The 2018 iteration of “Queer Eye” is as affecting as the original. In a “zhuzhed-up” kind of way.
In 2003, the Bravo series, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy premiered to a somewhat nonplussed audience. (“Queer?” Can we even say that?) As it turns out, this was groundbreaking television.
The brilliant premise: Five gay guys overhauled the lives of clueless, straight schlubs, who were “nominated” by friends and loved ones for much-needed lifestyle upgrades.
Each “queer” was a guru in a particular area: Ted Allen, food and wine (Allen is now host of the Food Network hit, Chopped), Carson Kressley, fashion, Kyan Douglas, grooming, Jai Rodriguez, culture and interior design expert, Thom Filicia.
Every week, the Fab Five would descend upon their unsuspecting target and with a light and often hilarious touch, make the dude over from head to toe.
In record time, Kressley would revamp his outdated wardrobe — never hesitating to burn a pair of raunchy flip-flops.
Filicia performed miracles on the guy’s often disgusting domicile, literally a room to room transformation.
Rodriguez shared his knowledge of art, music, and entertainment.
Allen worked his particular magic in the kitchen, often “de-junking” the fridge while extolling the virtues of making fresh pasta and selecting just the right vino to accompany it.
Finally, Douglas did his thing via a fresh hairstyle and skincare tips. Voila! The frog becomes a prince.
It should be noted that one of Kressley’s things was his frequent use of the word “zhuzh,” the definition of which is “to improve appearance by way of a slight adjustment.”
“You want to zhuzh up your look? Lose the belt and pull your shirt out of your pants.”
I loved Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which was shortened to just Queer Eye in its third season so as to include anyone, regardless of gender and sexual preference.
The show was fresh, compelling, and funny. The Fab Five was smart and erudite. And the series’ dedication to spreading the message of “tolerance,” sorely needed. It’s important to remember that “Queer Eye” hit the small screen well before the legalization of gay marriage.
Netflix’s 2018 update of Queer Eye is just as good. Maybe better. There is an emotional element to the show that I don’t recall in the original. And “acceptance” is the overarching message, this time around.
Created by David Collins, three seasons are available for viewing, all of which I’ve binge-watched. Immediately, I was drawn in.
Seasons one and two take place in and around Atlanta, Georgia. (Interesting, in and of itself.) Season three is set in Kansas City, Missouri. There are actually five seasons in all, thus far, with a special four-episode run in Japan.
Frankly, I could eat the new Fab Five with a spoon. Not only are they extremely easy on the eyes, they genuinely appear to be decent human beings. Not just actors in a TV show. And the tears at the end of each episode — from the Fab Five and their make-over alike — are just as genuine. I was moved, more than once.
This new iteration of the Fab Five consists of the following experts: Antoni Porowski (OMG handsome) food and wine, Tan France, fashion, Bobby Berk, design, Karamo Brown, culture and lifestyle and the irrepressible Jonathan Van Ness, grooming.
The chemistry between these dudes is palpable and their joy in helping others, infectious. Plus, the soundtrack is killer.
Van Ness, by the way, is outrageously and unapologetically, feminine, in his speech and manner. And, equally as sensitive to others.
A delight to watch, the episode where Van Ness waltzes with a burly firefighter is a standout. As is the Fab Five’s guidance and support of a young, black girl who was shunned by her family for coming out. And, wait until you see what they do with a self-professed “redneck” in the pilot episode, “You Can’t Fix Ugly.”
This incarnation of Queer Eye even takes on couples! And why not? I know a few marriages that could definitely use an overhaul.
There is so much that is good about Queer Eye that I can call it, without hesitation, “must-see TV.” Beautiful men. Interesting locales. Great music. A poignant, timeless message. It’s worth a look. If nothing else, Queer Eye is great entertainment, a diversion from the daily grind. Something we all need.
To the Fab 5 old and new: I truly love you guys. And, to Antoni, Bobby, Tan, Jonathan, and Karamo — if you can’t change hearts and minds, no one can,
To paraphrase Jonathan, you’re all “gorge!”
© Sherry McGuinn, 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.