G’day, g’day, g’day! And welcome to our humble recap of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, part of the Great Pop Culture Debate’s viewer pool. We have 27 people competing in our pool this time — CRIKEY! — and it should be a blast playing along with all of you on what promises to be a rollercoaster of a season.
I want to start with an apology for this blog being so late. Normally you can expect the blogs to go up the SAME DAY as the episodes air (on Saturdays — new episodes will apparently post on WoW Presents+ at like 12:30am in the United States), but this past week I was traveling. Going forward we should be more on top of our game. We’re also still figuring out precisely what we’ll do with the video runway reviews, including the one for Episode 1. But I promise we’ll get our shit together by this weekend. In the meantime, please distract yourself by ogling the members of the Down Under Pit Crew:
For anyone criticizing the show so far, I say to you: we have never had a more fuckable Pit Crew. Who begs to diffah? (Bonus points if you get that Aussie reference.) (But not really, no bonus points, it just means you have good taste in reality television.)
But let’s dive into Episode 1, shall we? Overall, I quite enjoyed it. I’ve seen a lot of complaints that the show looks cheap (the budget is tiny — the prize is $30K), that the production values like lighting and camera work are not up to the typical US standards (they aren’t, it’s a much smaller production), and that the show just isn’t interesting or exciting. I’m not sure what those people were looking for in the premiere. I didn’t find the episode to be markedly different from the first episodes of either season of Drag Race UK. The format was basically identical: a photo/video mini challenge, and a two-look runway (this time the categories being Born Naked and Hometown).
So, are people taking issue with the queens? Because I don’t see that at all. This hand-selected cast of 10 is, in my opinion, very strong. Super likable — I even liked the ones I didn’t expect to based on the promo material, like Elektra Shock and Scarlet Adams. And we have some interesting new wrinkles to Drag Rae relationships here. Having an established drag duo like Kita Mean and Anita Wigl’it go head to head against each other? That’s new and potentially dramatic. Having them competing against one of their own employees in Elektra Shock? Also potentially compelling. We also have an interesting case in Karen From Finance, a queen who became internationally famous because she was namedropped by Drag Race royalty Trixie and Katya. Can she live up to her hype? I would like to see it. There’s also at least one other storyline I have read will be addressed, but wasn’t referenced in the first episode, that I’m very interested to see play out.
It is true that very few of the fashions on the runway fully blew me away — although there were some clear standouts. I blame part of that in Production’s decision to bring back the Born Naked nude illusion runway from Season 7, which was ghastly then and only moderately better here. You’re just not going to have eye-popping looks when your queens are forced to build around tacky nude body suits. Unless your name is Art Simone, and you fucking kill that challenge. I thought almost all the Hometown looks were fun and had a bit of whimsy to them, although I personally thought Coco Jumbo should have been in the bottom for that gorilla outfit alone. Elektra’s might have been busy and confusing, but at least it was visually interesting and feminine.
The top for the week were Karen From Finance, Art Simone, and Scarlet Adams, the latter of which narrowly avoided total disaster when her first outfit had a backside blowout (god I miss a good backside blowout — curse you, COVID-19!). It was, somewhat surprisingly, Karen’s win. I say surprising because I thought Art slayed both looks, while Karen gave us outstanding runway presentation, but less interesting fashions. In the bottom it was poor Elektra Shock, the aforementioned Coco Jumbo, and our first boot of the series, Jojo Zaho, who went home after losing to Elektra in a lipsynch to “Tragedy” by Bee Gees. (Ru loves Bee Gees, and I thought that lipsynch was better than virtually any of they lipsynchs from Season 13.)
I was surprised that Jojo went home first. First, I didn’t think the show would let go of its sole aboriginal contestant so early. I hoped the judges would give her another chance, since it’s rare that this franchise spotlights contestants with a first nations background (Ilona Verley from Canada and maybe S11’s Shuga Cain are the only others that really come to mind). But I was also surprised because the majority of the rumors about this season did not have Jojo going so early. In fact, the supposed spoilers for Episode 1 were almost completely wrong — incorrect episode winner, incorrect first eliminee. That almost never happens. Is World of Wonder getting craftier about planting fake spoilers to throw people off the scent? Or do people really have no idea what’s coming in this series? I personally love it, because again, it should make for a fascinating season.
Oh, and…just one more thing. I’ve seen a lot of complaints about Ru not being in drag for the judging, with people accusing her of laziness. There was apparently some issue with travel/quarantining in New Zealand, where this was shot, that prevented Ru from being in full drag for the episode, and so they edited in Girl Ru’s interactions after the fact. I would hope that people would understand that the dialogue between Boy Ru and Girl Ru required a lot of work, from writers to editors to camera people — it is the absolute opposite of lazy. I’m not sure why people are so prone to bitch about this series, but I point this out in the hopes that people lighten up and give the show some credit. This series languished in Development Hell for more than a year. We are lucky to have it at all. Is it perfect yet? No. But none of these series are ever truly great right out of the box. We all loved UK1, but in truth it had a very slow start as well. Give it a few weeks, and focus on these remarkable queens. I DO expect the season will be a mess, but it’s a mess I’m looking forward to enjoying.
Speaking of messes: Episode 2 is Snatch Game! And rumor has it, it’s a doozy!
Scoreboard will be slightly delayed as we’re still figuring out if we’re going to retroactively do an Episode 1 G’Day Runway or just use Raja and Raven’s Toots and Boots. You CAN expect one for Episode 2, which will also be out this Saturday along with the blog.
SO, what did you think of the first episode? Did any of the queens surprise you? Do you regret some of your pre-season picks? Let us know in the comments! And we’ll see you on Saturday to kiki on Episode 2!