’s Andrew Stearn, Liza Chasin, Tim Bevan, and Eric Fellner. Michael Cunningham will be a consulting producer. According to Variety, production will start later this year and is set for a 2019 premiere.
“Tales in the City” follow Midwestern girl Mary Ann, who decides to move to San Francisco and finds a home in an apartment building owned by the odd Anna Madrigal and a cast of odder neighbors, including openly gay man Michael Toliver (based on Maupin, the original author). The reboot will once again follow Mary Ann, who’s returning to San Fran to reunite with Shawna and ex-husband Brian, twenty years after leaving to pursue her career. Apparently, Mary Ann is fleeing a stagnant life in Connecticut to return to her chosen family and will quickly find herself back in the world of Anna Madrigal and the residents of 28 Barbary Lane.
“Tales of the City” is a key work in LGBTQIA+ literature, known as one of the first published novels to address the AIDS crisis and featured a diverse cast of LGBTQIA+ characters. The original series made waves as a collection of short stories published in the San Francisco Chronicle, which were adapted into a book and then 1993 miniseries on PBS. However, the show’s LGBTQIA+ characters caused a ruckus for the studio’s conservative audience, and the following two miniseries aired on Showtime (later home to fellow queer TV series’ “Queer as Folk” and “The L Word”). The miniseries was nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys and received a 1995 Peabody Award during its runs.
W Magazine posits the potential for trans guy Jake Greenleaf (a later character in the original books) to appear in the series and could become one of the few shows on TV to hire a trans male actor to play a trans male character. I say it’s too soon to tell, but I’m hopeful that “Tales in the City” will help fill the hole that “Sense8” will leave behind.