Ru-Placed! Does Canada’s Drag Race Work Without RuPaul?

Brooke Lynn Hytes out of drag black top

Not bad for a boy! Brooke Lynn Hytes, out of drag, takes on judging duties


Not long ago, we introduced you to the judging panel on the Canadian iteration of RuPaul’s Drag Race and now it’s finally here. Airing on the BBC iPlayer on Friday nights with All Stars series 5 showing on Netflix the night after, if you’re a fan of drag there’s plenty to get see right now. The question is however, is it any good?


Canada’s Drag Race is the first English speaking version of the show not to have RuPaul in the judge’s panel. Sure he pops up in the video message that appears in the work room at the start of each episode to utter some vague and nonsensical reference to that week’s theme, but that’s it.


All change 


Instead, what we realise is that each episode we are going to have a guest host where RuPaul would be sat. Very ‘Have I Got News For You’ or Saturday Night Live. This week it’s the actress Elisha Cuthbert (24, The Ranch) who is the ru-placement. While it’s strange to hear someone else utter the classic catchphrases, it works pretty well.


Ming Yao on yoga mat with gym equip 

Don't get up - new CDR pit crew member Ming Yao


As we are told later on in the show however, it is the regular three judges Brooke Lynne Hytes (runner up on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 12), Stacey McKenzie (Canada’s Next Top Model) and Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (The L Word, American Horror Story) who will decide who gets eliminated each wake.


So what’s it like without RuPaul Charles and Michelle Visage? The drag queens are varied and well-cast, the tasks are old school and the format works with different judges. The mini task is a photoshoot for each individual queen which we’ve not seen in a while and is a welcome return. Getting some one on one time with each queen is a great way to get to know them and all three judges (Brooke Lynn is out of drag throughout the show like RuPaul until elimination day) sitting in on the shoot.


Ev another new pit crew member topless

Go on then, another new pit crew member, he's called Ev


A show like this will live and die depending on the contestants and while a lot of them seem to know each other, this brings an extra element of peril as we get to know some back story. They make the most of referencing Canada throughout the show, from the set to the main challenge even down to the lip sync song but it all works well.


Don't judge


Brooke Lynn does a good job of being the drag expert, sharing the head judge duties with Cuthbert (who declares ‘It’s time to lip sync for your life’ while Brooke Lynn tells them who it is that must sashay away’)


Elisha Cuthbert on red carpet with black dress 

Actress Elisha Cuthbert slays as first episode's guest host


The show itself has some stand out moments we wont’s spoil here, but suffice to say who knew the judge’s critiques could result in a panic attack? The format has all of the sparkle of the main show, just without the icing on the cake that is RuPaul. There are plenty of laughs but it does feel a little forced to see Ru’s catchphrases coming out of other people’s mouths. Maybe we’ll get used to that and there is plenty to love here for fans of the show.

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