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Why RuPaul’s Drag Race: Ruvealed is the best Drag Race #SHADE

Kelly Osbourne, Michelle Visage, and RuPaul during season 4 of RuPaul's Drag Race, one of the seasons that's gotten the RuVealed treatment. (Photo by Logo)

RuPaul‘s Drag Race has just started its four-day, seven-season marathon of every episode on Logo. That’s leading up to its season 8 premiere Monday night.

Watching season one, which started at 7 p.m. ET, I am reminded of what turned me off of the series initially, primarily how visually unappealing it was. Whether the blurry focus and highly saturated colors were intentional or not, it’s hard to watch, like staring into the sun for a few minutes and then trying to watch television.

Of course, the show was also figuring out its way, as shows tend to do in their first seasons. Michelle Visage was not yet a member of the permanent judging panel, and her energy really makes the panel work.

I’ve grown to really enjoy the show, thanks in no small part to living with someone who’s a fan of this show in the way I’m a fan of Survivor. I now look forward to Snatch Game as much as Restaurant Wars. (Though: the pink and blue pattern behind the judges still makes my eyes hurt; yeah, I’m old.)

What I’ve discovered over the past year, though, as Logo has aired seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race: Ruvealed, is that I like the Ruvealed version of the show even better.

Why Ruvealed is better than regular Drag Race

When networks air these kinds of repeats with bonus content, they can range from insufferable to insightful. Sometimes on-screen pop-ups are pointless, stating the obvious; other times, like on Finding Bigfoot, you get information from the cast and/or producers that changes how you perceive what you’re seeing.

Drag Race does it the best I’ve ever seen, adding both insight and an entirely new layer of entertainment.

There’s something fascinating about RuPaul—and, occasionally, others including Michelle Visage—commenting on the series as it unfolds. He often makes silly comments, sure, but sometimes even jokes that don’t really land work better when there’s another not-all-that-funny joke on top of it.

There are also pop-ups that provide some basic background, including contextualizing the moment in the show’s history. For example, we might learn when a certain kind of challenge first appeared, or  When a queen is eliminated, we see what she’s been doing since, and that helps illustrate how, regardless of their (sometimes arbitrary) elimination order, that the show’s visibility advances their careers.

The text boxes also sometimes reference production, revealing things such as how long the drag queens had to change their outfits between runway shows. For me, that adds a lot of appreciation for both the crew and the contestants.

My absolute favorite part is the #SHADE that pops up, accompanied by a voice (update: I’ve been told it’s Latrice Royale) that says “shade!” I can’t quite explain why it’s so fantastic, but I want it on every reality show.

All of this together elevates the series. It’s an amusing meta layer on top of something that’s already vaguely meta, somewhat satirical, and often hilariously absurd.

In the past, I’ve struggled with understanding the show’s appeal, and/or its presentation of drag culture, and/or maybe just drag culture itself. Somehow, RuPaul’s Drag Race: Ruvealed and its combination of the elements above unlocks the show for me, and makes a fun competition between talented competitors even more appealing.

Watching the repeats of season one, I miss those pop-ups and RuPaul’s jokes-on-jokes. I wish it was just a default part of the show.

I’ll still watch the regular version, sure, which debuts its eighth season and 100th episode Monday, but I’m definitely ready for another Ruvealed season.

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