“When I first got off the bus years ago, I had the strangest feeling that I’d come home.”
—Laura Linney as Mary Ann Singleton in Tales of the City
Oh, yes, Mary Ann, in this you are not unique. The first time I was in San Francisco, I had exactly the same feeling.*
And now, thanks to Netflix, we’re going home again.
“inspired by the books of Armistead Maupin, the new Netflix Limited Series Tales of the City begins a new chapter in the beloved story. Mary Ann (Laura Linney) returns to present-day San Francisco and is reunited with her daughter Shawna (Ellen Page) and ex-husband Brian (Paul Gross), twenty years after leaving them behind to pursue her career. Fleeing the midlife crisis that her picture-perfect Connecticut life created, Mary Ann is quickly drawn back into the orbit of Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis), her chosen family and a new generation of queer young residents living at 28 Barbary Lane.”
Tales of the City had its start as a three-times-a-week serial in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Author Armistead Maupin mixed real and (mainly) fictional characters to capture the essence of San Francisco in the 1970s. Maupin succeeded in doing for The City what Tom Wolfe failed to do for New York in Bonfire of the Vanities, probably the most overrated novel of the late 20th century. The column became must-read material, and a cult was born.
The first novelization of the serial was published in 1978, followed by five more volumes published at two-year intervals, with three more books released after a 20-year gap.
In 1993, Channel 4 (UK) turned the first book into a superb miniseries, which was shown on PBS in the US in early 1994. Here’s the trailer:
Good news! That original series is currently streaming on Acorn.
The new series will be released on Netflix on 7 June 2019.
The great Laura Linney makes an uncredited appearance in this video for the also-great Aimee Mann. Watch closely, and see if you can spot her.
* Granted, I also had exactly the same feeling the first time I was in London, and the first time I was in Paris. Never had it in my own hometown, though, for some reason….