In accordance with its own “change is good” philosophy, Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot got a makeover in its first season, tweaking its title along with expanding its focus and pool of subjects. The new “Fab Five”—Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, Tan France, Karamo Brown, and Antoni Porowski—now use their considerable skills (well, everyone except for Antoni) to polish diamonds in the rough across the sexuality spectrum, not just straight ones. The makeover reality series also piled on the earnestness and “aww-”inducing moments, offering a kind of cultural comfort food in this year’s near-interminable winter, not to mention a presidency that seems to have sped up the aging process.
Queer Eye sticks to its progressive ethos for season two, which Bobby recently revealed was filmed at the tail end of season one. The makeovers still take place in Georgia, but the guys now advise people of all gender identities, including women and trans men. This more inclusive look suits the series, whose previous iteration frustrated some viewers with its hetero-outreach. The original Queer Eye For The Straight Guy format put the onus on the marginalized group—Carson Kressley and the other advisors had to act as ambassadors for gay men (really, all LGBTQIA+ people), nudging their sometimes backwards subjects along a more tolerant path. But the straight men the Fab Five 1.0 made over weren’t expected to speak for all heterosexual men, nor did accepting help necessarily mean acceptance in broader terms. The hand extended by the original series wasn’t quite slapped away, but, as some fans pointed out, it could have been directed at the many queer folks who need grooming guidance.
The reboot began a course correction last season, featuring a gay contestant among all the other disheveled subjects in need of a shave and a haircut. Queer Eye continues its own makeover in season two, centering episodes on a woman and a trans man (though Skyler is the first trans person to be featured in the reboot, Miles G., who appeared in season four of the original, was the first trans man to be made over on the show). The changes feel organic, because, as the show notes, everyone—including devoted parents, rudderless twentysomethings, and Burning Man devotees—could use a little help establishing a skin-care regimen (some are 10 steps!) or packing a picnic basket. (Well, no, not really, but Antoni needs something to do.)
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What remains firmly in place is a desire to help others, as well as the tongue-in-cheek humor about what each host brings to the table, including one-ingredient guacamole (we kid Antoni only because it’s in the spirit of the show). Karamo, whose role as culture expert is the most amorphous of the bunch, has stepped up his game more than anyone else. After yielding one of the most resonant moments in season one—before he’d even met the actual person he’d been helping—Karamo delves further into the frustrations and dreams of this new batch of strivers. He emerges as the leader of the pack in season two, but Jonathan can still be relied on for the best quips, even if he is the staunchest opponent of whiskers ever (someone please keep his clippers away from Chris Evans’ magnificent auburn beard). But design expert Bobby also executes some of his most stylish decor changes, while Antoni proves he’s more than a pretty face by using an oven on multiple occasions.
The emotional beats also carry over from the first season, which managed to win over most skeptics (and probably made many of them cry). Makeover shows, whether they’re overhauling a home or an individual, often wade into the personal issues that might have been preventing positive change. Queer Eye quickly homes in on what might be holding someone back, or what they need to move forward—in addition to recommending tailors, the Fab Five encourage parents to take some time for themselves, or reassure a queer person that they are seen. It’s through these quieter moments, these one-on-one interactions, that the new Fab Five truly zhoosh the original concept.
Once more, the experts also undergo their own transformations, learning from these not-so-lost cases, though at one point, the request for education becomes more of an imposition. The show achieves equally powerful moments when it affords the hosts the same space to take in the counsel of others. In the premiere, Bobby is delighted to meet Tammye, who’s prepping for the grand opening of a new church, despite having been shunned by his own congregation in his youth. They talk about their disparate relationships with the church, but there’s no forced resolution at the end, no “come back to Jesus” moment. While casting it all over rural Georgia, Queer Eye quietly accepts the limits of makeover magic.