‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’s shorter episodes have made a great show…meh

Season 15 of RuPaul’s Drag Race feels strange, doesn’t it? From fewer mini challenges to blink-and-you’ll-miss-them runways, the rhythm is just off. These are all symptoms of the season’s biggest problem: Episodes have been reduced from one hour long to just 40 minutes.

This change comes courtesy of Drag Race‘s move from VH1 to MTV, a shift that gives the show a bigger platform. However, MTV decided to air Drag Race in an hour-long time slot instead of the 90-minute time slot it received on VH1 since Season 10. The shortened episodes are part of MTV’s larger plan to make Friday night a “destination night,” following Drag Race with reality show The Real Friends of WeHo and Drag Race‘s behind-the-scenes show, Untucked.

Unfortunately for MTV, in shortening episodes of Drag Race they not only earned the ire of Drag Race fans — a petition to return episodes to their original length(Opens in a new tab) has garnered nearly 35,000 signatures at the time of writing — they also created an inferior version of the show.


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The audience is missing out on classic Drag Race bits.

For starters, the pacing of the new episodes of Drag Race is incredibly jarring. We’ll spend far too much time leading up to the main challenge, then barely any time on the challenge itself, the judges’ critiques, or the all-important runway. These issues are less evident in design challenges where the runway is the challenge, but once an acting challenge rolls around, the show starts to fall apart at the seams.

Having shorter episodes obviously means having less content, but instead of the show shortening every portion of the Drag Race formula, it gives entire sections of that formula the chop. Gone are most mini challenges, which have always been a great way to showcase the queens’ personalities and divide them into groups for the upcoming episode. Now, queens mention in voiceover that they’ve been “randomly assigned to groups.” I’m not buying it! Even the iconic staple that is the reading challenge got whittled down. Now, queens are lucky to get a word (or read) in edgewise.

We’re also missing out on the judges’ deliberations, which inform their decisions about who wins and who has to lip sync each week. In omitting these deliberations, the show also cuts one of Drag Race‘s most minor gags: the engine revving sound that plays when the queens leave the mainstage. You know, because drag racing and cars… It’s so dumb, but I miss it so much!

The queens are being short-changed.

So far, all my complaints about shorter Drag Race episodes have revolved around viewer complaints — what we’re missing out on as the audience. But by far the biggest disservice is what’s being done to this season’s cast of queens. Simply put: It is not a good idea to introduce the biggest cast in franchise history and simultaneously cut back on air time. Queens get lost in the edit, miss out on interesting narratives, and don’t get the appropriate time to showcase their art.

Perhaps the most egregious example of this is the butchering of the runway section. Runways are typically a celebration of drag and fashion, but in Season 15, they become a rush job. Episode 6, “Old Friends Gold,” sees the runway — all 12 looks! — fly by in under two minutes. According to Season 14 contestant Jasmine Kennedie, that gives each contestant around 8 seconds to show off their look. We get no insight into their garments or creative process — it’s just wham, bam, thank you ma’am, and on to the next.

The speedy runways are even worse when you consider just how much Drag Race queens spend on their looks. In 2021, Vice reported(Opens in a new tab) that many contestants spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars on garments and wigs. As the show continues to grow in popularity, the costly barrier to entry becomes more and more of a factor to consider while watching. If a queen spent so much money on a look, and if a designer put so much time and effort into making it, at least let them show it off for more than eight seconds!

Queens from Season 15 apparently were unaware that they would be part of shorter episodes, nor are they particularly happy about them. Contestants like Salina EsTitties, Aura Mayari, and Loosey LaDuca have all taken to Twitter to express their frustration.

Shorter Drag Race episodes? It’s been done!

What’s extra wild about this whole debacle is that Drag Race has proven it can do 40 minute episodes. Its first nine seasons were made to fit a one-hour time slot, and those included every Drag Race staple you can think of — so why can’t this season measure up?

Obviously, the larger number of queens is a problem. Perhaps we’ll get more used to the shorter episode lengths as the pack thins, but for now there are simply too many queens fighting for too little airtime. There’s also the sense that the show filmed more material for longer episodes, only to have to cut it out in order to fit the new time constraints. Take the inclusion of TikTok group the Old Gays(Opens in a new tab) in “Old Friends Gold.” They say all of one line in that episode, but we later learn that they had a heart-to-heart with the contestants(Opens in a new tab)… which was relegated to Untucked. But sure, we can have five minutes of queens arguing about who gets to perform a metal song.

What I’ve always loved about Drag Race is how it manages to combine the big personalities and juicy arguments of a reality show with being a platform for drag artists to highlight the many facets of drag. Unfortunately, with the choppily edited Season 15, it’s clear which side of the show MTV is prioritizing: the drama. That’s all well and good in small amounts, but if you’re choosing to show me drama over any of Sasha Colby’s runway looks, we’ve got a problem!

The most frustrating part about all of this? RuPaul’s Drag Race airing on MTV is a huge accomplishment, with the potential to introduce drag as an art form to an even larger audience. But what should have been a bigger platform for these queens has turned into a cautionary tale about the dangers of over-tinkering with your television schedule. In the wise words of RuPaul(Opens in a new tab) herself: “You ain’t got to reinvent the wheel. The wheel is fine!” If only we’d listened.

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