There’s a particular, inescapable formula to Queer Eye Season 8 that has been the case for the series as a whole. This is part of its design and, ultimately, its effectiveness. As viewers, we know what to expect, and in that familiarity comes comfort. The Fab Five — Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, and Karamo Brown — spend a week implementing their expertise to change the life of an individual, dubbed “heroes” in the series. We learn the heroes‘ backstories and what led them to their current rut. Members of the Fab Five have personal moments with the heroes. Then, with some zhuzhing, some confidence building, and an interior overhaul from designer Berk, the heroes’ lives are changed as the producers beg us to weep.
Yes, I cried. No, I’m not proud of it, and no, it’s not indicative of the overall quality but more a reflection of me. But therein lies the charm and exhaustive process of Queer Eye Season 8. So many elements are cringe-inducing, such as the dance interludes between scenes. But for all the cringe, some moments shine through—human elements that speak to our empathy. And they work.
Filmed in and around New Orleans, the six-episode season spotlights six new heroes seeking the help of the Fab Five: Ernest Bartholomew, Alison McCrary, Anh Luu, Denton Mallas, Tim Keel, and Doreen Ketches. Each guest star arrives looking for various levels of help. For instance, Denton Mallas, the Athletic Director and head football coach at the Louisiana School for the Deaf, is less concerned with his overall appearance and more committed to promoting deaf football programs. Meanwhile, Tim Keel, a lifelong KISS fan, has been the caretaker for his brother for decades. In the opening segments, they discuss his recent depression after losing his job the year prior.
Obviously, a simple makeover can’t help with some things. And while it’s lovely to see participants such as Doreen Ketches receive their due in their communities, there’s always the lingering doubt about how lasting the show’s impact will be. For Keel, a man who spends a decent portion of his life as a caretaker, are the large decorative disco balls on his living room floor truly conducive to his lifestyle?
The show’s effectiveness also varies based on how well you can stomach each Fab Five and their schtick. Queer Eye Season 8 has seemingly given up on all pretense of Antoni being a cooking expert. In Episode 2, he teaches a man how to make chicken soup. Later, in Episode 4, he uses the hero’s father’s chili recipe for the signature dish. It’s relatively harmless, but it’s always funny to see who actually seems to be an expert in their field.
Karamo, similarly, is still here to try to bully tears out of the heroes. At the very least, Tan, whose style preferences have yet to change in all eight seasons, knows how to fit and adapt to whomever he’s styling. And while it’s a running joke at this point about how much Bobby does compared to the rest of the Fab Five, it’s always perplexing to see the striking difference in workloads. This season, Bobby spends his time renovating an entire local candy shop, Doreen’s Sweet Shop, that had been falling apart and completely overhauling a school’s locker room. Antoni and Karamo simply round the cast out.
That said, JVN remains the real star of the Fab Five. While each member has seen their star rise since the show’s premiere, JVN is the heart. Yes, there will always be a scripted element to any reality show. But the series captures their innate magnetism and charisma that serves the series in its best moments. A tear-inducing moment in Episode 4 between them and Denton Mallas shows how kindness can radiate and impact others. More than Karamo, JVN seems to speak to the heroes on their levels.
Queer Eye Season 8 does precisely what we expect the series to do at this point. Something of a relic to the times already, the best moments come from the organic connections between the heroes and members of the Fab Five. Beyond that, though, is a formula that works but has grown stale. Like the heroes they’re highlighting, Queer Eye needs a rejuvenation as well. There will always be space in the media for these “feel good” series that pull on our heartstrings. But where the first season possessed a modicum of sincerity, that well has run dry. It’s best as background noise, laundry folding television. It is harmless yet frustrating in how it could be more if it simply sought a way to break down its formulaic approaches.
Queer Eye Season 8 is out now on Netflix.
Queer Eye Season 8
Queer Eye Season 8 does precisely what we expect the series to do at this point. Something of a relic to the times already, the best moments come from the organic connections between the heroes and members of the Fab Five. Beyond that, though, is a formula that works but has grown stale.