The Fab Five Moves to a New City, Finds New Stories, and Gets a New Member
Last year, Netflix’s reboot of the 2003’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy started a massive change in direction for makeover shows. Whereas the usual formula involved getting clueless individuals to look, dress, and act better according to an expert’s tastes, 2018’s Fab Five—the highly entertaining team of Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness, Antoni Porowski, Tan France, and Bobby Berk—begin each episode simply getting to know the person they’re making over, favoring tweaks that bring out the individuals’ best selves over changes that make them more palatable to the rest of society. They also opted to drop the “for the Straight Guy” portion of the show’s title, expanding the team’s work to people of all genders and orientations.
These were significant changes that made a once-forgotten pop culture phenomenon into a show that looks to build a foundation as a cultural touchstone. Instead of helping men become more attractive to women, Queer Eye’s ethos is now firmly centered on helping people become better humans. And after two wildly successful seasons that made them overnight mass media darlings, Netflix has decided to shake the recipe up once again, this time with a new locale, a new focus, and even a new member.
The biggest change in Queer Eye’s third season is moving the Fab Five from Atlanta, Georgia—an LGBTQIA+ mecca in Southern USA—to Kansas City, Missouri: an openly LGBT-friendly city in a state struggling to get anti-discriminatory legislation approved. The city itself, fortunately, isn’t lacking for warmth for the LGBT community, and it shows in how openly the Fab Five are received by locals in the season’s first four episodes.
The new location allows the team to find some fairly interesting people to help, like Jody, a camouflage-obsessed female correctional facility security guard who’s never been able to experience her feminine side; and the sisters Shorty and Little, who work themselves to the bone at their small barbecue joint, all to put Little’s daughter through college.
More Queer Eye: Karamo's Human Agenda
More Queer Eye: Tan's French Tuck
However, Kansas City and its surrounding locales ironically don’t seem to have as much socio-political baggage as Atlanta did; whereas the show’s first two seasons regularly dealt with themes such as religion-driven homophobia, racism in the police force, and even the Pakistan-India conflict, the only such conversation had in the four episodes released for preview was a passing moment on the importance of gun control.
As a result, the Kansas season appears to focus more on the subjects’ internal growth, rather than on how that change can be reflected in their community. While the new stories remain inspiring on a personal level, they lack the daring and larger-scale impact that previous seasons had. Again, this assessment is based solely on Season 3’s first four episodes—it isn’t out-of-brand for Queer Eye to throw viewers a curve ball in later episodes.
That said, everything else there was to enjoy in the first two seasons is on full display in the new season, along with an evolution of each of the Fab Five’s roles. Karamo, for instance, gets to embrace much more of his “life coach” side with a particularly moving moment of reflection in episode four. Bobby, on the other hand, gets to flex his store design skills when he remodels Shorty and Little’s humble shop into a full-fledged restaurant.
Perhaps the most entertaining insight into the Fab Five’s personalities happens when Antoni is faced with individuals who cook just fine on their own in back-to-back episodes; his bewilderment as to why he’s even there makes for some surprisingly enjoyable television.
If you’ve reached this far, you’re probably invested in the show enough to be concerned about the new member mentioned earlier, and how he affects the Fab Five’s amazing chemistry with each other. There’s nothing to worry about.
He’s a dog.
Bruley, a charming French Bulldog owned by one of the show’s producers, joins the Fab Five as their unofficial mascot, hanging out at the new Kansas City loft whenever the team’s around. Queer Eye’s editors very smartly made sure to include at least one cut to Bruley in each episode previewed, and he gets to play a minor role in the show’s post-episode tips every now and then. Bruley’s a completely harmless addition to the Fab Five, and just warms up the emotional connection viewers already have with the show.
All in all, the third season of Queer Eye might not feel as ground-breaking as the first two, but that’s not entirely on the show itself. By virtue of its format, the issues that the Fab Five tackle are dictated by their location, and the people around them. Sometimes, there are places that just don’t have contentious cultures to address, and that’s okay. They’re still doing the best they can with what they’ve got, and if you’ve followed the show at all, you’ll know that this is exactly what they’re advocating.
Queer Eye’s third season starts streaming on Netflix on March 15.