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Five Stars Are Born

Queer Eye makes over TV

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I told you when South Park emerged, and I'm telling you again. A new set of stars is born, and I'm quite taken with the orchid-wielding guys of Bravo's summer hit, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Face it: any show that has the "Traditional Values Coalition" asking its member churches to protest it has to be doing something right. If you haven't seen it, QE is at heart a makeover show, where some poor guy gets a style overhaul, from haircut to hors d'oeuvres. This show takes it further, adding a room overhaul and entertaining advice for good measure. Unlike the perky crowd on Trading Spaces or Makeover Story, these five co-hosts are practically presented as gay superheroes, each with a superpower (fashion, interior design, cuisine, culture, and grooming) dashing from an emergency cellphone call to the rescue of some hapless straight guy who shaves using a bar of soap and thinks buffalo hot wings are good eatin'.

I can't decide if the message is that it's now cooler to be gay, or it's not gay to look good and have a clue if you're hetero. I don't really care. I love the bitchy comments (to the straight guy who admits he shops only every two years or so for clothes: "That's not shopping, that voting."), the room makeovers, and the hip air the show exudes.

Others agree. Since cable TV got smart several years ago and began debuting series in the summer rerun wasteland, they've had successes. QE so far has had the highest Nielsen ratings for any Bravo show, ever.

What it also signals is that gays on TV are no longer a one-joke novelty, due to the success of NBC's Will and Grace and Showtime's Queer As Folk. The token gay character will still be seen on sitcoms, unfortunately, but we've also seen "real gay life," as in one of the main characters in HBO's Six Feet Under.

QE, with its thumping techno theme music, is guilty of taking its hosts over the top, but believe it or not, there's no putdowns of the slobby guys they transform into guys you actually might want to. . .date. There's almost a sweet sense of humor wedged in there among the putdowns. Can't we all just get along and share the hair gel?

MEDIA HAPPENINGS IN THE QC... The most ironic news day in memory happened recently when city honchos and billionaire Bob Johnson celebrated a groundbreaking for a team that's generating excitement in press releases, but not with the public. At the same time, thousands of Pillowtex workers in Kannapolis packed up their belongings and went looking for jobs. A textile era died, even as the city PR machine tried to convince us that we should be excited about a new building. Worlds collide, but even the best editor would be hard pressed to sort this one out. . . .There's a reprieve from the canceling squad, as WTVI puts Final Edition back into its schedule starting September 5. The public television station, smarting from big county budget cuts, says it is has "rearranged some of its financial priorities" to put the public affairs talkfest back into production. . . WLNK-FM's Sheri Lynch gave birth to a daughter July 25, named Caramia Isabel. It's the second child and second daughter for her and hubby Mark. She'll be off until August 25, when sidekick Bob Lacey will join her at a home studio set-up, as they did for the last royal birthin'. . .Schlock movies have come to Public Access 21, and tongues are firmly planted in cheek. Scotty's Drive-in Theatre will run the first Saturday of each month at 5pm, hosted by "Scotty," a good old boy hosting from his backyard picnic table and regaling viewers with trivia and movie history, too. Films on tap include Night of the Living Dead and Godzilla vs. Megalon. . .Where does he find the time? Mark Packer's "The Southern Fried Sports Show" on WTVI is being moved to Thursdays at 8pm. The WFNZ-AM sports talker is also adding another TV program to his plate, with a college football program, "The Southern Fried Football Show," on WAXN-TV starting August 30 at 11:30am. . .And some Lake Wylie folks are serious about getting a local radio station up and running. Check out www.lakeradio.org, where a non-profit group of people from that community are planning the start-up and soliciting donations. It's great to see community radio efforts in this Clear Channel-Infinity-Jefferson Pilot radio town.

Stay tuned.

Shannon Reichley is an independent television producer and former news manager at WBTV. E-mail her at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com.

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