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Reality Bites: RuPaul's Drag Race

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

My experience with drag queens is pretty much limited to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and the odd fundraiser at Rich's (RIP), so maybe I'm missing some vital piece of information. Does it involve anything more than lip syncing disco hits while wearing the most insane make-up and fashion possible?

Don't get me wrong; if that's your bag, more power to you. Even so, the tagline for RuPaul's Drag Race ("Searching for America's next drag superstar") is a little misleading, unless they mean the "next drag superstar" since RuPaul. AKA the *only* drag queen anyone outside of New York has likely ever heard of.

The format is standard enough: contestants must complete some challenge, whether individually or in a group. Challenge winners receive a prize, while the bottom two contestants each week -- at least this is what happened in the Episode I Watched -- have a "drag off," and the eventual loser is told by RuPaul to "Shantay away." You know, like in that one song she sang.

There are also "mini challenges" that confer certain advantages for the upcoming main event. These are announced via a "You've got SheMail" alert. Get it? Because they, oh, never mind. This week's challenge was to identify a "female" or "she-male" based on close-up photos of body parts. Among the examples presented, Tyra Banks (hairline) and Chyna (the wrestler) (pelvis). This is some really incisive material.

The contestants themselves are a diverse bunch, even if they all have names like "Bianca Del Rio" or "Adore Carrion." There's an accent in there somewhere on "carrion," to make it sound like "carry on" and not, you know, rotting flesh. "Courtney Act" is Australian, and was a finalist on Australian Idol, which is something I probably should've assumed existed but am now depressed to find out actually does.

Winners of the mini-challenge got the honor of choosing up teams for a musical theater production (Shade - The Rusical, yeah I don't know either). It's Team Adore vs. Team BenDeLaCreme.

"Trinity H. Bonet," of Team CremeDeMenthe or whatever is the only contestant who doesn't leap at the chance to perform. Her constant lamenting the fact they're doing anything other than mouth the words to other people's songs reminded me of Bart Simpson telling Homer and Marge he wouldn't be attending the "Grammar Rodeo" next year because "they've forgotten it's supposed to be about the grammar."

It was at this point my On Demand viewing interrupted by an ad for "Gaymergency" text message alerts. A cursory check of their Twitter feed (I was Twi-curious) showed they mostly consist of things like announcements about Dolly Parton's new album.

Back to the show, I have to admit, some of the looks the contestants were able to pull off were quite impressive. Not many dudes can convincingly dress like a woman. Believe me, the handful of times I've done it resulted in some variation of 'Ogre as a cheerleader' in the "Mr. Touchdown" skit during Revenge of the Nerds.

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The show also has to get some credit for airing a straight 20 minutes of horrible onstage performance without commentary or commercial break. It's like watching a Big Gay Soccer Match. And as with most soccer matches, I couldn't keep up with the names.

"Michelle Visage" is one of the people who judges, as well as Sheryl Lee Ralph, whose resume consisting of Tyler Perry's House of Payne and Ray Donovan appearances grants her total authority. None of the other judges count, of course, because RuPaul holds sway over all, declaring "Courtney Act" the week's winner. Huzzah. Meanwhile, Trinity and Adore have to engage in the elimination contest: lip syncing to "I'm Every Woman." Because apparently drag queens aren't allowed to select music that charted after the Carter Administration. Adore is eliminated

Even RuPaul seems dubious, but that could just be the natural sardonic expression all drag queens sport at all times. Or maybe when your show is 42 minutes of exaggerated gesticulation and shrieking by some of the most obnoxious human beings on earth -- who constantly refer to each other as "bitches" ("Beyonce" is the second most used insult, hilariously enough) -- even the Supermodel of the World can't help rolling her eyes occasionally.

Whatever. Shantay, bitches.

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