When I heard that Netflix had rebooted the gimmicky, stereotyped reality programme, I scoffed. But the new version is hilarious, fabulous and incredibly important
We are living through the golden age of TV. Why isnt there any decent coverage of fashion on it?
Joanna, by email
I grew up as a devoted fan of CNNs Style With Elsa Klensch, but after Elsa hung up one of her 10m Geoffrey Beene jackets in 2001 I pretty much gave up on fashion TV. After all, it so often reduces fashion to the two-dimensional visuals, when the real joy of fashion goes much deeper than that and Im not talking about Trinny and Susannah insisting that all Britains housewives need to cheer themselves up is more colourful V-necks in their cupboards.
Well, colour me wrong, because at last a great fashion show has arrived. But this show is about so much more than fashion, as any great fashion show should be. In fact, it is definitely the best TV show to premiere so far this year and one of the most important TV shows for a long, long time. I speak, of course, of Netflixs Queer Eye.
What? A gimmicky reboot of an already gimmicky reality TV show? Important? Youve lost your mind, Freeman! I hear the readers cry as one. I, too, scoffed when I heard about Netflixs revival of the show yes, scoffed, I said. After all, I hate reality TV and my feelings about the original Queer Eye for a Straight Guy, which aired from 2003 to 2007 and was predicated on the stereotype that gay men are stylish and straight men are clueless schlubs, could largely be summed up as meh. Whatever charm the show had came entirely from the personalities of the five gay male presenters.
But the new series is flat-out amazing. Only eight episodes long, I devoured it in two sittings. It takes on everything from Black Lives Matter to loneliness. What it is really about, though, is masculinity and the problems it causes and it seems to me there is no more important subject on our planet right now.
But this is to make Queer Eye sound extremely po–faced, when in fact it is hilarious and fabulous. Like the original show, it features five gay men, AKA the Fab Five, each with his own speciality: interiors designer Bobby, who does the most impressive makeovers on the show; silver-fox fashion expert Tan, who, in his Doncaster accent, is convincing American men one at a time to throw out their combat shorts; the tongue-lollingly gorgeous Karamo, who is there for culture, but is essentially the therapist of the show and thus the source of some of its most amazing moments; scene-stealing grooming expert Jonathan, who has an endearing habit of giving exposition by asking a series of questions and answering them himself (Did I realise this was my moment to shine? 100%. Did I take it? Take a look!); and food and wine guy Antoni, who cant actually seem to cook. Sure, he will pronounce tamale with a lyrical Spanish accent, but the fanciest meal he makes is hot dogs. Now, there is a fine line between making things easy for the cooking-phobic guests who appear on the show and not being able to cook yourself, but Antoni looks suspiciously like the latter. Put it this way: he is no Ted Allen.
But what is really amazing about this show is its heart. I cant remember the last time I cried at a TV show and I have cried at nearly every damn episode of Queer Eye. There was Tom in the first episode, the self-described ugly redneck who wanted to win back his ex–wife, and Cory the cop in episode three, who keeps his late fathers old suits in his closet as a way to stay close to him.
But most of all there was AJ, gay and semi-closeted, who wanted to come out and stop dressing like the assistant manager of a sofa store. I have now watched this episode three times and each time I have cried absolute buckets: there is so much emotional truth going on here and not for a second does it feel manipulated. It sums up the excellence of this show: it has political nous, it has heart, it has style and it feels utterly relevant to now. Fashion finally has the TV show it deserves and 2018 has the TV it needs.