When it comes to the Emmys, one thing is certain: “The Amazing Race” will always win Outstanding Reality-Competition Program. Since the category’s inception in 2003, the venerable CBS program has taken home the hardware every year save 2010, when Bravo’s “Top Chef” pulled off an upset that hasn’t been witnessed since.
It’s the same five reality shows that continually get nominations from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences since 2007: “TAR,” “American Idol,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “Project Runway” and “Top Chef.” (2012 is a different story because the number went up to six and “American Idol” got bumped by “The Voice”) But it’s time for a change.
There’s another show out there, lurking in the shadows that’s been steadily and stealthily outperforming every reality show already listed. That show? “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Hosted by the legendary drag queen RuPaul, the show ultimately suffers in terms of exposure because of its incredibly niche subject matter (a topic that some people likely find off-putting) and its network location (Logo isn’t usually part of most cable companies basic programming packages) — but that’s a shame.
The show is equal parts “Project Runway” and “America’s Next Top Model,” but also manages to feature singing, dancing and acting — while still being downright hysterical. A show that could be a mawkish, mocking disaster is instead a tongue-in-cheek look into the performance art world of drag queens and all the hard work that’s required. It’s just icing on the cake that it can also manage to be a genuinely suspenseful and, at times, moving bit of television.
On how many of those shows listed above do you get to see moments of fathers accepting their gay drag queen sons, just after a legendary lip-syncing duel, preceded by a fantastically campy version of “The Match Game”? Oh, that’s right, none.
Every contestant in the shows five seasons (plus one all-star edition) is a consummate professional, in on the joke, assuring that the show is never lacking in entertainment. How many seasons of “Top Chef” or “TAR” have gone awry because of a thoroughly dull set of competitors who don’t know how to be on TV?
The most recent season to air, the show’s fifth “original recipe” season provided a thoughtful exploration of the rivalry between two factions in the drag community: the comedy queens (whose looks are a little unpolished, but are entertaining beyond the benefit of a doubt) and the beauty queens (who peruse the look above all else). Watching Ru (whose always been the perfect mixture of glam and guffaws) and her judges try choose which side to come down on was riveting, fascinating and, at times, frustrating — all signs of masterfully crafted reality television.
Check out this clip from this season’s edition of The Snatch Game. (Pay special attention to Jinkx Monsoon‘s spot on impersonation of Little Edie. I’ll get you guess who won.) You won’t find anything like it anywhere else on television. And it’s time Emmy took notice.
Who’s on your Emmy wishlist for this year? See more of Zap2it’s picks at our Emmys page. And be sure to check in when the nominations are announced Thursday (July 18).