First look TV review: RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Season 1
Helen Archer | On 21, Oct 2019
You’d have to be living under a rock not to notice the launch of Drag Race UK. The publicity it’s receiving is befitting this behemoth of a show. The original, US version, fronted by RuPaul, is this year celebrating its 10-year anniversary, and in that time it’s made stars of its contestants, and spawned multiple offshoots. The UK spin-off was always going to attract mass interest due to its built-in fanbase, the only question being how successfully this occasionally earnest show would adapt to a more bawdy British culture.
It’s heartening to see that it has, in fact, embraced the many specificities of the UK, while simultaneously being rather confused by them, and an extra layer of entertainment is added by that cultural exchange. Some of the drag names of the contestants are so intrinsically from this side of the Atlantic that they almost defy explanation – Baga Chipz and Cheryl Hole are self-explanatory enough, although RuPaul is baffled by ‘Vinegar Strokes’. The challenges in the first episode are, too, an example of exactly how the show plans to deal with this clash: by facing it head-on, as contestants are tasked with designing one outfit that explains their home town, and another that pays homage to Queen Elizabeth. The results are witty, fabulous, and very, very British. It’s an excellent start to the show, and there’s already a few professional jealousies brewing. Expect tears, tiaras and tantrums.
Drag Race UK is available on BBC iPlayer until November 2022
This short review was originally published as part of a fortnightly BBC Three reviews column.