Is gay "in" this summer?

Bravo has not shied away from the stereotypical with “Queer Eye.” It plays right into that sense of fashion and taste that gays are reputed to have, and into the success of those change-your-looks-and-consequently-your-lifestyle reality shows like “Extreme Makeover.” “Queer Eye” turns five gay men loose on one straight guy and says, “Clean this boy up good!”

The makeover “experts” are stereotypical as well. Ted Allen is a food and wine connoisseur and author of “Things a Man Should Know.” Kyan Douglas is a grooming guru with experience in hair, spa and retail. Thom Filicia is the founder of his own interior design company. Carson Kressley is a fashion expert who worked for Polo Ralph Lauren. And Jai Rodriguez is a culture expert and an actor, singer and dancer.

Together, they will first deconstruct the lifestyle and personality of one man per episode. Then they’ll teach him everything, from what wine to order to which pocket the purple bandana goes in — and what that means.

There’s a twist — and it’s a big one — in “Boy Meets Boy,” which otherwise is not a whole lot different from “Joe Millionaire” or “The Bachelor” — except, that is, for the sexual persuasion of the guy who’s doing the picking. But you’ve got to wonder if a show that takes more than a couple of sentences to explain has much of a chance with today’s low-attention-span audiences. The rules on “BMB” are complex.

Bravo says a handsome gay man will spend eight days in an as-yet-unnamed “luxurious location” with 15 potential mates. They participate in group and one-on-one dates. The leading man also has his best girl friend with him. She offers advice as he whittles down the number of suitors. But ... midway through the whittling, the leading man finds out that some of the men he’s spending time with are — jeepers! — straight. This could be almost too much reality even for reality TV. Imagine that: Gay men having to figure out who’s straight and who’s gay. Here’s an understatement from a production spokesman: “We hope to open the hearts and minds of gay and straight viewers as they experience both the romantic journey ... and the adventure of the straight males having to walk a mile in a gay man’s shoes.”

Is gay “in” this summer? Is Bravo on the cutting edge of something? Is this wise niche marketing? Good questions. But the important question is: Is there a sizeable audience of gay men comfortable enough with themselves to hoot and holler at “Queer Eye” and “BMB”? And if not, are there enough straight people who’ll watch for reasons of their own? Whoever the audience turns out to be, if either or both shows succeed, brace yourselves for even more bizarre fun and games with reality. S

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