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Series / It's a Sin

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It's a Sin is a 2021 period drama from Channel 4, written by Russell T Davies (Queer as Folk) about the lives of young gay men in The '80s as the AIDS epidemic begins.
Richie Tozer (Olly Alexander) is a university student who moves to London from the Isle of Wight. Away from his family, he is given the opportunity to explore his sexuality openly in the London gay scene alongside his close group of friends. These include: the glamorous British-Nigerian Roscoe Babatunde (Omari Douglas), who experiments with drag after fleeing his religious family; the adorable Saville Row apprentice Colin Morris-Jones (Callum Scott Howells), his kind-hearted best friend and confidante Jill (Lydia West) and on-off lover Ash Mukherjee (Nathaniel Curtis).
Also stars Stephen Fry as Arthur Garrison, a fictional Tory MP and Neil Patrick Harris as Henry Coltrane, a tailor from Saville Row who opens Colin’s eyes. It was released on February 18, 2021 on HBO Max in the United States.

Not to be confused with the Pet Shop Boys song of the same title, which the series is named for and is featured in its trailers.

The series includes the following tropes:

  • The '80s: The first episode begins in 1981 and sees Ritchie setting off for university, which puts it around autumn.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms:
    • A rare dramatic example. When Colin becomes mentally impaired by his disease, he starts masturbating in front of his friends and horrified mother during a hospital visit.
    • Ritchie reconnects with his school-crush Martin one evening at the pub, and with a few beers in him, recounts how he used to have a wank most nights just thinking about him. Martin, whilst being a sweet, polite Pretty Boy, is also justifiably unsettled at such a graphically frank admittance.
  • Advertised Extra: The HBO Max trailer for the show heavily advertise Neil Patrick Harris even though he's not a main character and the fact his character dies later in the first episode.
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  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Lucy is this to Ritchie — she's a dour, jealous young woman who seems constantly annoyed by Ritchie's very presence. Nevertheless, she’s the one family member that attempts to keep his friends in the loop when he’s dying even delivering the news of his death to Roscoe, being just as devastated.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: The blokeish son of Colin's landlord in the first episode who calls him a "little bender" whilst they sleep together and is revealed to have given him HIV.
  • Cast Full of Gay: With the exception of Jill as the token straight.
  • The Beard: Jill is this for Ritchie when visiting his parents around Christmas.
  • Contrast Montage: Ritchie, Roscoe and Colin being asked where do they see themselves in five years time and talking about their hopes and dreams for the future during interviews, is contrasted with nurses entering the ward Henry was isolated in and moving his now-dead body into a coffin and sanitizing the bed.
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  • Coolest Club Ever: Heaven in Charing Cross — still going (and awesome) to this day.
  • Cure Your Gays: Roscoe's family try to do this to him through praying, resulting in his sister telling him to get out before it becomes deadly.
  • Dirty Old Man: Colin's (married) boss Mr. Hart, who lecherously makes Colin take a strip-wash in the staff-room, and also tries to ply him with drink after barging into his hotel room on a business trip to New York. He fires Colin afterward but is later seen arrested for public sex with a very young man who is implied to be a prostitute.
  • Doesn't Know Their Own Child: Valerie Tozer, Ritchie's mum, is a prim, lower-middle class Stepford Smiler, whose refusal to confront anything she finds unpleasant renders her (supposedly) oblivious to her son's sexuality. After she eventually finds out that Ritchie is gay, due to him being hospitalised, having contracted AIDS, she goes into paroxysms of furious, aggressive denial, lashing out at all of Richie's friends. Ultimately, her Mama Bear instincts kick in, and she turns into something of a dark My Beloved Smother, refusing to let Ritchie's friends see him and insisting that only she and her husband care for him, despite his clearly declining health.
  • Fag Hag: Jill is this Played for Drama, since considering the era she lives in and the fact that most of her friends are gay men, she ends up enduring a great deal of loss before the series is over.
  • Family of Choice: After Roscoe is disowned and Ritchie goes low-contact with his parents, both of them settle into a familial relationship with their roommates and other close friends in the gay community.
  • Good-Times Montage: Showing the lives of young English gay men and the club scene in the last days of the pre-AIDS 80s in the first episode. Doubles as a Sex Montage.
  • I Drank WHAT?!: After Arthur Garrison insults him after bringing him to an event to impress Thatcher, Roscoe pisses in the coffee meant for Thatcher and tells Garrison this before he leaves.
  • Imagine Spot: Ash has one while falsely claiming to his friends that he chewed out his boss when asked to look for any gay content in the school library that they could censor. Ritchie immediately calls this out before making Ash tell what he actually did.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: The incoming AIDS pandemic is terrifyingly foreshadowed when Henry refers to Juan Pablo's mysterious new illness as being primarily a cough.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Colin's general manager tells him that "the job has come to an end". when Colin asks if he's been sacked, she shoots back that he isn't, but that " you're not employed anymore".
  • Killed Offscreen:
    • Henry, isolated in a hospital ward dies of AIDS-related illnesses.
    • Colin is the first of the gang to die and is last seen alive in hospital before a Flashback Montage of how he is implied to have been infected followed by his mother telephoning the news of his death to Jill.
    • Ritchie when the gang finally make it to the Isle of Wight to visit him.
  • Pretty Boy: Martin Pascoe, Ritchie's school-crush, is a beautiful young man, with hay-coloured hair, a tall, muscular frame and full, bee-stung lips. He's also very sweet, which only enhances Ritchie's feelings.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jill delivers one to Ritchie's mum Valerie after she takes him out of hospital back home where he dies without adequate medical care.
  • Sex Montage: Guess which moment from the first episode the British tabloids took notice of the most.
  • Shout-Out: Ritchie lands a role in an episode of Doctor Who.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Queer as Folk, Russell T Davies' drama about the Manchester gay scene, albeit set a decade earlier and tonally different.
  • Tragic AIDS Story: A very passionate and charged one from Russell T. Davies who is credited as being one of the writers to have bought LGBT stories and characters to British TV in the 90s with Queer as Folk, so naturally the tragic aspect is interwoven with moments of joy and liveliness.
  • Twink: Ritchie is all over this when he first hits the London gay scene, strutting into Heaven and various gay-pubs and kissing every boy in the room.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: The gang's two usual social haunts are a gay bar and Heaven, a (real) gay club night.
  • Women Are Wiser: Jill as the only female member of the group is also the first to take the AIDS pandemic seriously.


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