"Queer as Folk" helped make queer cool. So says Daniel Lipman, co-creator of the Showtime drama that launches its fifth — and final...

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“Queer as Folk” helped make queer cool. So says Daniel Lipman, co-creator of the Showtime drama that launches its fifth — and final — season at 10 p.m. tomorrow. Thirteen episodes are ordered.

“There wouldn’t be ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ without ‘Queer as Folk,’ ” he said. “I don’t mean to dis ‘Will & Grace,’ but we set the standard. We’re the granddaddy of them all.”

“QAF,” about a group of 30ish gay men and lesbians in Pittsburgh, ignited a firestorm of criticism when it debuted in December 2000. It quickly became Showtime’s most popular original series.

Now, with the success of Bravo’s “Queer Eye” and Showtime’s “The L Word,” and with two gay cable networks up and running (three as of next month), “QAF” has lost some of its shock value.

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It’s about time, said cast member Peter Paige.

“I hope we look back on this (“QAF”) and think, ‘Wasn’t that quaint? We thought we were so cutting edge, and look at us now,’ ” said Paige, 30, who plays Emmett.

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“Queer as Folk,” at 10 p.m. tomorrow on Showtime.


“The rest of the world has caught up, thank God. … I’m really glad ‘Queer Eye’ and ‘Will & Grace’ are out there. They do a lot for visibility, and visibility is everything in a culture obsessed with its own reflection.”

Along with Paige, all the regulars return, including Gale Harold (Brian), Hal Sparks (Michael), Robert Gant (Ben), Randy Harrison (Justin) and Sharon Gless (Debbie).

In a three-episode arc that begins June 5, Debbie, who is straight, becomes the object of affection of guest-star Rosie O’Donnell. She plays an abused wife who runs away and gets a job as a waitress with Gless at the diner.

Five years ago, Paige’s manager urged him to pass on the role of Emmett because it would hurt his career. Paige is grateful he didn’t listen.

“It changed my life in a million ways, 999,000 of them for the better,” said Paige, whose boyfriend of two years is production designer on CBS’ “The Amazing Race.”

“The most profound changes have nothing to do with being a working actor or making money or being a little bit famous. Playing someone as open and full of life as Emmett has helped me maneuver in the world differently.”

Paige is developing film and TV projects for his Best Little Boy Productions. His feature directorial debut, “Say Uncle,” will make the rounds this summer at gay-film festivals.