Wow. Just…wow. Sometimes, a show comes along that you know you will never, ever forget. We all remember where we were when we saw Tony Soprano cut to black as Don’t Stop Believin’ played out The Sopranos, and how we felt when Heisenberg made his final stand in Breaking Bad. These shows are often considered untouchable in the great pantheon of television masterpieces, but now a limited series is here to threaten the top spot. Yes, It’s a Sin is that good.
Written and created by Russell T Davies for Channel 4, It’s a Sin is a truly remarkable five-part miniseries that covers the years 1981 to 1991 in the lives of a group of gay men and their friends ,as they navigate the social and cultural changes of the decade alongside the looming threat of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
There are truly not enough superlatives to even begin to do justice to this impeccable masterpiece of television. It is one of those viewing experiences that is frankly perfect across the board, propelled by mesmerising performances, stunning writing and an incredible, unique visual style that transports the viewer to the years it portrays alongside its era-authentic soundtrack.
Years and Years frontman Olly Alexander turns in one of the best performances in years as (arguably) the series lead Ritchie, but this is an ensemble show where every single performer rises to the challenge of bringing this complex and often heart-breaking material to life. Omari Douglas, Callum Scott Howells, Lydia West and Nathaniel Curtis are all perfect, too, making their characters feel so real and lived-in that we truly get to know them all as friends as we go through the decade with them.
There are some truly joyous and uplifting moments of love and life here, but with the era it portrays, also comes loss. It’s a Sin is one of the most heart-breaking and emotionally draining shows I think I’ve ever seen, but this is a tale that absolutely must be told.
In the wake of the series, there has been a remarkable upsurge in HIV testing with The Terrence Higgins Trust reporting that 8,200 HIV testing kits had been ordered in a single day – beating their previous record of less than 3,000. Its impact will probably become more evident as times goes on, as we get more and more mainstream gay stories. BBC and ITV allegedly turned this series down due to its subject matter, but hopefully with the incredible success of It’s a Sin starting a discussion and rightly normalising these stories, BBC and ITV will think twice next time.
It’s a Sin is an incredibly difficult series to review because there is simply so much emotion and power within it that it takes a hell of a long time to process. I’m still feeling a deep loss for the fallen characters that is tantamount to grief, and have been totally unable to shake the series from my heart. And therein lies the undeniable power of this masterful project. It is a series that becomes so deeply entwined with you that it becomes part of you. I honestly cannot think of any other way to put it. I don’t remember the last time any piece of art had this effect on me, and I know I will be thinking about it for a very long time to come.
It’s a Sin is compelling, heart-breaking, masterful and unforgettable television. It is flawless.
Learn more about HIV and sexual health at The Terrence Higgins Trust