Pop Culturing: In Season 4, 'Queer Eye' Sticks to its Tried and Tired Formula

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Friday July 19, 2019

From left to right: Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski and Tan France in "Queer Eye" Season 4.
From left to right: Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski and Tan France in "Queer Eye" Season 4.  (Source:Christopher Smith/Netflix)

When Netflix rebooted "Queer Eye" last year (notably dropping the original show's reductive "for the Straight Guy") it was an exciting moment for LGBTQ TV. It was a chance for the iconic makeover show to lean into the queer and update the series for 2019. And indeed, the new Fab Five (Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, and Jonathan Van Ness) kicked off the new iteration of "Queer Eye" with remarkable pride and positivity.

The show is headed into its fourth season, which hits Netflix in full Friday, and not much has changed since "Queer Eye" launched in February 2018. Over its 32 episodes, the reality show has found little room to grow. Of course, there are a handful of episodes that stick out but the show has mostly become a phenomenon thanks to the Fab Five's presence outside the show with most of the style gurus becoming immensely popular on social media. In Season 4, "Queer Eye" has a few special moments but most of the eight episode season resists any kind of interesting change, instead opting for the same kind of comfort food TV that's made the series a hit (it recently earned six Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Structured Reality Program; the show previously won that same award in 2018 and two other Emmys).

Things get a little personal in Season 4, however. The Fab Five continue their journey in middle America; this time anchored in Kansas City, Missouri. In the first episode, the gang visit Van Ness's high school to make over his music teacher Mrs. Dooley, who's look and style would fit better on "Stranger Things" than 2019. It's an emotional episode — of course — where fans get to see a bit of Van Ness's personal life. Here, the grooming and hair expert shares stories about growing up and being different in high school and how Dooley's understanding and acceptance of Van Ness shaped their life.

From left to right: Bobby Berk, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown in "Queer Eye" Season 4." Photo credit: Christopher Smith/Netflix

Van Ness isn't the only Fab Five member who opens up about their family life. In the episode "Disabled but Not Really," a highlight of Season 4, the Fab Five help out former bad boy turned handicap activist Wesley, who is now in a wheelchair and turning his life around after being paralyzed due to gun violence. It's one of the most interesting episodes of the season as the Fab Five seem to learn a lot from the happy-go-lucky Wesley. In one emotional scene, Wesley explains to the Fab Five's style expert France that it's difficult for him to wear jackets while in a wheelchair — something that never crossed France's mind. But he's determined to make it happen for Wesley and the conversation leads to both of them opening up with each other. After France remarks on Wesley's confidence, Wesley asks France if it was "hard" to be as confident as he appears to be.

"I didn't actually come out to some of my family members until after the show aired. When I first told some family members I really struggled," France explained, holding back tears, "and it knocked my confidence a lot.
"It's not easy for me to able to say, 'this is me this is what I represent,'" he added. "It's a process..."

Even the Fab Five's food guy Porowski shares his struggles of growing up during Season 4, revealing details about his complicated relationship with his mother in the episode "How Wanda Got Her Groove Back." While cooking a meal with Wanda, a rough and tough mom. After saying Wanda reminds him a lot of his mom, Porowski reveals he "doesn't have a relationship with her."

From left to right: Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, Antoni Porowski, Karamo Brown, Tan France in "Queer Eye" Season 4. Photo credit: Christopher Smith/Netflix

"We were afraid of my mom growing up," he says, adding that, "I'm not saying she didn't love me growing up but she's somebody who never said, 'I love you,' back. It was very hard for her to say and when I'd ask her...she'd be like, 'I don't have to say it. I do it with my actions."

These moments of the Fab Five's venerability come far and few between during Season 4 but they are easily the most interesting part of the show. But the new "Queer Eye" season will satisfy its fans, providing more comfort and easy-watching — and inspiring — TV. We can hope for a change in future seasons, but as it stands, "Queer Eye" Season 4 is a perfectly enjoyable way to spend a lazy weekend.

Pop Culturing

This story is part of our special report titled Pop Culturing. Want to read more? Here's the full list.

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