Pop Culturing: 'Queer Eye' Returns for an Unremarkable but Comforting Season 3

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Thursday March 14, 2019

From left to right: Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Antoni Porowski and Karamo Brown in "Queer Eye."
From left to right: Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Antoni Porowski and Karamo Brown in "Queer Eye."  (Source:Christopher Smith/Netflix)

There's no doubt that fans are eagerly awaiting to return of "Queer Eye," which won an Emmy for Outstanding Structured Reality Program last year. The third season, which hits Netflix in full Friday, of the popular rebooted makeover series, sticks to the formula it's found success with over its first two runs — for better and for worse.

In Season 3, the Fab Five — Antoni Porowski (food and wine guy), Tan France (fashion guru), Karamo Brown (culture and lifestyle expert), Bobby Berk (home design extraordinaire) and Jonathan Van Ness (grooming guide) — continue traveling the heartland of America in order to improve the lives of good-natured, hardworking and deserving folk. For the first two seasons "Queer Eye" shattered the boundaries that the original series from the early 00s, formally called "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," were locked into. This new Fab Five aren't only helping out heterosexual men but they also lend their talents to all walks of life, including gay men, women and trans people. The trailer for Season 3 teased the Fab Five will be making over a lesbian woman this season (surprisingly a first!) but that episode was not provided by Netflix for review. The four episodes shared were, for the most part, unremarkable albeit a comforting experience. They would fit fine in any of the first two seasons and don't push "Queer Eye" any further in what kind of show it can be.

From left to right: Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, Tan France, Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness in "Queer Eye." Photo credit: Christopher Smith/Netflix

But comfort viewing is reality TV at its best. Over the years, the pillars of reality TV haven't changed so much. "Survivor," which just began its 38th season (!), has probably evolved the most since debuting back in 2000 but its foundation and motto ("Outwit, Outplay, Outlast") are still what drives the show. "The Real Housewives" franchise continues to thrive with a number of its original stars still leading their respective series. "Big Brother" also retains a popular fanbase without varying much as it gears up for its 21st season this summer. Though many latch on to those shows to turn their brain off and watch people be the worst versions of themselves. But "Queer Eye" is remarkable in doing the complete opposite, branding itself on change, love, acceptance, and positivity. It's obviously not a competition show and the conflict comes from the subjects who are often dealing with overcoming insecurities and sorting through past trauma or a major change. "Queer Eye" is never nasty and the Fab Five is focused on making America great again, one person at a time.

Setting "Queer Eye" in Middle America gives the show a certain charm. The Fab Five are metropolitan guys who come from large cities and watching them interact with families in landlocked states gives the series a fun fish-out-of-water vibe. On Season 3, they come across Jody, a correctional security guard and hunter, Joey, a program director for a summer camp, Robert, a self-deprecating psych-ward nurse about to tie-the-knot, and sisters Deborah "Little" Jones and Mary "Shorty" Jones. While the first three episodes are fine, the episode about the Jones sisters is far and away the best of the bunch. Little and Shorty are purely authentic and make for great TV. The episode has everything a fan could want out of an hour of "Queer Eye" — dynamic characters, the Fab Five at the top of their game and inspirational subjects who carry an American story.

From left to right: Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Tony Blanco, Antoni Porowski, Karamo Brown and Tan France in "Queer Eye." Photo credit: Christopher Smith/Netflix

Netflix's reboot of "Queer Eye" is a great improvement on the original series but it still would be rad to see the show push itself even further. In today's lexicon, "queer" doesn't mean what it meant 20 years ago. The Fab Five is made up of cis males and while each member is primed to be on TV, it would be great to see the core group changed up a bit and get lifestyle advice and tips from different queer people.

That could conceivably happen because "Queer Eye" is likely here to stay and going anywhere anytime soon. Not only is it extremely popular but Netflix seems to be leaning into putting out more lifestyle content. Food and cooking shows have been a popular staple for the streaming giant for a while now (think "Chef's Table," "Salt Fat Acid Heat," "Nailed it!," "The Final Table") and the company found major success with "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo." There must be an appetite for these types of shows and more are on the way as Netflix and Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle website goop are working together for a slew of new programs.

For now, "Queer Eye" Season 3 is a perfectly enjoyable way to spend a lazy weekend. For fans, it'll bring the same joy and heartfelt moments the first two installments did. Let's just hope as the show continues it also progresses in interesting ways.

Pop Culturing

This story is part of our special report titled Pop Culturing. Want to read more? Here's the full list.

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