There's been a lot of drag-related programming on TV recently. Weeks after concluding its latest (and arguably greatest) all-stars season, the RuPaul's Drag Race universe seems intent on forever expanding, currently airing two shows in the US: a Vegas-set docu-series focused on six alumni putting on a live show at the Flamingo and Canada's Drag Race, the latest international version of the show, featuring a deeply Canadian cast of queens, judges, guests, and challenges. Just as last summer allowed the British queens of Drag Race U.K. to revamp the face of the Drag Race, this year it's been up to the queens in the north, and so far it's been a fun and fascinating ride.
New episodes of Canada's Drag Race have been premiering on WOW Presents Plus on Thursdays (concurrent with their debut on Canada's Crave TV), while Logo has been airing the show on a two-and-a-half-week delay. Which means there's still plenty of time to catch up before the season reaches its conclusion. If you're still on the fence about adding another drag-related commitment to your life, allow these five salient points to convince you to let these maple-leaf queens into your heart:
The foremost charm of Canada's Drag Race is the exact thing that might initially give you pause. There is a rough and ragged quality to the show that can initially make it feel somewhat minor-league, especially compared to the ultra-polished RuPaul's Drag Race that, after twelve seasons and counting, essentially runs on rails. Canada's Drag Race is still finding itself, in everything from the challenges to the judges (more on them soon) to the queens themselves. There's also an unpolished quality to the Canadian queens themselves, even the ones who've been at this a while. It's genuinely refreshing and exciting to see, from the arch and anti-glamorous Jimbo to the chaotic BOA, to the bratty, combative Ilona Verley. There is a very RuPaul's Drag Race Season 1 quality to it all, minus the Vaseline lens and murky showroom, and I mean that as the highest compliment. There was a thrilling, high-wire quality to that very first season, a sense of uncovering something exciting that's been there all along. It's not like Canada's drag queens are new to all this; obviously they've been watching Drag Race along with us. But they feel far less beholden to the scripted arcs and archetypes than the American drag queens. The end result is rough, messy and pretty thrilling.
Drag Race Season 11 runner-up Brooke Lynn Hytes is joined on the main panel by frequent Drag Race guest judge (and object of lust on recent Snatch Game of Love challenges) Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, as well as former model and America's Next Top Model judge Stacey McKenzie. They've been joined by a cavalcade of Canadian guest judges who have ranged from the familiar-to-U.S.-audiences (Tom Green; Elisha Cuthbert) to… the very not. It's been a charming and educational experience to see who the Canadian versions of Todrick Hall and Cheyenne Jackson are. One particularly interesting facet is that without Ru on the panel of judges — with her implicit authority on account of her decades as a drag legend and, you know, having her name on the franchise — the authority of the CDR judges is a lot shakier. Already we've seen many more instances of the queens outright defying the judges. Likewise, the fanbase has raised a huge ruckus about the judges being off the mark. A more chaotic viewing experience? Sure, but it feels good to question authority these days.
This show has reveled in its Canadian-ness from minute one, and it's been glorious. From the maple leaf-and-moose-antlers decor, to the localized challenges involving Canadian PSAs, to an unbroken string of Lip Sync for Your Life songs from Canadian artists, this show wears its homeland on its sleeve, and it's so much the better for it. America has had its Canada jokes for years, and we've seen at least some of that reflected in the challenges (the excessive politeness that's skewered in "Not Sorry Aboot It," for sure). But for the most part, the Canadian series has been very for-Canadians-by-Canadians, to great effect. Canada rarely feels quite so much like its own distinct culture, separate from its North American neighbor, as it does on this show.
An offshoot of this Canadian-focused intrigue has been seeing the genuine regional tensions at play among the queens. The two queens from Quebec — Kiara and Rita Baga — have spoken frequently about how different the Montreal drag scene is from the Toronto scene. And oh, the intra-Torontonian politics at play among the hometown queens! Back-biting, jealousy, tales from the club scene — Toronto feels like the real concrete jungle. RuPaul's Drag Race has tried to make the intra-city rivalry thing happen a few times with its New York City queens, but it's never felt this authentic.
If you're still somehow skeptical about picking up Canada's Drag Race, let this push you over the edge: the Lip Sync for Your Life performances have been some of the best that the entire Drag Race franchise has seen in years. The all-Canadian lineup of songs has ranged from Deborah Cox to Avril Lavigne to Celine Dion, and nearly every single one has delivered. Spoiler alert! If you've made it this far into this article without getting spoiled on any results, turn back now, because I'm going to shout out one particular LSFYL which immediately became an all-time Hall of Fame entrant: French-Canadian knockout Kiara against Torontonian Priyanka, whose erratic challenge performances have been balanced out by a preternatural command of the stage in her lip syncs. So it was on their Episode 5 LSFYL to Celine Dion's "I Drove All Night," a lip sync that was given the full length of the song to play out on TV, and in which both girls delivered splits, reverse-direction death drops, emotional vulnerability, and a sense of drama second to none. It was nothing short of show-stopping, and it immediately planted a Canadian flag on this show's corner of the Ru-niverse.
New episodes of Canada's Drag Race drop on the WOW Presents Plus subscription service Thursdays (concurrent with their debut on Canadian TV), while Logo airs the show on a two-and-a-half-week delay Monday nights at 8:00 PM ET.
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Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.