Is RuPaul’s Drag Race Stuck in First Gear?

RuPaul's Drag Race (Photo: Logo)
RuPaul's Drag Race (Photo: Logo)

I can’t quite put my finger on why, but this season has been putting the drag in RuPaul’s Drag Race.

I can’t quite put my finger on why, but this season has been putting the drag in RuPaul’s Drag Race. We are six episodes into the show’s seventh regular season1 and I’m still waiting to be excited about what happens in a given episode. However, the show has not seen many highs or lows, aside from Trixie Mattel’s baffling elimination a few episodes back.

A big contributing factor is probably the complete rejiggering of the Drag Race formula. First, judge Santino Rice, who had been with the show since the beginning, has been replaced by Carson Kressley and Ross (the Intern) Matthews on a rotating basis. Although he was not a positive contribution to the panel toward the end of his tenure, Santino did bring a fashion perspective which his replacements have not been able to deliver.

Second, the challenge structure has broken out of the mould the show executed so well in previous years. The first challenge of the season used to be, to borrow from Project Runway, an unconventional materials challenge using items from the dollar store or a thrift shop before it was cool. There have also been fewer mini-challenges, which are sometimes the best part of some episodes. Next week’s episode will be Snatch Game, so not all traditions have gone out the window. However, if the makeover challenge has been eliminated I will sashay away.

The biggest change involves Untucked, which is now a YouTube series instead of the RPDR aftershow. Gone are the Interior Illusions lounge, the gold bar, RuPaul’s pink furry box (hehe), and horribly awkward editing to fill 19 minutes. Instead, we get a backstage look at what is happening with very little producer interference. My problem with the original incarnation of Untucked was that it depended on alcohol and artificial splitting up of contestants to stir up drama. On this new version, we get to see parts of RuPaul’s Drag Race without its makeup–production assistants corralling the contestants, the eliminated contestant packing up and leaving, and the almost prison-like atmosphere surrounding the show.

And that may be what is making the show less fun. Toward the end of most seasons of the show, there are contestants who either check out completely or break down entirely. Think about it: these are performers who are used to doing their thing in front of groups of people (DIFFERENT PEOPLE) every night. On the show, these 14 contestants have only an audience of Ru, Michelle Visage, Ross/Carson, the Pit Crew, and the production team. The only fresh faces are the one or two guest judges, with the only feedback coming from the same sources. The queens only contact with the outside world is through videos from loved ones, which is great if they are your loved ones. Calling this the Hunger Games of Drag seems hyperbolic, but is the end result really that different?

Eight queens are still in the competition to become America’s Next Drag Superstar. Hopefully Snatch Game will move RuPaul’s Drag Race into a higher gear.

  1. eighth if you count All-Stars  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv
  • Disappointed in LA

    yeah, this new hipster-fueled behind-the-scenes artsy crap has got to go. I cannot STAND seeing a bunch of producers trying to get face time when the attraction is the grrls and Ru and the REAL stars of the show. I don’t give a fuck about some guy wiping the floor with paper towels because Pearl spilled her drink. They killed the “illusion.” “Behind the scenes” belongs BEHIND THE SCENES. Get these MF’ers out of the show and take it back to its roots. When you try to enhance the fan experience, you don’t change a tried and true formula. Instead, you add variables that produce a greater product. Seriously, what the f*ck.