Review: Hulu's 'Drag Me to Dinner' is Both Overcooked and Underbaked
Timothy Rawles READ TIME: 4 MIN.
"Drag Me to Dinner" is the latest entry into the world of competitive reality shows, which, much like a fallen soufflé, is too full of air to support its own weight.
It all looks good on paper: Two teams of famous drag queens compete for the golden cheese grater by preparing food for a themed dinner party for celebrity guest judges including Bianca del Rio, Neil Patrick Harris, and Haneefah Wood.
It's nice to see some of your favorite performers in what is basically one long maxi challenge à la "Ru Paul's Drag Race."
For Instance, in the first episode, the dynamic duo Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme go up against legends Jackie Beat and Sherry Vine. The theme is "Tropical Kiki," and their spread and menu include a Mediterranean theme. "What's in the crab salad?" asks Judge Wood, to which Jinkx responds flatly, "Crab."
The show feels like one long comedy bit, and clearly no one is taking the challenges seriously. All of the meal ingredients are merely props that they incorporate into their supposedly real-time routine. The loosely scripted dialogue also feels forced, making any extra improv feel awkward and out of place.
Here's one of the jokes: "No real poo-poo went into these Pu Pu platters." Yikes. Ad nauseam.
Executive Producer Neal Patrick Harris is on hand but plays the, ahem, straight man through all the antics. He has some humorous gags, but mostly he is self-deprecating fodder for the queens.
The aesthetic of "Drag Me to Dinner" borrows heavily from '70s variety shows. From the white bricks in the kitchen set walls and Brady Bunch color core, to the animated segues complete with harmonized mini jingles, the mid-century modern tack is a major highlight of the show.
But the best thing about "Drag Me to Dinner" is its host, trailblazing drag king Murray Hill. He maneuvers around the material in perfect time, skillfully taking what's given to him and putting some professional English on it.
As always, Bianca del Rio is funny when she gets a chance to ad lib. But tethering her to a script is a mistake, since her insult timing is best when the victim is blindsided. That dynamic is hit or miss here. As for David Burtka, there are so many people in this cast, if you blink you will miss him.
"Drag Me to Dinner" is definitely needed in this age of dragphobia. Its nebulous cooking challenge concepts are not as suspenseful as others of its kind. But you're probably not going to watch it because of that. The real feast is seeing legendary drag queens banter with each other, throwing barbs and shade even if their jokes don't always stick the landing.
There is a special episode titled "Big Top, Big Bottom" later in the season, featuring the late legendary San Francisco drag queen Hecklina in one of her final public appearances. She is partnered with longtime bestie Peaches Christ. It's a nice tribute.
Hidden under the Disney umbrella, Hulu has given us some great LGBTQ+ content over the years; that in and of itself is remarkable. However, since "Drag Me to Dinner" feels more like a parody than a cooking challenge, the talent is camouflaged under the weight of a horrible script. A better idea would have been to make this a serious unscripted cooking challenge and let the queens shine on their own. Who wouldn't want to see Bebe Zahara Benet in full drag make a serious attempt at Pork Crown Roast?
Sometimes funny, "Drag Me to Dinner," is not the satisfying banquet it could have been. There's no main course in this party full of over-baked appetizers.
"Drag Me to Dinner" streams on Hulu starting May 31.