“RuPaul’s Drag Race’s” Shorter Episode Length Can Sashay Away

With each new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race audiences know to expect fresh twists and new additions to the popular reality show’s format. Whether these come in the form of changes in the judging lineup, an increased cash prize, or a special first within the cast of queens, Drag Race fans are well accustomed to the show’s ever-evolving nature, and Season 15 was no exception.

Previous guest judge Ts Madison officially joined the panel as a rotating judge (although she’s not featured nearly enough), the cash prize increased to a massive $200,000 and this season’s cast included Sugar and Spice, the show’s first-ever set of twins. However, along with these welcome changes, with the airing of the season’s third episode, the queens and fans learned of another change that wasn’t so well received: shorter episode lengths.

After the season’s double episode premiere, the third episode took a severe cut, coming in at only just over forty minutes. Similarly to the season 15 premiere episodes, Seasons 10-14 of the show have all featured episodes that were an hour long, so why the change?

The reported reason for this unexpected reduction in episode length was so that MTV, the show’s new host channel, could create a “destination night” to launch their new series The Real Friends of WeHo.

Reducing the runtime didn’t just affect the episodes as a whole: it noticeably condensed the runway sections. It’s in this significant, fan-favorite moment where the queens get to showcase their fashion in a special runway presentation. To shorten this section was such a shame considering the skill, craft, and money that goes into these looks. They deserved to be seen and the queen’s presentations shown in full, rather than the blink-and-you-’ll-miss-it edit they were given. 

An additional problem with the shortened episode lengths was the screen time each queen received. In the season 10 premiere, Drag Race champion Jinkx Monsoon said “I didn’t mind being slapped across the face, I was happy for the airtime.” Ultimately, airtime is currency for Drag Race queens. The show can be a launchpad for their careers, and with less time per episode it’s harder for each of them to stand out. 

The stricter edit meant that not all members of the cast were properly shown in each week’s challenge. If they won the challenge or were in the bottom two, they would be featured, if not they probably didn’t appear. It might make sense to highlight those at the top and bottom, but when they’re the only queens to receive airtime in that episode it becomes unfair, not to mention predictable. There’s often a fair amount of entertaining material from the safe queens as well, but with shorter episode lengths, there was just no time to fit it

Season 15 had another first: with sixteen queens competing for the crown it had the largest cast of any season so far. With this in mind, it only reinforces the point that shortening the episodes was a major disservice to the cast. With more queens than ever fighting for airtime, cutting a third off the usual runtime was truly unjustified. Increasing the number of queens in a season whilst also drastically reducing the runtime of the episode just doesn’t add up.

Episodes in older seasons didn’t run for as long as an hour, but Drag Race has evolved since then. A higher level of drag is expected from the judges now, which means that the drag on offer should be showcased in a less restrictive way. Older seasons existed much more in isolation too. With all the many different spin-off versions of the show that now exist, there can be two or three seasons of Drag Race airing at the same time. So in some ways, the queens now aren’t only competing against their sisters on their own seasons, but whole other casts from around the world as well. They don’t need the added challenge of having to compete against a restrictive edit.

Increasing the number of queens in a season whilst also drastically reducing the runtime of the episode just doesn’t add up.

The change isn’t just unfair to the queens, either: it’s been a shame for audiences who want to see all the drag that these queens have to offer. Drag Race’s constant channel-hopping from season to season means that viewers often have to subscribe to new streaming platforms to gain access. When viewers are paying a subscription fee specifically to watch Drag Race they deserve to get their money’s worth. One full hour of television a week is not asking too much, especially when the material is so clearly there.  

Luckily, the queens of Season 15 weren’t shy in voicing their disappointment on the issue. During the airing of the shorter episodes, Salina EsTitties took to Twitter saying “we worked too hard and invested too much money for a 45 min edit.” She replied to her own tweet continuing “and I say this as a viewer and a fan of the show. I just wanted to see more of the gals.” 

Her fellow season 15 sister, Aura Mayari replied in agreement. “Yeah that was a fast one… so this is every Friday huh.” Mistress Isabelle Brooks created a Twitter poll, asking her followers what was shorter: “This episode,” “My kitten heel” or “Luxx’s wig?” A further number of queens, both from season 15 and other seasons, also expressed their dislike of the change. 

In their misjudged attempts to gain viewers for a new show, MTV managed to frustrate the loyal Drag Race fanbase and unfairly hampered the experience of the competing queens. However, the instant and sustained backlash throughout the season led to the eventual return of the full length episodes after two months of the shorter ones. And while this has been a welcome return, it’s almost too little too late: It’s unfair to the queens that have already been eliminated – f*ck their drag, right?  

Hopefully the disappointing handling of this issue during Season 15 will lead to all episodes in future seasons being allowed to run for their full length. These reduced runtimes need to sashay away for good, and no, we don’t want to see them back for All-Stars. ♦

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