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Tales of the City

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

Netflix just advanced "Tales of the City," a limited series with appeal for today's binge-viewers plus longtime PBS fans who may remember the groundbreaking look at a group of San Francisco residents finding their way through lifestyle choices.

First playing their roles in 1993, Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney return with a mix of events blending the classic "some things never change" motif with an addendum: "well, actually, a lot of things do change." The series explores the differences between ongoing basic truths versus simple, surface changes. One switch in atmosphere over the decades comes because the show feels nostalgic rather than groundbreaking, even though it features way more explicit sex than shown in the first. Sexual language, full frontal nudity and lots of lovemaking might garner the series an R-rating in movie theaters, but the scenes never go beyond anything shown in Game of Thrones and other popular cable series.

An updated freedom for showing sex distinguishes the new show from its predecessor, along with factoring in a world that includes tools never imagined by creator Armistad Maupin in 1976 when he started publishing his tales as a column in the San Francisco Chronicle. Maupin remains in play as an executive producer, but he turns storytelling specifics over to a team more familiar with technological and generational updates.

One aspect of change comes with terminology as formerly unacceptable slang now works just fine while other words offend. Many of the ten-hour series' insights derive not from sexual issues, but between the differing views of older and younger generations, well-expressed by the series' original stars along with such newcomers as Ellen Page, Garcia and Mae Hong.

The performers display reactions that help show how social media and surgical capabilities create opportunities that vary drastically compared to the era author Maupin first addressed. But most importantly, the acting team's warm skills propel the traits that drew so many to the original tales, and perhaps Barbra Streisand could sing a variation of the theme: people as people, need people.


This review was originally aired on 6/20/2019.

You can listen to it online at

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