Pop culture has a genius for transforming painful history into enjoyable entertainment. It can turn Nazi POW camps into the sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. It can spin the murder of Israeli athletes into the thriller Munich. It can use the 1921 race massacre in Tulsa to kickstart the superhero saga Watchmen.
The emergence of AIDS provides the impetus for It’s a Sin, a hit British series about five young people who share a London apartment over the years from 1981 to ’91. The show is the semi-autobiographical brainchild of Russell T. Davies, a writer best known for creating Queer as Folk and resurrecting Doctor Who. With his gimlet eye for the pop jugular, Davies turns the story of that deadly pandemic into a soapy drama that, like many dance songs from that era, is equal parts bounciness and woe.