"If there were a way to go back and correct the one thing you’ve come to regret most in life would you, could you, should you?”
Craig Bettendorf’s Treading Yesterday explores the world of a close-knit group of gay men who've been friends since the late 1980s. Bettendorf develops his characters just enough in the first episode to entice us into wanting to know more about them. Treading Yesterday covers many of the same themes as the groundbreaking series Queer as Folk, but with a fresh plot twist and the promise of something more than mere entertainment.
In the first episode, we meet the main character, Eric, a middle-aged gay man living in 21st-century America. Eric is the narrator of the show, filling in the gaps for us. You could say he has a charmed life; good looks, aging well, and his husband Aiden is equally as attractive and successful.
They have a close-knit group of friends who've been together since the 1980s when living a queer lifestyle was dangerous and unacceptable. Their friendship began at a point in history when the demonization of their culture was the norm. Together, they built a community and survived during a time when fear manipulated political agendas.
The Ties That Bind
The group became like family, forming deep bonds through the years of struggle. Considering how well things appear to be going now, in 2015, it isn’t surprising that Aiden doesn’t notice his partner’s discontent. Eric’s existential crisis isn’t apparent from his outward appearance, but there is unrest bubbling beneath the surface.
Middle-age is quickly approaching. All the pressure to stay in shape, maintain an outstanding career, and to be in a successful same-sex marriage, is all beginning to take its toll.
Bettendorf juxtaposes life after much of the fight for gay civil rights has been won, with the hard truth of what it took to get to where the community is today.
The story starts with a snapshot of the present then catapults us into Eric’s past, as the plot takes an unexpected turn. After a night of celebration, Eric wakes up and realizes that he has somehow returned to1988.
As the title suggests, once he realizes where he is, Eric sets out on a quest and he is literally "Treading Yesterday."
Walking a Tightrope Between the past and Present
This dual time-period premise works well for the series. Approaching the story by illustrating the differences between the past and present sheds light on the challenges that still exist within the LBGTQ community.
Most of the audience should be able to relate to the characters on some level, realizing that so much of what life throws at us is part of the human experience. All people want love, thrive on friendship, and seek to find personal fulfillment.
Building empathy by finding common ground with the audience allows Bettendorf to highlight the oppression that still exists for this segment of society, without appearing to be preaching from a soapbox. In this way, entertainment leads to a dialog about intolerance.
More to Come
Treading Yesterday promises to be an engaging, most likely binge-worthy series. By the end of Episode 1, we feel invested in the lives of Bettendorf’s characters and need answers to our questions about the mysterious newcomer, Will.
Make sure to watch the pilot through to the end of the credits to see what lies ahead.
Review originally published at Cult Critic 7 November 2017. Updated as part of a new series of reviews and interviews with writer/director Craig Bettendorf.