Title: More Tales of the City
Release Dates: 2001
Number of Episodes: 3
I’ve finished off watching all the televisual adaptions of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books with 2001’s More Tales of the City. This is the shortest of all the miniseries and apparently was released in three episodes, although the version I watched on YouTube was edited together into a single three hour movie. The brevity actually benefits the film, because this is the weakest of all 9 Tales of the City books and consolidating the story actually improves the narrative a bit.
More Tales of the City revolved a ludicrous, plot-twist filled story about an Episcopalian cannibal cult. Further Tales of the City revolves around a ludicrous, plot-twist filled story about cult leader Jim Jones living in San Francisco three years after the Jonestown massacre. This main story line has DeDe (Barbara Garrick) and her adorable toddler children returning home after having gone to live at Jonestown, surviving the massacre, escaping to Cuba, and then being expelled for being lesbian. The story does give Garrick a part with more gravitas which she performs well and makes me wonder why DeDe was played mostly for laughs in the 2019 miniseries.
Another central character is Prue (Mary Kay Place), a friend of DeDe’s who had only a small role in previous series, but is the one who discovers and befriends Jim Jones, using the alias Luke (Henry Czerny), when he was living in a maintenance shed in Golden Gate Park. Her sidekick is Father Paddy, a gossipy and secretly gay priest, played by Bruce McCullough (the second member of Kids in the Hall to appear in Tales of the City after Scott Thompson played a bit part in the previous installment). Another newcomer is a pre-Grey’s Anatomy Sandra Oh as news anchor Bambi Kanetaka, who is Mary Ann’s rival at the tv station and who’s mistreatment by the 28 Barbary Lane family reflects poorly on them and is another reason I like this book the least.
The other storylines seem to be treading water. Mary Ann (Laura Linney) and Brian (Whip Hubley) are in a long-term relationship now, but straining over Mary Ann’s career focus (something that is better developed in the later books). Michael (Paul Hopkins) has broken off with Jon (Billy Campbell) basically because of low self-esteem and has a series of flings with an actor (a character Maupin based on his real life lover Rock Hudson), a cop, and a cowboy. And Mother Mucca (Jackie Burroughs) introduces Mrs. Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis) to a man named Royal Reichenbach (John McMartin) in a story created solely for television.
It’s a shame that they were never able to continue adapting the books with the original-ish cast. Book 4, Babycakes, is my favorite of all the books and all three of the books from the 1980s are more character-driven and deal with more serious issues, especially the AIDS crisis. Maupin was one of the first authors to include depictions of AIDS in fiction. Alas, to what could’ve been.