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One of the advantages of having Cable/Satellite is that just now and again you can tune into a programme that will seem a little more off-the-wall than the majority of stuff that appears on terrestrial TV. Particularly adept at the kind of scheduling that will throw up the occasional gem is Living TV which has a screen brand aimed, generally, at women (although plenty of men get sucked into the scheduling like me, Im sure!). Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is one such programme that always brings a smile to my face. In essence, its an hour-long American makeover series. Since premiering on the Bravo cable television network in 2003, Queer Eye has gone from strength to strength, picking up Emmy awards along the way.
Queer Eye was created by David Collins and David Metzler and its premise is based on a team of five gay guys taking on a straight guy and re-inventing his life in a number of key areas. There are elements of reality TV, comedy and a little drama in the makeover concept employed by the shows makers and it follows a strict formula from which it rarely strays (I did see a show only recently where they made a gay guy over which baulked at the shows original concept but it was still compelling viewing!). Each episode follows a similar format where the Fab Five discuss their candidate for that particular show and they then descend on the victim, systematically tearing apart things like their taste in clothes, music and usually how their apartment/house is organized furniture-wise etc. Having spent the first part of the show ridiculing the latest candidate, the rest of the air time consists of them putting the person back together again with a new clothing wardrobe, new furniture arranged by a designer, hints and tips around cooking and dining in general, personal grooming and a different take on the arts and entertaining. Theres usually a special event to build up to, like a marriage proposal, a meal out with friends, a special date and so on. By this stage, the programme is mocked up to show the Fab Five watching their on-screen Lazarus navigate this special event using all the new assets introduced during the show.
At the heart of the show and the reason for its success is the Fab Five consisting of: Ted Allen, Kyan Douglas, Thom Felicia, Carson Kressley and Jai Rodriguez. Shot dynamically along the lines of Aneka Rice and all that bum-trailing camera work that went on with her Challenge shows, Queer Eye sweeps the viewer along, taking the audience from one shot to the next so quickly that you hardly realise that the next advert break has arrived. With a teaser clip to entice the viewer to keep watching after the break, the show is so typically American both with its intent to capture a quorum for the adverts but also in its shameless product placement that takes place as well known brands are showcased in the name of a makeover. In that lies the mildly annoying side of Queer Eye i.e. the suggestion that there is a perfect way to live your life and that in the true spirit of advertisers everywhere, an assumption that we are all wholly inadequate as we are. However, looking beyond that, the show is pure entertainment.
All five stars are different. Ted Allen is more quietly spoken and perhaps a little gentler in his acerbic wit. Charged with being the Food and Wine Connoisseur, he advises on taste in food, cooking and preparing all kinds of meals. There are plenty of us fellas that would kill for someone like Ted whispering advice from the sidelines as we prepare a romantic meal for two. Kyan Douglas is the dashingly handsome style guru who advises on personal grooming/hygiene and makeup. Hes always dispensing wisdom around what creams to use and how to get the best from your complexion and stuff although maybe for some of us more Neanderthal types, people like Kyan and his suggestions might be a bridge to far! Thom Felicia is the overtly camp, design doctor advising on interior design. The camera shots always make a point of emphasizing all the bad points in a place and then shooting them again in a whirling flourish to highlight Thoms transformation. Its pretty obvious that the state of some of the places has been deliberately exaggerated for effect in the "before" scenarios although this is forgiven for giving the team so much ammo for the verbal asides and snipes that make me laugh so much! Jai Rodriguez is the culture vulture advising on popular culture and art. I always think that his modus operandi is the thinnest of the five although he does occasionally throw up an interesting premise and the last show I watched featured Jai taking the shows candidate to an improvisation club which was kind of interesting. Last but very definitely not least is Carson Kressley. By far the most over the top and as gay as they come, Carson always rips the heart out of the victims wardrobe, tossing shirts and other items hanging up innocently in closets, out of the way in a hugely theatrical manner. Charged with re-inventing a taste in clothing and fashion, Carsons striking blonder hair typifies his satirical Alice-in-Wonderland humour. His biting comments are generally hysterical and very, very funny.
The shows popularity has spurned several spin offs in different countries including the UK. The UK version simply didnt catch on and thats hardly a surprise given that the Fab Five are virtually impossible to recreate. The show has a great soundtrack too, released in 2004 in the US. It actually reached number 1 on the electronic music chart in the US and the upbeat backing track that follows the initial theme music links the shows components nicely throughout giving the whole of the programme, creating an uplifting feel. The music complements the shows contents so well that you cant help but think that everyone is having a great time. This isnt always the case at the shows finale when some of the candidates have buckled under pressure a little when left to their own devices and thats where the reality TV takes over, hooking the viewing public in for the ride right through to the shows conclusion.
Ive been watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy for a few years now and have always enjoyed it. The formulaic approach has worn me down at times although everything has a shelf life and with no more shows in production it seems that Queer Eye has run its course. This programme is still being shown on Living TV schedules and will appeal to all generations given its lack of anything offensive and comedic theme. Living TV it seems is for men and women, gay or straight and shows like Queer Eye are one of the reasons for its unmitigated cable success.
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