You don’t need to look any further than RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season 8 itself to see what a wreck the show has been: queens are trying to get off this ship so fast you’d think it was named OceanGate2.
I exaggerate, but not by much: While only one queen actually bailed, they keep talking about it, and Ru had to do some unscheduled work just to save an episode.
MTV and/or World of Wonder seem to have climbed aboard their private lifeboats and fled for shore, having drinks and cashing their checks. As Tom and Lorenzo noted in their recap of last week’s episode, “now would be the time for a silly mini-challenge” and “Now would be the time for the Pit Crew to show up.” Instead: “RuPaul turned the production dial to the ‘Celebrity Roast Challenge’ setting and wandered off set.”
Doing all-stars every single year hasn’t helped; it’s more like RuPaul’s Drag Race: Second Chance now. All Stars proper should probably have been more special; even Survivor had the sense to hold off. But Paramount needs to get that cash wherever it can.
The uninspired/cheap producing hasn’t stopped the queens from themselves delivering some great entertainment. Jimbo’s reprise of Joan Rivers for a roast was perfect, and her weird white costumed character for a lip sync was incredible.
I mention Jimbo twice because it is so, so obvious that Jimbo is going to win, yet the show keeps up with the voting charade.
This Big Brother-style format introduced in season two, in which the bottom two queens are up for elimination, seems to be part of what’s leading to queens discontent.
Everyone already assumes/knows that production controls the exit order—and not just with public-facing elements like the Emmy-nominated “it’s chocolate” twist—but this Drag Race All Stars format makes them turn against each other in the process, and lets the judges off the hook.
One of All Stars’ past winners said as much. “Being there is very, like, emotionally taxing, and you are literally having to send your friends home, and it’s a horrible, it’s a horrible experience. It is not fun, it’s not fair, it’s not nice,” Alaska said on a recent episode of her podcast. “They need to change this format. It’s so emotionally fucking manipulative. It’s—I don’t like it. Just be a fucking judge and say, Yeah, you’re going home tonight, baby. … It’s manufactured anyway that you’re going to send home whoever you want to send home.”
Alaska’s co-host, Willam, said, “season nine of all stars, they do change it. You get your wish.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season 9, which reports suggest started production this week, is changing, and going back to the one used for season 7: no eliminations all season long, according to Willam.
But will AS9 be the same as 2022’s All Stars 7? Despite the brilliant talent on All Stars last year, the production found a way to make the worst possible version of something, as usual. Instead of, say, using scores like Tournament of Champions does, season 7 used a ridiculous and inconsistent system.
Which queens will subject themselves to whatever format All Stars 9 actually adopts?
On Reddit, the AS9 Casting Speculation & Tea Thread! has, well, the tea. (There are no spoilers yet about elimination order, just casting.)
The casting speculation is gathered in a Google Doc, where the currently “highly rumored” queens so far include Angeria Paris VanMichaels, GotMik, Nina West, Roxxy Andrews, Shannel, and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo. On the simply “rumored” list are six other queens: Kameron Michaels, Jorgeous, Peppermint, Carmen Carrera, Plastique Tiara, and Tayce.
One poster shared an updated list and added that the “misc. tea” is that there are “No elims” and “Each girl got a BIG stipend to be on. Between $25k for outfits and 50k for appearance fee.”
I hope that’s accurate, because the show/network should not be making its contestants go into debt just to afford the kind of outfits the show now demands. They should also get money just to be on the show; after all, the show itself is making money for every episode it airs, and so should its stars.
Drag Race is, at its best, a celebration of an art form and its artists. The Great British Bake-Off has proven it can celebrate bakers and be entertaining season after season without silly twists, and I hope those who make decisions about the format of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9 can adjust course and stop sinking this ship.