Netflix's Tales of the City wisely leaves the San Francisco hate behind

CNET | 6/13/2019 | Kent German
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Murray Bartlett (left) as Michael Tolliver reconnects with Laura Linney's Mary Ann Singleton.

One of the best lines in Armistead Maupin's original Tales of the City book comes when naive San Francisco newcomer Mary Ann Singleton wonders if she should ditch her new life to go home to Cleveland. Trying to shake her out of her funk, hippie neighbor Mona Ramsey tells her, "Mary Ann … you can't sit around expecting life to be one big Hallmark card. Because no one cares enough to send their very best."

Years - Mary - Ann - Ohio - New

But after a few years, Mary Ann does leave -- not for Ohio, but for New York to pursue a career as a television talk show star. And in Netflix's new Tales of the City series, which premiered June 7, she comes back to her old West Coast home to reconnect with those she left behind -- ex-husband Brian (Paul Gross returning to the role); resentful daughter Shawna (Ellen Page); old friends; and gracious landlady Anna Madrigal, who gave her that apartment at 28 Barbary Lane. She's bringing plenty of baggage, too, after a failed marriage and a TV dream that devolved into hosting infomercials for a snuggie copycat.

Laura Linney returns to the role of Mary Ann so effortlessly it's almost as if she never left. Of course, as the series is set roughly in the present day, she's arrived in a place that's vastly different from the late 1970s San Francisco of that first book -- a pre-AIDS era of cheap rents, discos and carefree self-discovery. Now housing prices are astronomical, disco is dead and hoodie-clad billionaires walk streets choked with tech buses and electric scooters. If anything, Mona's sound advice is even truer now.

Olympia - Dukakis - Plays - Barbary - Lane

Olympia Dukakis, now 87, plays Barbary Lane matriarch Anna Madrigal who attends her 90th birthday party in the...
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