The 50 Best TV Shows of 2021, No 1: It’s a Sin | Television

HHow was it possible to profit from It’s a Sin, knowing what was to come? Russell T Davies’ great skill was to make it seem like it would be rude not to. It might have been reasonable to expect some solemnity from this five-part drama about the arrival of AIDS in Britain and the devastation it has wrought, but what was perhaps less predictable was the furious and beautiful joy of it. It was heartbreaking and terrible, but god, it was funny and it was full of life.

The story brought together a group of young men in the shared apartment that would become known as the “Pink Palace”, under the able supervision of mother Jill (Lydia West). At the center of this ensemble was Ritchie (Olly Alexander of Years & Years, returning to his former acting career), a dreamer with bright eyes who comes to London to become an actor; Colin, a walking anorak with a gentle character who ends up swapping his suburban digs for a room in the house; and Roscoe (Omari Douglas), a tangy-tongued queen who steps out of a meal with her unmistakably-styled traditional Nigerian family, ultimately finding herself at the heart of the British establishment, in a roundabout way.

Like most of Davies’ shows, from pioneer Queer As Folk to Nostradamus-esque years and years, there was a provocative bounce, a sense of humor that made the darkest moments all the more heartbreaking. Ritchie and Roscoe discover a vibrant gay scene in pubs and clubs across town, bringing the party home with them while experiencing sex while having a lot of it. (A scene from the first episode, in which Ritchie is learning sexual hygiene, quietly felt revolutionary.) Colin first discovers another side of gay life, thanks to his colleague Henry, an older man who lives with his partner. in the shade and try not to tip the boat.

It’s Henry who disappears first, as a mysterious new disease arrives, hitting a now-familiar wall of fear, denial, and misinformation. The disappearances follow one another. Friends on the scene “go home” to their families and never come back, lost in the face of what their loved ones might decide to call cancer. In March 2020, former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe wrote a column for the Daily Express suggesting that AIDS was one of many frightening epidemics that had not “turned out to be as devastating as feared”. While this series ended filming before the current pandemic, it is a response to such a heinous idea. The simple waste of life is devastating.

It is also a sin that dealt with complicated ideas, which made it a topic of discussion. As the title makes clear, it challenges notions of gay shame and pride – that complex concoction of ego and self-loathing – as Ritchie first denies AIDS, arguing that it is of a tool of oppression used by authorities to prevent gay men from having sex. Eventually, the conversation turns to her mother, a gorgeous Keeley Hawes, who fights with Jill to the very end, when the two are broken up, in different ways. The concept of family occupies a preponderant place here, both given and chosen. The Pink Palace is chosen by the family, until “La! that unites them. Roscoe rejects his real family before they can reject him, but later finds reconciliation with his sister. Colin’s mother doesn’t know anything about his life until he’s punched and fooled in a hospital bed, in some of the show’s most painful scenes, but she finds solace in her friends, who rally around it. And Ritchie’s family – her distant and disapproving father and her harsh, brittle mother – are infuriating and cruel, but most of all human. They love their son, and his loss will destroy them.

It is a sin full of humanity. It should have been. Mistakes are made, because that’s what people do. Ritchie makes big mistakes, his refusal to get tested and his self-defeating promiscuity, even though he knows what the cost will be, but small ones too, like his grim attempt to seduce a former schoolmate, to to feel better. . Judgment is most of the time absent, reserved for those who deserve it the most. It is institutional mistakes, deliberate refusals to engage in what has happened, and not personal mistakes, that are the sources of the rage.

It was a television full of energy and vitality. That’s not to say he didn’t take his topic seriously enough. It’s a Sin was deeply upsetting, as it was meant to be, and Davies made us love these characters, their flaws and everything, before we took them away. I cried at the end of the first episode, knowing what was going to happen, and I cried as it happened, over and over again. The tangible effects of this historic play soon came: demand for HIV tests exploded and a significant sum of money was raised for the Terrence Higgins Trust through the sale of a T-shirt bearing the word ” The “. Its cast and creator have spoken of people whose memories have been excavated by the show; the young people spoke of stories they had not known; activists discussed and argued its subtleties. People who died of AIDS were commemorated. Sometimes television is more than just storytelling, even though storytelling is all it tries to do. How was it possible to take advantage of it? Because even though we knew some of these men wouldn’t survive, Davies made us care deeply about their lives. Even in their most imperfect and infuriating state, we wanted them to live.

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