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Fab Five Try to Straighten Up the World / A new reality show offers makeovers for the taste-challenged

Who would have thought the kinder, gentler reality show

we've been waiting for would arrive under a title like this? "Queer Eye for

the Straight Guy" may be quippy, but it's not snippy. Its weekly makeover

target is neither some bachelor hunk nor a 98-pound weakling slicked-up till

he's fit for "Entertainment Tonight." Where other programs promise true love or

a million-dollar payoff, this lively yet down-to-earth effort delivers simply

a spruced-up you for a gallery reception, or a more romantic husband for the

Long Island wife whose birthday he forgot (again). Tonight's premiere distills

it with winning wit and warmth: "We're not here to change you. We're here to

make you better."

OK, so it's said with a bit of a swish. You see the title? If this were

macho jocks making over flamboyant skinnies, who'd care? But at the same time

"Queer Eye" seems to buy into stereotypes, it also subverts them with its

easygoing sincerity. The gays who make up its "fab five" team of personal style

experts are clearly being their own varied selves, whether it's flaming

fashion babbler Carson, savvy design maven Thom or studious chef Ted. Along

with grooming guru Kyan and social skills prompter Jai, they're a fun

boys-next-door bunch who don't try to turn each week's target "victim" into

some phony sophisticate. They just swoop over in their SUV to buff away his

rough edges, offering the supportive suggestions of a plugged-in friend - one

with enough tart tough-love to frankly assess your "horrendo clothes" and help

you "put a living room where the crack den used to be!"

The show's crack editors make it move, while the onscreen boys mouth off.

At their first glance of a long-haired photo of tonight's 10 p.m. fixer-upper,

Butch (is that name too perfect?), they think "he looks like a hunter and a

gatherer." I would have said "lumberjack geek," with the overalls and the

computer and papers crammed into his Manhattan apartment. But oil and water

actually mix. When Carson wonders if this carpenter's clothes are "alphabetized

by ugly, ugly and uglier," Butch amiably razzes back: "Hey, it all matches,

though, right?" The banter keeps flying throughout this around-the- town crash

course in how to clothes-shop, visit the hairdresser, redecorate his hovel,

whip up hors d'oeuvres and affably welcome guests at the first gallery showing

of his hobby art.

How well does Butch rise to that big occasion? This is where "Queer Eye"

hits the bull's-eye. Up to then, it's been murky whether this busy exercise,

with its swooshing graphics and lightning edits, is meant to amuse, instruct or

move us. Turns out it's all three. The guys have done their dishy bit. They've

ladled out useful tips. Now they leave, while the camera crew stays to cover

their apprentice applying what he's learned. Then the team gathers in a more

mellow mood to screen their fledgling's first solo flight, pulling hard for him

to soar.

The Everyman persona of the hetero hero certainly boosts the show's

emotional sway. Tonight's second episode (at 11) heads into the heart of

darkest suburbia, where a Great Neck husband and father needs a belated

surprise birthday party for his wife. He also needs to lose that "mono-brow"

(do I hear trip-to-the-spa?) and his haphazard household d�cor of disrepair

("It looks like your decorator is 3"). Can "dorky" Adam Zalta learn to dress

sharp while preparing kosher foie gras? By episode's end, this isn't just a

style emergency, it's a relationship celebration. The guys are practically in

tears admiring the renewed affection of their more-refined young couple: "How

cute are they!"

Well, how cute are you, boys? And when can you come to my house? Besides

that stylish "queer eye," there's a zestfully quick ear for wit, whimsy and

joie de vivre. You don't have to like makeover shows to love this reality romp.

Thank goodness there's an endless supply of slobs.


QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY. Dishy "reality" show follows a "fab five"

makeover team that each week helps improve one hapless dude's grooming/d�cor.

Series premieres tonight at 10 on Bravo. (Second episode at 11.)

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