Okay, to answer your first question, Americans, you can watch Canada’s Drag Race on WOW Presents Plus for a low, low price.
We’re just gonna ramble and punctuate this post with pictures, whether they go with our points or not. Think of it as a visual walkthrough while we muse a bit. As we always like to say, if you can’t be a bit amusing, muse a bit.
We have actually never said that before in our lives. Anyway, watching the debut episode of Canada’s Drag Race, we found ourselves returning to a thought we had while recapping an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars: it’s hard sometimes to separate actual episodes of Drag Race from all the drama that surrounds the franchise at any given moment. Ru rather dramatically and mysteriously deleted all of her social media yesterday. If you ask us, we suspect she can’t deal with all the fracking jokes, but there’s also a consideration that perhaps Ru isn’t well, which is why we don’t want to over-speculate. In fact, we wouldn’t normally have a reason to bring something like this up in a review of Drag Race but like we said, it’s hard to separate the world of Drag Race from the show called Drag Race. And last night, watching this premiere episode with a critical and expectant set of eyes, we couldn’t help thinking that too much of the Canada’s Drag Race feels like it’s got a giant Ru-shaped hole in it.
Let’s just get this out of the way: We think a Drag Race show can survive just fine without RuPaul. Drag Race Thailand managed it just fine. But so far, the judging panel of Brooke Lynn Hites, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman and Stacey McKenzie are far – miles away – from the energy of your average Ru/Michelle/Ross or Carson panel. We’ll note that RuPaul’s Drag Race took years to find the right set of judges to flank Ru, so a tentative or awkward judging session isn’t the worst or most unexpected thing to happen in a debut episode. Although Drag Race U.K. had great picks for British judges right out of the gate, so it’s not totally unheard-of to think this show might have managed things better – especially since Jeffrey had Drag Race experience and Stacey has reality judging experience. But the energy across the board was low and none of the chemistry clicked. Even the lines being written for them seemed to fall flat; with the runway portion coming off more mean than funny at parts. Yeah, it can be annoying when Ru and her judges laugh a bit too hard at their own jokes, but this panel barely managed a “ha” as they just grimly kept slinging one-liners at the queens.
But it’s odd to us that the show couldn’t construct something a bit less Ru-heavy. Having her make a video appearance to welcome the queens is a great idea. And of course, seeing her face on the wall of the Werk Room makes perfect sense. But her songs keep playing on the soundtrack and her lines are being put in the mouths of people who only make you think of her absence when they utter them. Ru is literally a generation or two older than most of the queens who compete, which is why lines like “I’m sorry my dear but you are up for elimination” hold a certain weight coming out of her mouth. We can understand a Drag Race show wanting to keep a certain brand consistency, but that catchphrase just sounds awkward coming out of Brooke Lynn’s mouth. Even the use of “sashay” and “shantay” seem too Ru-specific to us.
We’ll say this: these are fixable things. So far, none of the judges feel like they’re going to break out of the box and wow us, but because there’s so much room for improvement, we’ll be interested to see how things progress on that front. But if anyone asks us (and absolutely no one will), they should drop the Ru lines, Ru references and Ru songs from the show. All it does is make us think Ru’s going to step out at any moment to take over.
The good news? We kinda love this rough-ass gaggle of queens. WAY too many names to remember at this point, but we absolutely love it when there’s a range of polish and it doesn’t feel like cardboard couture queens are being forced to go up against showgirls with $50,000 worth of wigs and costumes in their trunks. There are only a handful of beauty queens, with more of the girls coming under the weirdo or freaky side of drag. Almost no one strikes us as a standout performer, but we haven’t seen any of them truly perform yet, so we have room to be surprised.
Cute look, full of smack talk but then again, a lot of these queen were. Must be a Canadian thing we never heard about.
We thought Ilona was going to be a mess, but she was actually one of the most interesting there.
Kiara – lots of talk, kind of a fierce look, cute out of drag.
Juice Boxx – kind of a mess. Endearing, but that costume was shockingly awful on her.
Anastarzia walked in attitude first and so far, she backed it up. Fabulous look.
Lemon also came in talking a huge game and not quite delivering the goods.
Scarlett seems fun and weird.
Kyne was another smack-talker who got a little nasty when things didn’t go her way. This was a fun look, but the fit was terrible.
BOA. We don’t even know WHAT to think. Definitely not forgettable in any way.
Rita came in serving more attitude than anyone else, but we’ve got to say, bitch is loaded with charisma. She called herself a legend and we believed her.
LOVE THIS WEIRD ASS QUEEN.
Didn’t love Tynomi’s look as much as everyone else did but the bitch can serve face.
All of the queens were asked to serve face and body in a classic Drag Race wind-machine photo challenge:
Does it matter who won? Kyne did, but it was kind of arbitrary:
We would’ve given it to Jimbo.
And all of the queens were tasked with making their own costume based on various bits of Canadian culture and geography, much in the same way the UK queens were asked to represent their various home towns.
We’ll skip the safe queens and do a quick rundown: Lemon’s look was actually pretty cute and well-detailed. We’re not entirely sure why they were so hard on her other than it was kind of unflattering. Kyne’s was unimaginative and literally falling apart on the runway, but we guess the judges figured they needed to keep the biggest bitch in it. Jimbo’s was fun and well-crafted. Again, he’d have been our pick. BOA went all in on hers and while it’s a bit of a crafty mess, we can’t claim she didn’t sell the hell out of it. Juice Boxx just looked awful all around.
Rita won. Yes, really.
You know what we love most about a gaggle of rough queens on Drag Race? They tend to be really good at lip syncing and this showdown was one of the more entertaining LSFYLs we’ve seen in a while. Honestly, we’d have kept both of them, but then again, we didn’t think Lemon should’ve been there at all.
Can’t say we agreed with much of the judging decisions (or the judges at all, in any way), but they probably did send the right girl home. Rough drag is fine, but when Drag Race asks you to pull yourself together, you need to find a way to deliver.
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[Stills: WOW via Tom and Lorenzo]