In television, summer is the season for cable to shine. Because the broadcast networks usually load their schedules with reruns, viewers in search of something new flock to cable for alternatives -- and cable doesn't disappoint, saving their strongest material for a June or July launch when viewers are ripe for the picking.
Bravo is making quite a splash for gay viewers with two new shows slated for July debuts. Boy Meets Boy, the new gay reality dating series from the makers of Big Brother, caused a bit of a ruckus with its plot gag: some of the featured suitors are actually straight. The potential money shot, a la Joe Millionaire, will come when our gay bachelor realizes he's fallen for the hunky high school jock who didn't want him in high school and (ha! ha!) doesn't want him now. Ick.
The other Bravo offering, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, from gay producer David Collins, is a lot more fun in a kinder, gentler sort of way. The show centers around the "Fab Five," a group of stylish homos who set out each episode to make over a slovenly straight guy. Hence the queer eye. Each of the five represents a part of life in which gay men presumably excel: grooming, fashion, culture, interior design and food and wine.
In the preview episode, the Fab Five come to the rescue of a drab slob from Great Neck with a 37-inch waist and hairy ears. The unwitting chap forgot his wife's birthday again and needs the gay kitchen cabinet to help him plan a surprise party and, in the process, make him over.
For the record, I didn't want to like this show, but as I watched, a grin that I typically associate with prescription painkillers and vodka tonics spread across my face and stayed there. The gay guys are great: witty, charming and mostly down-to-earth, kind of like your best friends. Just try stifling a giggle when the food and wine fairy, cleaning out the fridge, chimes: "Yum, prune butter. Now that's good eatin'."
I howled out loud when the fashion fairy, picking though the straight guy's hockey jerseys, says he's never heard of the designer "Gretzky" before.
Half of what makes the show so much fun is the good-sport straight guy, who reminds me of every homo's lumbering, well-meaning, terminally hetero brother. What a trooper as he undergoes his seaweed scrub and walks the runway as the Fab Five coo over his new threads.
The most immediately annoying thing about Queer Eye is the lack of diversity among the Fab Five. Save one, they're all white, youngish, rail-thin and totally cute (a youngish, rail-thin and totally cute Latino is thrown in for variety). And the show casually steps over the fact that most gay men look exactly like the helpless cads the Fab Five are supposed to be making over.
Whatever. Queer Eye is an hour of pure summer fluff. It doesn't pretend to be anything more. It's meant to be consumed with a glass of white wine, flipping through the August issue of In Style. This is not mind-altering television. But who needs that when it's 102 degrees outside and 98 percent humidity? Sure, some of the queer guys are a bit much, but this is a makeover show, people. It's supposed to be campy fun. And it is.