Tales of the City (miniseries)

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Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City
TalesoftheCity-DVD-CollectorsEd.jpg
DVD cover
Genre Drama
Distributed by Channel 4
Directed by Alastair Reid
Produced by Antony Root
Alan Poul
Screenplay by Richard Kramer
Based on Tales of the City 
by Armistead Maupin
Starring Olympia Dukakis
Donald Moffat
Chloe Webb
Laura Linney
William Campbell
Paul Gross
Marcus D'Amico
Thomas Gibson
Barbara Garrick
Nina Foch
Stanley DeSantis
Music by John Keane
Cinematography Walt Lloyd
Editing by David Gamble
Production company Working Title Films/
Propaganda Films for Channel 4
Country UK / US
Language English
Original channel Channel 4
Release date
  • 28 September 1993 (1993-09-28) (UK)
Running time 360 mins.
No. of episodes 6
Followed by More Tales of the City
(1998)

Tales of the City is a 1993 television miniseries based on the first of the Tales of the City series of novels by Armistead Maupin.

To date, the first three books have been adapted into television miniseries; the first, Tales of the City, was produced by the UK's Channel 4 and was first screened in the UK in 1993, then shown on PBS in the US in January 1994. Channel 4 eventually teamed up with the American cable network Showtime to produce the sequel, More Tales of the City, which premiered in the US and UK in 1998. The third installment of the series, Further Tales of the City was produced by Showtime (without Channel 4) and was originally aired in the US on Showtime in May 2001.

First production attempt[edit]

Premium cable channel HBO acquired the rights to the first two Tales of the City books in 1982 in the hopes of turning them into a weekly sitcom. Pre-production began in the fall of that year with a pilot script by Richard Kramer. Kramer described the script as a "Mary Tyler Moore for the '80s". In the face of the rising AIDS epidemic and a changing social climate in the conservative Reagan era, HBO reportedly felt that the book's celebratory attitude toward homosexuality, casual sex and marijuana usage would not be deemed acceptable by the viewing public. The channel considered toning down the stories and making the series a period piece but ultimately decided to scrap the project.[1]

Installments[edit]

Tales of the City (1993)[edit]

Following the storyline in Maupin's first book, the first miniseries begins in the summer of 1976, following Mary Ann's decision to remain permanently in San Francisco following her vacation there and spans the next several months, concluding on New Year's Day 1977.

The miniseries premiered on Channel 4 in the UK on 28 September 1993, and was screened by PBS in the US in January 1994. Amid the controversy surrounding the homosexual themes, nudity, and illicit drug use in the miniseries, Tales of the City gave PBS its highest ratings ever for a dramatic programme. In deference to local standards, PBS gave stations the option of showing an edited version in which male and female body parts were obscured by pixelation. The original six-part miniseries was produced by Britain's Channel 4 Television Corporation in conjunction with San Francisco's PBS station KQED and PBS' American Playhouse. Despite the ratings success of Tales of the City, PBS bowed to threats of federal funding cuts and announced it would not participate in the television production of the sequel, More Tales of the City.

Despite the changes in production companies, the same actors played four of the central characters throughout all three miniseries: Laura Linney played Mary Ann Singleton; Olympia Dukakis played the matriarch, Mrs Anna Madrigal; Barbara Garrick played DeDe Halcyon Day; and Billy Campbell (credited as "William Campbell") played Dr Jon Philip Fielding. In addition, Thomas Gibson reprised his Tales role as Beauchamp Day in More Tales and Mary Kay Place, who had a cameo as Prue Giroux in Tales, played that role as a major character in Further Tales. In More Tales of the City, Paul Hopkins was cast in the role of Mouse, Whip Hubley played Brian, and Nina Siemaszko was Mona. Hopkins and Hubley returned for Further Tales of the City. Armistead Maupin himself made cameo appearances in all three miniseries.

Regarding the recasts of Brian, Mouse and Mona for the sequels, Maupin has said, "Paul Gross was committed to his own TV series, Due South. Chloe Webb had expressed enthusiasm about playing Mona again, but she backed out when the show's producers declined her request to be paid more than the rest of the cast (the show was operating under a 'favored nations agreement' that required leading cast members to be paid equally.) While everyone felt Chloe was important to Tales, she was not more important than Laura Linney, Thomas Gibson, Billy Campbell or Barbara Garrick. Despite the rumors, it is not true that Marcus D'Amico wasn't invited back because of issues surrounding his sexuality. The production team met with Marcus and he expressed 'ambivalence' about returning to the role of Mouse. The director felt it was important to find someone who would enthusiastically embrace the role."[2]

Reception[edit]

In 2005, Entertainment Weekly named Tales of the City one of the ten best miniseries on DVD.[3] Calling Linney the "breakout star," the article called the series "a time capsule that treats its characters with humor, respect, and a sexual frankness (there's some brief nudity) that was uncommon for PBS in 1993 and would be politically impossible there today."[3]

More Tales of the City (1998)[edit]

In More Tales of the City, Mona discovers her true heritage when she winds up in a brothel in Nevada, run by Mother Mucca (Jackie Burroughs); on a cruise to Mexico with a lovelorn Michael, Mary Ann falls in love with Burke, a man without a past; DeDe decides to have her babies, much to Beauchamp's chagrin, and meets D'orothea; and Brian begins a rooftop dalliance with a mysterious woman. Events in Tales of the City, like the disappearance of Norman Neal Williams, are resolved, and Mrs. Madrigal reveals her secret to her tenants.

Further Tales of the City (2001)[edit]

In Further Tales of the City, Mary Ann has landed a job at a local TV station and finds a story that might make her a reporter; Frannie mourns the apparent loss of her daughter DeDe and grandchildren in the tragedy at Jonestown, until she makes a shocking discovery; Michael dates several men, including a cop, a cowboy, and a movie star; and Prue falls in a love with a mysterious stranger living in a shack in Golden Gate Park. In the miniseries, Mother Mucca visits and introduces Mrs. Madrigal to a handsome, older man, a story line that does not exist in the books but was added for television. There is also a new plot line for Connie Bradshaw which did not feature in the original novel.

Cage Tyler, the movie star with whom Michael has a brief fling, is based on Rock Hudson, who was a friend and lover of Maupin's.[citation needed] In the novel, the character was not named, but was represented by underscores (e.g. ____ ____) wherever his name would have appeared.

Babycakes[edit]

Plans for a two-hour version of the fourth "Tales" novel, Babycakes, were first reported in 2003, and Maupin has completed a script. However, the project stalled and ultimately never went into production.

Casts[edit]

Character Tales
of the City

1993
More Tales
of the City

1998
Further Tales
of the City

2001
Anna Madrigal Olympia Dukakis
Mary Ann Singleton Laura Linney
DeDe Halcyon Day Barbara Garrick
Dr. Jon Fielden/Fielding[4] William Campbell
Connie Bradshaw Parker Posey
Michael "Mouse" Tolliver Marcus D'Amico Paul Hopkins
Brian Hawkins Paul Gross Whip Hubley
Frannie Halcyon Nina Foch Diana Leblanc
D'orothea Wilson Cynda Williams Françoise Robertson
Mona Ramsey Chloe Webb Nina Siemaszko
Beauchamp Day Thomas Gibson
Prue Giroux Mary Kay Place Mary Kay Place
Edgar Halcyon Donald Moffat
Norman Neal Williams Stanley DeSantis
Charles Hillary Lord Paul Bartel
William Devereaux Hill Lance Loud
Richard Evan Hampton Bob Mackie
Archibald Anson Gidde Ian McKellen
Binky Gruen Meagen Fay
Candi Moretti Stephanie Faracy
Booter Manigault McLean Stevenson
Lionel Wong Phillip Moon
Chuck Lou Liberatore
Coppola Woman Janeane Garofolo
Motherly Waitress Mother Love
Father Guido Sarducci Don Novello
Mimi Farina herself (cameo)
Mona "Mother Mucca" Ramsey Jackie Burroughs
Betty Ramsey Swoosie Kurtz
Burke Andrew Colin Ferguson
Jack Lederer Edward Asner
Helena Parrish Domini Blythe
Mildred Sheila McCarthy
Birdsong Gregory Calpakis
Transplant Man Peter Colvey
Bluegrass Paul Phatisis
Cop Vince Sheffield
Nurse Thelma Gwen Tolbart
Luke Henry Czerny
Cage Tyler John Robinson
Bambi Kanetaka Sandra Oh
Father Paddy Starr Bruce McCulloch
Royal Reichenbach John McMartin
Willie Omiak Lea DeLaria
Ned Lockwood Ted Whittall

References[edit]

  1. ^ Capsuto, Steven (2000). Alternate Channels: The Uncensored Story of Gay and Lesbian Images on Radio and Television. Ballantine Books. pp. 188–89. ISBN 0-345-41243-5. 
  2. ^ "Oft Asked Questions". ArmisteadMaupin.com (Internet Archive). Retrieved 24 January 2007. 
  3. ^ a b Susman, Gary (17 November 2005). "Mini Splendored Things". Entertainment Weekly. EW.com. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  4. ^ In the first miniseries, the character is named Jon Fielden. In the second and third miniseries his surname has reverted to Fielding, the name used in the novels.

External links[edit]