Sunday, July 4, 2004

Overseas 'Queer Eye' made over

By Gary Levin
USA Today

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy has cooled off a bit in the United States, but the "make better" series is red-hot overseas.

Episodes featuring the Fab Five have been sold to 96 countries. And local versions with homegrown talent are airing in the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden.

Ten more countries - Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, Estonia, Lithuania and Hungary - have versions in the planning or production stages.

But the Bravo show's premise of five gay men with expertise in fashion, interior design, food/wine, grooming and culture helping out a haplessly uncool straight guy makes producing it elsewhere a tough task.

"This is probably one of the hardest shows to cast," says NBC's Leslie Jones. "The five guys are not supposed to be actors. They're not supposed to be television personalities. So there's a learning curve."

"There's been a sensibility of wanting to copy the Americans. They're all looking for their Carsons (Kressley, fashion) or their Thoms (Filicia, design)," says creator David Collins. "We don't want to lock them into following everything to a T, but the format is why it works."

For example, "in Sweden, the food and wine guy has been changed into a chef or dietitian role, because they tend to go out to dinner a lot less," says NBC's Leslie Jones.

And in the United Kingdom, the grooming expert gives haircuts and shaves in his own salon.

U.S. producers have approval rights over casting and formats, and have quashed local ideas, such as Norway's plan to do away with the culture guy entirely.

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