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Wednesday, February 24, 1999 Published at 16:06 GMT


Gay TV drama gets mixed reception

The first episode depicts the seduction of a 15-year-old boy

The controversial new eight-part drama serial following the lives of three men who live in Manchester's gay village has had a mixed reception from the critics.

Some welcomed Channel 4's Queer As Folk as a sign that the UK is becoming a more tolerant society. But others have condemned it as further evidence that the country is sliding down a slippery slope towards permissive immorality

'Gay life in the round'

The first episode was broadcast on Tuesday night and featured the seduction of a 15-year-old gay teenager by a 29-year-old. The show contains the most explicit gay sex scenes that have been seen on UK TV.

Alistair Pegg, editor of the Pink Paper, a weekly gay and lesbian magazine said of the show: "It's laudable because it shows lots of different gay characters... it's gay life in the round."

Alistair Pegg: True to life
"It's no good pretending we are back in Victorian times and having to brush these issues under the carpet."

But speaking on the BBC's Breakfast News Peter Hitchens from The Express newspaper said: "I thought it was lowering, depressing, coarse, crude, amoral and frankly incoherent.

"The behaviour had no moral content whatsoever. The whole thing seemed to me to be some form of cultural propaganda, designed to make us think that something that isn't true, is, that is, that homosexuality is normal behaviour."

What the critics say

Peter Hitchens: Amoral and incoherent
Commenting on the abundance of bare bottoms on the show, The Mirror said: "Viewers all over the country must have been squirming with embarrassment or reaching for the remote control."

The Daily Telegraph, said the show was "uncompromisingly rude" and "not a very good drama."

The Times wrote: "Queer As Folk is trying so hard to taunt primmer viewers into being affronted that it's in danger of making the rest of us slightly bored while it gets its bravado out of its system."

The Guardian said: "There are seven more episodes - just don't watch them with your parents, or your children - it could be squirmingly embarrassing. But worth watching all the same."

Morality campaigners outraged

But morality campaigners from the National Viewers And Listeners Association were not so enthusiastic. They called the programme "appalling".

The organisation's general secretary, John Beyer, said he would be writing to the Independent Television Commission to complain.

The TV watchdog said it would be studying the show to see if it "raises any issues in terms of compliance with the programme code".

Channel 4's head of drama, Gub Neal defended the drama.

"The programme goes out with a clear warning at 10.30 at night when viewers are well aware that Channel 4 sometimes broadcasts stronger material.

"The sex scenes are no more graphic than those in many other TV dramas shown on other channels post-watershed," he said.

Poll shows adults 'happy' about gay sex scenes

Ahead of the programme's broadcast Channel 4 released a survey which said that most adults are happy for films containing gay sex scenes to be shown on TV. The survey was carried out in preparation for FilmFour's gay cinema season later this year.

More than half of adults polled answered 'yes' to the question "Do you think that it's all right for films which contain gay sex scenes to be shown on television?"

Younger age groups were more tolerant, with 66% of 16 to 24-year-olds and 70% of those in the 24 to 35 age group finding gay sex scenes acceptable. Among those aged 55 to 64, 45% thought it was acceptable.

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