A single episode of a TV drama proves why queer-inclusive education is so vital
Cameron Sinclair Harris
11:16 23rd January 2021

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Nobody can do Event TV quite like Russell T Davies. From the groundbreaking Queer as Folk, to the channel-spanning universe of Cucumber, Banana and Tofu and, more recently, the close-knit dystopia of Years & Years, Davies’ shows are usually ones that people mention in the same breath as the words “did you see ____ last night?” and “unmissable” during chats with friends the day after.

Sure, any other writer could have revived Doctor Who after a 16 year hiatus - but to make it the most popular and talked about show in the country? Nobody but Davies could have pulled it off. As such, the first episode of It’s A Sin, his newest series for Channel 4, is a shot of pure Event TV that will undoubtedly linger within the minds and on the lips of the nation for a good long while. 

The show, set in the 1980s, follows the lives of three young gay men as they move to London. Within the first 15 minutes, we already have taken Ritchie (Olly Alexander), Roscoe (Omari Douglas) and Colin (Callum Scott Howells) into our hearts, have already had our heart-strings pulled, and are praying that nothing bad happens to them. The AIDS crisis hovers over the episode like the most dreadful of shadows; characters read stories in the news and gloss over them, they hear stories of “plague(s)” from overseas and think nothing of them. Tragically, by the time Colin’s kind colleague Henry (a superb guest turn from Neil Patrick Harris) and his partner Pablo (Tatsu Carvalho) are admitted into hospital, and Henry is quietly replaced at work, everything feels much more real. 

As the episode progresses, the hedonistic lives of our protagonists is juxtaposed with the empty, desolate hospital where Henry stays. Davies undercuts these scenes with real tact, and gives an honest depiction of the way hospitals treated AIDS patients like prisoners; keeping them under lock and key, leaving food outside their doors, and treating them with fear and trepidation. These scenes elevate It’s A Sin to essential viewing; where school curriculums fail to adequately teach LGBTQ+ history, a single episode of a TV drama proves why queer-inclusive education is vital and why these stories need to be told. 

Despite the undercurrent of tragedy, the flipside of It’s A Sin is nothing short of vivacious and effervescent. When you expect all hell to break loose before Roscoe leaves his homophobic family, the results are subversive and wildly funny (“23 Piss Off Avenue!”). The three naturally find their way into living at the “Pink Palace”, invited by Ritchie’s university friend Jill (Lydia West); by the time the episode wraps up, the group have a chemistry to die for. Colin, who is nothing short of lovable, struggles to slot in with the debauched and wild atmosphere at first, but eventually is as at home within the community as aspiring actor Ritchie, whose life is filled by joyous casual sex at any given opportunity. Given how attached to the characters you become, the sullen closing shot of three empty hospital beds paired with the trio being interviewed about their future careers sets you up for future heartbreak.

With an utterly glorious cast, an inspired 80s soundtrack, a sharp, energetic script, and a bubbling melancholic undercurrent, Davies strikes again. It’s A Sin has aired only one episode so far (with the rest all up to view on All4 now), but it has the potential to be his definitive masterpiece. All hail.

It's A Sin is available to watch on Channel4 now. 

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