You’re more likely to see a shooting star than you are the seventh season of a Netflix show, but there is a reason Queer Eye (★★★★☆) has made it this far.
An Emmy hit since its first season, the series about the “Fab Five” helping “heroes” overhaul their lives is well into its fifth year on the streaming service, having gone to Texas, Tokyo, and everywhere in between. Season seven finds the group in Louisiana, with even more of what made the show a hit in the first place.
From farmers to frat brothers, no one is off limits to the Fab Five in their journey to help people get their acts together.
Originally premiering in 2018, the revamped Netflix version returned almost 20 years after the original Bravo series, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, debuted in 2003.
The show has retained the core roots of the series, which finds the Fab Five helping local “heroes” get a new chance at life. To start, design expert Bobby Berk gets a lay of the land for renovations and home decor, while Tan France politely tells the heroes how their fashion needs to change; he’s stern without crossing the line.
In the kitchen, Antoni Poworiski handles the food and drink situation, often honing in on some home insecurities, while Jonathan Van Ness helps with the grooming situation, which is frequently dire. At the center of the makeovers are the emotional work that needs to be done to make lasting life changes.
This is where Karamo Brown, the culture expert, comes in. He is more than well-equipped to handle the harder conversations with their subjects, who are often surrounded by emotional fortresses.
As far as format, things are pretty well established, meaning that the subjects of the makeovers have to do some heavy lifting to keep the tempo from going stale, which it can’t always do.
There aren’t a lot of surprises this season, which makes binging the series harder to do, and takes some of the emotional weight out of the repeated and expected set-ups.
The “heroes” of each episode are very different, and this season alone includes a deli owner, a former convict, and a Tik-Tokker. It’s clear that they are all in the same boat of needing some guidance.
Unfortunately, some moments designed to make you sob can feel forced, especially when the subject doesn’t feel entirely comfortable. It can be hard to watch.
Some of the Fab Five, like Antoni and Bobby, don’t always feel necessary, or at least as consistent as the others, but do get some great moments. The latter especially shines when helping a young Tik Tokker in a wheelchair find accessible housing while making his home easier for him to live in, and the former helping a lesbian eat vegetables for the first time in probably way too long.
Jonathan is a consistent joy, full of quips and love, even when he’s stealing bundt cakes. His moments making over the subjects constantly remain some of the highest peaks of the series, getting to the heart of what makes makeover shows good and always getting that amazing shot of turning the makeover subject around to look in the mirror at their transformed self.
Tan, meanwhile, gets to quietly excel at helping the makeover subjects find clothes that look and feel good, helping them genuinely feel better about themselves and how they feel about their bodies.
As they go into wildly different situations, the Fab Five find a common ground that permeates beauty and humanity in whatever they do that makes the show shine. One of the consistently best figures in the group is Karamo, who is able to emotionally hold down the harder conversations.
As Karamo talks to the frat brothers in the season opener about masculinity, they all break down sobbing, realizing that they can be themselves around their found family, with Karamo teaching them an amazing lesson about how toxic masculinity infects everyone. He consistently gets to handle the show’s more tear-jerking moments, but never loses his grace, and seems to have a genuine impact on the people he’s trying to help.
The best part of the current season has got to be the wonderful queer representation. In the second episode, Stephanie, a lesbian sports superfan, highlights all of the struggles of being queer in a rural place, while emerging from her comfort zone to make a tearfully beautiful story.
Any LGBTQ person in a small town will instantly understand what Stephanie means when she talks about the struggles of being herself in a town “with only one or two gay bars” and overcoming internalized homophobia that often rises within ourselves. It’s the highlight of the season, and the entire reason why this show is so successful, showing the universal struggles of queerness and how those challenges aren’t forever.
All of the Fab Five bring queerness into every aspect of this show, usually with people you wouldn’t expect, further showcasing the show’s strengths and giving you some hope for humanity.
The throughline of Queer Eye will always be our shared human experience. Whether it’s former convicts or elementary principals, they all welcome the team with open arms and allow the Fab Five to hold them accountable to actually change. The show is funny and heartwarming at all the right times, and all these years later has only continued to master its craft.
We’ve all seen enough trashy reality TV to last a lifetime, but Queer Eye has always been different. What elevated it beyond some vapid makeover show is the heart at the center and the queer joy that the show excels at highlighting. No matter what you think, you’ll be reduced to tears with a smile on your face.
Things aren’t very different from the first season, but as far as comfort TV goes, Queer Eye may just be the best.
All episodes of Queer Eye, season seven, are available for streaming on Netflix. Visit www.netflix.com.
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