Time to Remember
Like many fans of RuPaul's Drag Race, I waited with bated breath for the season premiere. Three months before the actual airing, speculation abounded surrounding the premiere date which seemed to change several times, stirring rumors of a troubled production or problems with LOGO (the network that airs it). I chalked it up to the ravenous fan base starving for Eleganza and bided my time patiently until it rolled out. Four episodes in, I am rethinking my position.
Now before you go "Oh no she betta don't!" let me explain.
When I reviewed the first episode and gave my first impressions, I left out the part of the episode (which I truly believe to be one of the weakest in her-story) that upset me the most- the elimination of Tempest DuJour. This seasoned comedy Queen with a heartwarming backstory sashayed away mostly due to a saggy nude body suit and a rather subdued LSFYL (I.E. No death drops or twerking). But this uber talented Queen with charm to spare had recently lost a great deal of weight (hence sagginess?) and had been in a car accident where her leg was torn off and re-attached two years earlier!!! AND she lip synced against a seemingly bearded Kandy Ho who (in my humble opinion) doesn't have an iota of the Charisma Uniqueness Nerve and Talent of DuJour. I realize the Judges only see the girls on the runway and critique solely on that impression, but that doesn't excuse the dismissal. I think it is amazing the outcry that popped up on all the fan-sites for this travesty- unprecedented for a first elimination. But that was not my only problem with the episode. A "nude" challenge?? In a drag competition???? Truly WTF!!!!! Violet Chatchkey won the challenge despite giving too much boy in her nude runway but her fashion runway was stellar. Too bad she comes off as totally unlikeable.
The second episode rolled around and we were faced with the "Glamazonian Airways " lip-sync production number. Highly entertaining with some nice turns by the Queens save for the tragic mangling of the lip-sync by Katya (who is generally strong and hysterically funny. What happened, Katya? VERY embarrassing.) and the mostly invisible (charisma-wise) Sasha Belle (whose runway look was channeling Lady Bunny for some unknown reason). Katya redeemed herself with a fantastic LSFYL (thankfully!) and Ginger Minj won with a performance that made me want to see her do Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray. All in all, I started feeling a little more optimistic for this season. But there were a few niggling doubts in my mind about the overall talent of this group and they were not leaving me with any warm fuzzies.
Now comes the 3rd episode debacle . Shakesqueer! This episode had potential-starting with the golden girled mini-challenge and Ru in a motorized wheelchair (hilarious! Ru has perfect comic timing!) but things went severely downhill from there. From tragic lack of direction or rehearsal for Kennedy Davenport's group to the horrible-it bears repeating- Horrible performance by Pearl . Fortunately for Pearl , Jasmine Masters was just a little bit more horrible and lip-synced against her friend Kennedy, sashaying away with her tail tucked ...well, behind her "tuck". The mess of the episode was highlighted by the verbal beatdown provided by Mama Ru who was obviously regretting her casting choices for this lackluster group. Despite a glaring lack of talent, Pearl skirts by with amazing runway looks but I am not sure how much longer this is going to fly.(My first impression of him, I wrote "Somnambulistic." Hmm. If I saw it then and Mama Ru called her out on it in this episode, then why wont she WAKE THE FUCK UP????) Max won the challenge with a ...good performance and a fantastic Salvador Dali-esque mustache and beard (I actually like the bearded runway challenge- I am all about pushing the boundaries of gender and drag for the art of it. Love you, Milk!)
4th episode in brings us the "Punny or Die" song parody videos of Ru's song catalogue. Despite the in-fighting (another group challenge!) they were all...cute. Not fantastic, but cute. It is a singing challenge and sadly it is the least aurally pleasing of any season despite the coaching of super talented Lucianne Piane. Ginger Minj who is probably a front runner once again does a good job and is safe, as is Katya (whose tan mom was a highlight!) Jaidynn Diore Fierce does a spot on winning impersonation of Bianca Del Rio-AND DOESN"T WIN!!!! Huh? Somehow, Kennedy "ru-deemed" herself from her previous weeks massive failure and wins the challenge. I mean, she was good and all, but Jaidynn NAILED it. Even Violet rocked with here Adore impersonation (well, minus the spectacular vocals of the idol alum). Bottom two were Pearl and Trixie mattel, who despite her self proclaimed comedic and musical theatre chops, was just kind of "meh". BUT-and this is a big but-she was much better than Kandy Ho who added NOTHING spectacular or interesting to her performance , resorting to an uninspired tried and true old school lip sync in the video with no actual interpretation of the material. Miraculously, Pearl is safe and Trixie is sent home before her time (I.E. Snatch Game. Really worried about this groups outing with celebrity impersonations.)
Unfortunately for the season 7 cast, they were preceded by the season 6 girls who were loaded with Charisma Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent, down to the least likeable of the bunch. I can actually go back and point out why each and every on of the six-ers were there. And they had the only true tri-fecta of amazing talent that made it to the top three. Hell, top six where incredible. But it is hard to outshine the sheer wattage of Adore DeLano, Courtney Act, and the Queen B Bianca Del Rio. Sure, there is much talent in the season 7 cast, but they are all more like best supporting actresses rather than Drag Superstars. Mama Ru has her hands full with this current batch of lemons.
I am still waiting patiently for her to make lemonaide.
When Glee premiered in 2009 I was obsessed- a scripted musical TV show that featured singing and dancing showcasing the underdogs of high school hierarchy. I found the first episode majorly flawed but when the cast took the stage and sang the classic cheesy Journey song "Don't Stop Believing" I was hooked. This rag-tag bunch of outsiders plucked my heart strings and the weakness of the storytelling didn't matter. I am a self admitted musical theatre nerd and have an embarrassing tendency to tear up when songs are sung in a scripted situation. Sappy hooks with emotional drive are my downfall.Surprisingly, I am untouched by the likes of American Idol/The Voice/America's Got Talent/et. al. most likely to the lack of story driving these shows.
The young cast of kids was mostly inexperienced save for Lea Michele who was weaned on Broadway and their lack of acting chops was leavened by the sheer heart of their singing and energy as they performed. I had many friends in the theater community who criticized the over-produced sound (one choral teacher hated the expectations it produced in her students and their parents that all high school choirs should be this polished!) but I loved what it represented and what it achieved- an acceptance and understanding of those of us who don't conform to the "societal norms" , that celebrated arts instead of or as well as sports, that brought awareness to issues of bullying among others, and the sheer joy that can come from singing your heart out.
Unfortunately for me, the writing was so spotty and characters never followed any motivations- there was a seeming lack of a show bible that keeps track of what they would or wouldn't do or even what they had done before, so the arcs were non-sensical. I finally gave up on the show when the original cast "graduated" and they brought in all new "New Directions". From it's inception, the storylines played like bad after school specials or the serious issue episodes of Facts of Life and the newer cast lacked the charm of their forbears.
So it was fitting that the finale episodes of Glee focused on the original six members of the "New Directions". The episodes represented the best and the worst of what the series was. In "2009" we went back to the inception of the group, finding out their inspirations to do so. I did like this, but once again , it mostly had nothing with the characters we met in the original episode (except for Rachael who was the most fully developed of the characters from the get go. Probably having to do with Lea Michele's experience as an actress). Kurt (Chris Colfer) played out a scenario that rang more true than his haughty origins seen in the premiere. I credit that to the growth of the actor who, as the series progressed, brought a lot more humanity to the role which I initially disliked. Initially Kurt was arch and bitchy with little redeeming value besides his vocal prowess and sartorial fashion sense. His backstory established his strong relationship with his Father which became a positive model for GLBT parents.Tina (Jenna Ushkerwitz) reminded me of the why-the-f-did-they-do-that stutter and short lived edgy goth phase. Her origin story was crammed together with the wheelchair bound Artie (Kevin McHale) - positing that the only reason they auditioned for the Glee club was because of a dare. Their characters were always some of the least realized and underwritten on the show, but their singing was always reliably strong. The vocal powerhouse Mercedes (Amber Riley) was the star vocalist in her church choir yet felt like an invisible minority in her school. Amber has always had sing for the rafters skills and an agreeable presence, but once again was largely undefined as a character, taking a resentful back seat to Rachael even though her big Gospel voice was as good if not better than her rivals. And of course, the tragically gone too soon Finn (Corey Monteith) whose story is talked about due to the stars untimely death. Nothing new is offered in this episode- his origin in the group was straightforward in the pilot. We also find out that Shue (Mathew Morrison) and Sue (Jane Lynch) used to be friends until he took the job as the new Glee club director. The new revelations about the beginnings had varying degrees of success, illustrating one of my greatest annoyances about the show- sheer randomness of storytelling! But as soon as they gathered onstage for the first time, the first time the camera shows the smiling and alive Finn with his rag-tag group of comrades singing "Don't Stop Believing", my heart melted. The tears flowed. It's all that possibility, that talent, that potential, that heart that gets me every time.
At it's best, it was a joyous celebration of life through song, a celebration of indiscriminate diversity, a celebration of promise. The storytelling was sometimes inane, the characters ricocheted haphazardly through the series, but what it really did was bring about more widespread acceptance to marginalized groups and helped us embrace our inner Gleek.
The actual final episode "Dreams Come True" was pure wish fulfillment for the characters- hopping into the future to find them all wildly successful. More bad storytelling, yet emotionally satisfying. (One highlight is Lynch and Morrison singing "The Winner Takes it All" by Abba. The pair have always had great chemistry and it is a truly bittersweet moment for them.) Dreams did come true.And in the end, they all were onstage one last time with members past and present, faculty and all, singing "I lived". Truly lovely.
Glee was many things- polarizing, exhilarating, maddening, glorious, original, banal. provocative, and dull. I had a love/hate relationship with it for the first few years until I had to distance myself from it like a bad relationship that kept kicking me in the groin. I am glad I tuned in for the last 2 episodes. I finally have a satisfying closure .
The latest season of RuPaul's Drag Race has officially started and I am ...underwhelmed. I know, sounds like heresy coming from a superfan like me, but it is sadly true. So many confusing changes this year (Un-tucked is now a streaming show online the next day?!? The first mini-challenge has nothing to do with any sort of talent besides stomping a runway?!? The actual runway challenge is a nude-illusion ?!?) my head is still spinning. I actually had to watch the episode twice just to make sure that I wasn't judging it too harshly, but both viewings left me with the impression that this season skewed towards style over substance which is not my idea of the well rounded Next Drag Superstar should be.
Miss Fame- whose look is fierce to say the least- is polished and her makeup is flawless but I am not seeing much else there. Every one of her runway looks is amazing but her charm factor is minimal.(This is where I am truly frustrated by Un-Tucked being streamed the next day- the workroom segments were so brief there was no chance to get to know the Queens and Un-Tucked serves the purpose of revealing more of their personalities.)
Ginger Minj is one of the plus size girls who knows how to beat her face. So far I like her sense of humor (always a plus when you know how to make fun of yourself before you make fun of others- see the Mistress of that Bianca Del Rio) and she knows how to dress for her size.
Jasmine Masters is a bit mannish but has a bubbly enthusiasm that may carry her through midway through the competition. She seems genuinely excited to be there.
Kandy Ho is this years Puerto Rican Queen whose ageist attitude immediately turned me off. Hopefully she is not long for the show.
Jaidynn Diore Fierce is the other plus size girl who seems to have personality to spare. She has a beautiful expressive face (those eyes!) and serves big girl body-oddy-oddy!
Katya represents Russia with quick wit and self awareness. I hope to see her go far.
Max is the BenDeLa/Jinx Monsoon of the season serving gray haired old Hollywood realness. Her quirkiness seems a little too calculated and maybe a tad bit forced, but she at least has a sense of humor.
Mrs. Kasha Davis represents the mature woman with an air of eighties Divas (see Joan Collins) without the dated-ness. Another quick-witted Queen I look forward to seeing more of.
Pearl is another editorial fashion Queen who is so low energy she is almost somnambulistic as she slowly walked down the runway. Her look is striking and high fashion but looks most stunning in his boy looks. HAAWT!!!!
Sash Belle proclaims to have studied every facet of Drag Her-story that she is a shoe in for the crown but her look is a bit rough around the edges. Turned me off of shellfish.
Trixie Mattel has a beautifully realized character mug beaten for clown realness and a sense of whimsy that I admire. Nothing about her is supposed to be real and I love that.
Violet Chachki is young and has a fierce wardrobe of fashion couture looks but seems borderline eating disorder and has a hubris that turns me off until I see something to back it up.
Kennedy Davenport is a southern belle who looks stunning and has a haughty genteel charm about her that reminds me of Susanne Sugarbaker.
Tempest DuJour represents the comedy Queens with a quirky style (somehow I get Coco Peru from her) and a ribald sense of humor that I love.
The mini-challenge baffled me because it was simply pulling wardrobe that they already had to do two runway looks. God knows I love some fabulous dresses but it didn't revel anything about the Queens except for their sartorial styles. It was a blast to see Alaska Thunderfuck doing her best Anna Wintour (boy has her look evolved from her found object/trashGlam beginnings on the show).
The REAL runway challenge was tear away cruise wear to reveal nude illusion realness! (Ru, being the mistress of self promotion, at it again #BornNaked). I just have to say...WHY???? I am not sure what the point was with this potentially humiliating contest (I have to say , the big girls pulled it off beautifully!) but it probably goes down as one of my least favorite in all of Drag Race.
The bottom two were Kandy Ho (who contured herself into a beard!) and Tempest DuJour (who revealed that she had lost massive amounts of weight but that didn't seem to appease the judges who criticized her saggy body suit.) Tempest lost the lipsync and sashayed away. Too soon if you ask me- Kandy's ugly attitude was the real loser of the night. Granted, Tempests runway looks were the weakest and that really is all the judges can go by, but she had tremendous heart.
That being said, did anybody miss Santino as a judge? I certainly didn't. Carson Kressly and Ross Mathews will do a much better job in my opinion. Both have more personality in one episode than Santino showed in 6 seasons.
I am sure my opinions may change once I see Un-Tucked, but so far this season is underwhelming.
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