'Further Tales' Packs a Lot In

Showtime revisits the denizens of San Francisco's 28 Barbary Lane in Armistead Maupin's Further Tales of the City,
a jam-packed four-hour miniseries featuring transsexual landlord Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis) and her tenants.

Count them: Two kidnappings, one murder, multiple love affairs (both gay and straight), a closeted movie star, an Alaskan cruise, two reunions and even a resurrection.

Yet there are still times when the dragging story makes one ache for a quick march to the climax (no pun intended) of multiple plot lines.

There's a splendid cast, from the restrained Dukakis and her frowzy, never-with-a-wig-on-straight mother, Mucca (Jackie Burroughs), to career gal Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney) and the love-'em and leave 'em "Mouse" (Paul Hopkins).

The iconic '80s references — such as Chuck and Di's wedding, disco music and urban cowboys — keep you in the time and place. A hilarious scene involves local celebrity and TV priest Father Paddy Star (Bruce McCulloch of Kids in the Hall), who's been roped into subbing for Singleton on her daytime movie show. Watch as he squirms throughout an informational spot on using sea sponges to avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome.

The best plot involves Singleton, who needs a big story to break her out of her daytime movie gig. Heiress Frannie Halcyon steps in with a blockbuster: daughter DeDe, thought to have died with her children in the Jonestown massacre in Guyana, is alive. Singleton needs to keep the story quiet while she lobbies for the opportunity to report it. She is also has to fend off the new primetime news queen, the sneering Bambi Kanetaka (a hilariously arch Sandra Oh of Arli$$).

The original Tales
was actually condemned by three state legislatures for its depiction of drug use, nudity and homosexual sex. The drug use is minimal this time, but prudes will be in a dither again. The Hopkins character dumped his steady lover at the end of the original, so in this mini, he's a prowling cat, bedding a movie star, a cop, a construction worker and even his own landscaping partner. As one character puts it, "You're not having a life…you're —-ing the Village People."

The miniseries begins May 6 at 10 p.m.