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TELEVISION REVIEW

'Queer Eye' spinoff lost in gay shtick

January 11, 2005|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" spinoff "Queer Eye for the Straight Girl" begins, disturbingly, with four members of a gay style police bursting into the apartment of a 29-year-old Los Angeles woman named Nicole. They tear up the place -- picking through her stuff, assessing and insulting. They eat her food, they root through her closets; two of them simulate sex on her bed.

The whole thing plays like the rape scene in "A Clockwork Orange," which I don't think is the tone Bravo is going for. Whatever the network's hit "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" has done to make gay men seem less threatening to traditional values, this show gives it all back. Set in L.A., where "Straight Guy" is in New York, "Queer Eye for the Straight Girl" has none of the warmth or wit of the original.

You can practically hear the director telling his cast between takes, "Let's do it again, only this time be even gayer than you were the last time you were acting overly gay." So Robbie, trying way too hard to be this show's Carson Kressley, the blond merry prankster of "Straight Guy," simulates oral sex with a Twinkie. Honey, the lesbian cast member, spouts sexual innuendoes as she uses a power drill to secure a wall hanging.

That's what this show is in its infancy, no story and all warmed-over gay shtick, like a long and continuous insult to the work of Bruce Vilanch. Nicole, whose fashion myopia involves the wearing of T-shirts, cut-off jeans and a baseball cap with Ugg boots, is about to hit 30; the mission is to " 'Sex and the City' her up" for a birthday party, to make her "less Charlotte and more harlot."

I can't remember which cast member fed me that line; they're indistinguishable, and their style titles are needlessly obtuse. One of them has a British accent, that I remember. There's Damon (Locale, The); Robbie (Look, The); Honey (Lady, The); and Danny (Life, The).

They forgot Script, The. "Queer Eye for the Straight Girl" offers none of the sociological humor embedded in "Straight Guy," none of the hands-across-our-different-sexual-orientations moments of rapprochement. Maybe it has to do with the gender flip; there's something endearing and culturally resonant about watching five gay men help a straight guy get in touch with his metrosexual side. With a straight woman, the gays-to-the-rescue conceit is flatter. There's no sexual threat, no potential gay panic; the stereotypes being toyed with are muddled.

Honey is clearly meant to be the twist -- an attractive lesbian equally at home wearing a toolbelt or getting a beauty treatment for her posterior with Nicole. But she is not so much a sexual threat as a threat to herself, as when she observes about driving in L.A. that it's "blonds and Beamers you gotta watch for."

Blonds and Beamers? Isn't that kind of 1986? It's an archaic reference on a show that's supposed to exude fabulousness in '05. I would suggest a show in which the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" cast invades an episode of "Queer Eye for the Straight Girl" and embarks on a massive personality makeover.

Meanwhile, the third-season premiere of "Straight Guy" finds the Fab Five showering an Army specialist, Ray Steele, with attention and consumer goods before he ships out to Iraq. They remake his bare-bones apartment so he has a nice home to think about, they stage a second wedding for Steele and his wife, they take him shopping to buy clothes for his baby daughter to grow into while he's gone. In part because Steele and his wife give off such humility and dignity, the show brings home the personal costs of the war, both financial and emotional.

It's a somewhat stark departure for the whole "Queer Eye" franchise -- a patriotic valentine in which the kooky energy of the series is put on hold while the Fab Five, in their own sincere way, can show their respect for the troops.

What we're watching is a soldier, about to be separated from his wife and baby daughter (for a minimum tour of 545 days, he says), who informs the guys that he has to buy his own underwear and socks. The episode isn't about a makeover; it might even be doing something subversive, beyond the initial appearance of flag-waving.

It might be saying that the leaders of our country have decided that young people like Ray will go off to fight in a war, while you and I, if we need to relieve the tension brought on by Orange Terror alerts, can always go to the day spa to get hydrating masks put on our behinds.

*

'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy'

Where: Bravo

When: 10 p.m.

Ratings: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)

Ted Allen... Food & Wine Connoisseur

Kyan Douglas...Grooming Guru

Thom Filicia...Design Doctor

Carson Kressley...Fashion Savant

Jai Rodriguez...Culture Vulture

Executive producers David Collins, Michael Williams, Dorothy Aufiero, Linda Lee. Creator David Collins.

*

'Queer Eye for the Straight Girl'

Where: Bravo

When: 11 tonight; regular night is Wednesday at 10 p.m.

Ratings: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)

Honey Labrador...The Lady

Robbie Laughlin... "Look" Expert

Damon Pease..."The Locale" Expert

Danny Teeson... "The Life" Expert

Executive producers David Collins and Michael Williams.

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