'Do you buy all your clothes at the Home Depot?' fashion consultant Carson Kressley wanted to know as he pawed through carpenter Butch Schepel's pile of grungy jeans and T-shirts. 'Oh, my grossness.'
Welcome to 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,' the newest makeover reality series, airing on the Bravo cable network. The premise here is simple: Gay men can improve the looks, style and etiquette of any clueless straight man if just given the chance.
Kressley and four pals they call themselves the Fab Five get the chance each week, having a hootin' and hollerin' good time along the way. In tonight's show, the disheveled Schepel who seems to be in a continual state of shock as his flock of consultants fawn over him finds himself transformed before his very eyes (eyes that become resplendent under newly plucked eyebrows).
His stringy hair is sheared and highlighted, his cluttered apartment is remade just so, and his new clothes make him look presentable, if just a tad uncomfortable.
And that's just for starters. By the end of Episode 1, Schepel has hosted his own art exhibit. You see, it turns out that this carpenter is also an artist.
'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' is kind of like 'Monster Garage' without the macho and engines, or 'Trading Places' without the husbands and wives. In other words, it looks way too familiar. Even a new cast of characters can't transcend the sameness that the bloated reality genre has wrought.
Kressley is the Fab Five's chatterbox and one-liner champ. (In next week's episode, upon seeing the toy-strewn living room of their latest client, he bursts out with: 'A Toys 'R' Us crack house!') He is joined by an interior designer, a food and wine connoisseur (Ted Allen, who writes the 'Things a Man Should Know' column for Esquire), a hair and grooming expert, and an all-around social skills coach.
These guys know their craft and gradually help Schepel emerge from his schlumpy shell. But stereotypical behavior abounds. Early on in the first episode, attempts at humor (faux come-ons to Schepel, as an overdone example) come off as forced. The best stuff comes later in the hour, when everybody gets down to business in the transformation department.
It's going to be interesting to see if Bravo is successful in garnering a sizable slice of the gay demographic by airing such series as 'Boy Meets Boy,' which debuts July 29, and the year-old 'Gay Weddings.' In 'Boy Meets Boy,' a gay man has 15 men to choose from. Unbeknownst to him, some of the potential suitors are heterosexual.
In the meantime, the Fab Five will try to keep their routine lively and fresh. But it's going to be an uphill battle one nearly as steep as restyling Schepel.