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Iconic 80s soundtrack, queer youth, sex, tears, drinking, and characters we never want to say goodbye to – It’s a Sin lives up to its name in all the best ways.
The LGBTQ+ miniseries aired at the end of January and has already broken the record as Channel 4’s best performing drama among young viewers in three years. At the start of February, Channel 4 revealed that It’s a Sin has become the third biggest series on All 4, its “most binged series ever” at 6.5 million viewers so far.
And why? Quite simply because it is an instant classic.
The story follows a group of young friends living in London between 1981 and 1991, during the heat of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and was written and created by Russell T Davies, the same man who created Queer as Folk. Davies based the series on his and his friends’ experiences during the UK AIDS crisis to commemorate the generation of young gay men who lost their lives.
Not only is this one of the first UK TV series to portray so openly the experiences of young gay men during one of the darkest periods of UK history, but it has been done well. Davies explained that this was “the most research-based piece” he has ever done and he spent a year trying to secure a deal for the “tough” script with broadcasters. The research and commitment to history is one of the most integral parts of this tragic series which teaches young people more about LGBTQ+ health and history than any school sex education.
Olly Alexander (Ritchie), Callum Scott Howells (Colin), Omarie Douglas (Roscoe), and Nathaniel Curtis (Ash) form a stellar and entirely gay cast. Davies received immense clap-back from predominantly-straight critics about refusing to hire non-gay actors for gay roles but proved the value when It’s a Sin aired. “People could see what I meant,” he told PinkNews. “There was an entirely gay and queer cast doing their stuff, and I think it shines off the programme. I think it rises off the screen, I think there’s an energy.”
It’s true. For thousands of LGBTQ+ viewers, it was refreshing to see queer actors on the screen playing queer roles. But, more than that, 6.5 million viewers saw queer people telling their own stories. 6.5 million people experienced, most for the first time, one of the most horrifying eras of LGBTQ+ history from the perspective of the community it nearly destroyed. Davies writes tragedy and grief with a beauty that cannot be questioned.
It is Lydia West’s portrayal of Jill which is so heart-breaking. She delivers scenes with an exquisite tragedy that left us sobbing. It was an emotive decision to focus the last episode on her perspective – death does not shock anymore but the raw grief of the ones who loved us most will bring an audience to its knees.
And yet, with the same talent, Davies writes triumph. Some of the most iconic images from the show are of protestors laying in the road in protest, of Roscoe telling his family they can f*ck off, of Ritchie jumping on the back of a policeman to save his friend, of Jill holding a man’s hand in hospital because no one else was coming to see him. With these contrasting images of grief and hope, Davies wrote a series that will ensure the crisis of the 80s could not happen again in this country.
“It is for them,” Jill Nalder says. “For the brave boys we lost. They were trailblazers fighting on the frontline. And we should never forget them.”