Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Definitive Ranking of the Seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race

Over the past few years, I've watched and enjoyed many new shows, but there are few shows that have impacted me the way that RuPaul's Drag Race has. I started watching about 4 years ago, and quickly fell in love with it and went back and watched every single episode of every single season. It's a show that I find myself going back and re-watching all the time, and it found itself super high up on my list of favorite TV shows when I ranked them back in May (which you can check out HERE).

So, as with everything that I really love, I've decided to do a ranking of all of the seasons of Drag Race! I've decided that this list is going to include both the regular seasons AND the All Star seasons. I went back and forth several times, but eventually settled on including them because when I do my winner rankings (coming soon!) I want to include the All Stars winners in my rankings. So, these are my rankings of all 11 seasons. Per usual, I'd like to remind everyone that these are just my opinions. We all have differing opinions. I respect yours, so I hope you'll respect mine by not yelling at me in the comments if you disagree with a season's placement. With that being said, let's go ahead and jump into the rankings!

11) Season 1
I feel like season 1 just has to be the worst by default. It's also been dubbed the "Lost Season"... and for a pretty good reason. Fans always joke about the horrible "blurry filter" but I feel like the video quality is even worse than the jokes lead on. In my opinion, this is by far the least compelling cast. As the show has gone on, it's gotten much more high fashion, while this first season was very ready to wear-- some queens even walked into the workroom in a t-shirt and jeans. Seriously. Like many first seasons, Drag Race hadn't quite figured out their formula yet. The timeline within the episodes was incredibly wonky, jumping back and forth between segments in a way that was hard to follow, and including things that they would later realize simply weren't important. There are definitely some good aspects to the season-- Tammie is such an interesting character, Ongina's story is always inspiring, and we get some really great queens like Shannel and Nina. But overall, this season is the clear weak link when compared to the other seasons. 

10) All Stars 1
To be perfectly honest, I struggled to get through this season. Sure, there were some queens brought back that I really loved, but the twist that RuPaul threw into the mix just made it so little fun to watch. Fan-favorite Pandora Boxx was cut episode one because she was forced to team up with Mimi Imfurst. Still not sure why anyone decided to bring her back. It had lots of great queens, the same judges, and the same studio, but the pairs twist just made it feel very foreign-- almost as if it wasn't Drag Race at all. I'm glad that Chad won, because Chad was definitely one of the most deserving losers of the main show, but overall this season was just a struggle all the way through.

9) Season 3
OK, so we've gotten out of the "bottom of the barrel" section of the ranking and into my next tier, AKA the next 2 seasons. The seasons placing at #8 & #9 are mostly tied and are a definite step up from the ones below. Overall, I really enjoy season 3. There are certainly aspects of it that I like more than the season that placed just above it, but there are also some definite detractors. I think the major knock on season 3 for me is that I have yet to re-watch the second half of the season. Might be a bit petty, but for a show that I go back and re-watch regularly, the fact that I've never re-watched half of this season is a definite knock on it. I feel like there were also a lot of queens that I didn't really love. Raja and Manila are fantastic, and I love Shangela, but other than that there weren't many queens who I really gravitated toward. I do think that the level of drag and the quality of the challenges was definitely upped from S2, but overall this one just comes off as a bit less memorable and often overly catty/mean. 

8) Season 2
Like I said, Seasons 2 & 3 are mostly tied for me, but I originally had them flipped. And that was mostly because the level of drag in season 2. It was kinda walking the border between S1 & S3. Not quite as ready-to-wear as S1, but not quite upped to the level that someone like Raja brought in S3. But what really stands out to me this season are the characters and the storylines. Raven and JuJu are still some of the most memorable queens in the history of the show. Pandora was lovable and hilarious. Tati was sassy and snarky but in the most fun way possible. And Tyra was... Tyra. I didn't like her the first time, but upon a re-watch my mind definitely was changed just a little bit. Still not my favorite winner, but she was more likable the second time around. And even some earlier eliminees like Nicole Paige Brooks and Mystique Summers Madison were really memorable. Also, who green-lighted the "Chicken or what?" competition? Because that's still a head-scratcher 7 years later. Overall, it's a really fun, drama-filled season that's just a bit rough at the edges. 

7) Season 9
I really enjoyed this season of Drag Race, so after finishing up my ranking, I was actually a bit surprised to see that I put it all the way down at number 7. I think that on its own speaks to the overall strength of this show and how much I love it. Like with Season 2 & Season 3, this one and the next one are mostly tied, but this one got edged out by just a little bit. Overall, Season 9's biggest strength for me was the quality of the queens. There were certainly some weak points in the cast, but once we got up to the top 7, everyone was so talented. I honestly kinda liked how nice the cast was to each other, especially since we got all of the fighting out in the reunion episode. I also absolutely loved that even by the final 4, I had no idea who was going to win. Yes, Shea won the most challenges. Yes, Sasha had the fans' support. Yes, Pepper probably had the worst track record. But all 4 of them brought it so hard all season long and proved over and over that they deserved to be there. There were just so many really strong contestants this season.

We also got some really gag-worthy moments, like the cringey lip syncs and Sasha's finale lip syncs that made up for all of the bad ones. I think the weakest point for me was some of the challenges. They were fine, and nearly all of them fit into one of the typical challenge molds for Drag Race, but it just always seemed like something was missing, whether it was the contestants' ability to impress, the writing, or just the challenge as a whole. While I'm mostly very #GurlBye on Lucian Piane being gone, I do think that his musical talents were pretty sorely missed.

6) Season 8
This season was really solid across the board. The challenges were really great. The a cappella lip sync is probably my favorite lip sync challenge that we've had across the board and the RuCo Empire challenge was absolutely hilarious. The queens were really awesome across the board. I liked almost every single one of them, and they were all really strong queens. The few weak links got cut fairly early, leaving us with an overall really strong cast. The biggest down side to the season is that it was pretty clear from the beginning that Bob was going to do well, if not win. Bob was the front-runner from the very beginning and it was a pretty easy march to the end with maybe one little tiny slip-up near the end. Overall, it was definitely a really fun season and really strong all-around but not quite as great as the next 5 seasons. 

5) Season 4
I feel like this might be a bit controversial, but I'm alright with that, because this is just how I feel. I know that Season 4 is the season that really got people into the show and was really the first of the "modern" Drag Race seasons, but for me there are a few seasons that are better. I feel like this cast is the perfect case of amazing highs and incredibly low lows. Sharon, Chad, Latrice, Willam, and even PhiPhi were really strong, while there were some absolutely disastrous people like Alisa, Madame LaQueer, Milan, and Kenya Michaels. There were, however, some really fun challenges. Honestly, pretty much every single one of them is really memorable to me. The prison acting challenge is probably the biggest stand-out, though. Plus, we get some really iconic moments like the "go back to Party City" fight, Willam's disqualification, and Sharon's apocalyptic look. Speaking of Sharon, she's probably one of the most memorable queens in the entire history of the show. I have yet to do winner rankings, but she's definitely a queen that I've really loved and appreciated, and both her presence on the show and the fact that she won had such a huge affect on drag. Sharon was the weirdo that broke the rules and it was so great to watch her win.

4) Season 7
I'm pretty sure this is the most taboo of all of my rankings, because Season 7 doesn't have such a great reputation. But I loved it, and I love going back and re-watching it. Admittedly, a lot of the reason that I love watching it is because I love watching the train wreck over and over again, but it makes it such entertaining TV. Season 7 gave us one of the biggest stand-outs in recent years- KATYA. I'm also a pretty big Pearl fan (her personality just speaks right to my overly-chill heart), and I really liked Max as well. Apart from them, there were a few other strong queens, many weak queens, and a few really unlikable queens. I actually don't mind Violet, and I generally like Ginger, but Kennedy and Jasmine were nearly unbearable. But the challenges this season were really great. Shakesqueer was fantastic despite being a mess, the parody music video was hilarious, and I re-watch videos from the Divine challenge and Glamazonian airways on the reg. Yes, I think that the cast could've been a bit stronger in the talent department, but I think that they made up for it with the entertainment that they brought to the show.

3) All Stars 2
I feel like everything this season was either absolutely amazing or just really messy. The cast of queens was amazing. I've never been a big Coco fan, so I thought she was a bit unnecessary in the cast, but everyone else clearly belonged on the season and was great to watch for their own unique reasons. Even including Coco, the entire cast were all people who were incredibly memorable and made huge impacts on their respective seasons. On top of this, the challenges this season were fantastic. The All Stars Snatch Game was great, and my personal favorite was probably the Herstory of the World lip sync performance. To be honest, I don't think there was a single challenge that I thought was a dud. They were all really interesting and gave us some really great moments. Even the makeover challenge, which is usually a bit of a snooze for me, was really great because it was their own family members. We also got the now-classic Shut Up and Drive lip sync between Alyssa and Tati, which was just absolutely phenomenal and probably the best (or at least, most competitive) lip sync in the history of the show. 

Now, here comes the slight negative. I feel like this season definitely tainted my opinion on a few queens that I absolutely love. Going into All Stars, my top 3 favorite Drag Race queens of all time were Adore, Bianca, and Alaska-- probably in that order as well. Now... let's just say that Bianca is firmly in first place. I still love Alaska and Adore, and they're probably still both in my personal top 3. But, for some people, this season completely tanked their reputations. I have no qualms with Alaska winning the show- she killed it almost the whole season and clearly deserved the crown. But, that hissy fit that she threw in the second-to-last episode was just a mess, and I think we all know that Katya deserved the money on at least one of the challenges that she narrowly lost to Alaska. Despite those couple of hiccups, I really enjoyed this season and despite some pretty low moments, I thought it was a really entertaining season.

2) Season 5
These top 2 seasons have consistently been my top 2 over the years, and I really don't see them going anywhere any time soon. Both of these seasons are just so awesome, and I find myself gravitating toward re-watches of them constantly. However, season 5 is the clear #2 for me. I think the cast this season was pretty awesome. I mean, if you look at the All Stars 2 cast, the entirety of the top 6 this season (sans our winner, Jinkx) was brought back. That's literally half the All Stars cast. Season 5 really had everything that you could want in a season of Drag Race- a great cast, great challenges, and oh. so. much. drama. This cast is especially interesting to me, because I feel like it was very top-heavy (AKA, the best were super strong, not that they were all tops haha) but the rest of the cast was kinda weak. However, we got a ton of really memorable personalities. We got introduced to Serena ChaCha, who chachaed onto our screen for a hot second to fight with everyone and then shashayed away. With Jinkx, we found another really quirky queen who helped to try and change the overall perception of quirky queens. We got our first on-show trans confession with Monica Beverly Hillz. And, of course, we got our first double-elimination and Roxxxy's wig reveal lip sync. So, even though some of the queens were a bit weaker, they still gave us great moments. 

On top of that, the challenges this season were fantastic. We got the perfume challenge, which gave us the now-classic Alyssa's Secret. The RuPaul Roast was not only a fantastic challenge overall, but the lip sync that episode was the one where we got Roxxxy's wig reveal. We also got the great telanovela challenge and the candy couture challenge as well. Plus, the kids Barnyard Buddies TV show challenge. There were just so many really, really great ones this season. And of course, the drama. Alyssa and Coco were constantly at each other's throats, giving us the amazing "Backrolls?" line (technically, that was Jade's doing, but let's just forget about her), Roxxxy was coming for Jinkx constantly, and the aforementioned Serena ChaCha totally brought the drama for the 2 episodes she was on. This whole season was just so entertaining from beginning to end, and I can't help but re-watch over and over and over.

1) Season 6
And finally, we're at my favorite season of Drag Race. To be honest, it's not even close. Ever since the first time I watched this season, it has been my favorite. I've re-watched this season probably more than I've watched any other season put together. Everything about it is absolutely fantastic. The best part about the season for me is the cast. Every single queen brings something to the season-- even Magnolia Crawford. Joslyn Fox is completely precious, Gia Gunn is so oblivious, Milk is crazy-unique, De La is so rootable, Adore is a perfect mess, and Bianca is just actual perfection. Even Trinity K Bonet is fantastic. I just absolutely love this entire cast. They're so awesome and such a great mix of personalities, all of whom made a huge impact on the season. Personally, Gia Gunn annoys me to death, but it's so much fun to watch her on the show. Overall, the cast is just absolutely fantastic. 

The challenges this season are also amazing. Honestly, I think every single challenge this season is memorable. Every time I re-watch, I have trouble stopping because I see the next week's preview and think "ooh, I love that challenge." For me, this season's Snatch Game is unquestionably the best in the history of the show. Even the people who landed in the middle were overall fantastic, on top of the fact that Bianca, Adore, and De La's performances were elite. The Scream Queens challenge was really great, Oh No She Betta Don't was hilariously perfect, and Shade the Rusical is in contention for my favorite challenge in the history of the show. It's amazing. Like I said, I don't think there's a single challenge this season I don't like. Every single one is so good. Plus, in addition to these challenges, Laganja gives us a great amount of drama. It's so much fun to also watch the Adore/Bianca friendship develop from strangers, to slightly antagonistic, to actual besties. Plus, the development of Trinity K Bonet as a character is really fantastic. Overall, this season just has everything I could ever want and I re-watch it over and over and over. It's amazing.

So, those are my rankings of the seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race! I'm planning on ranking the winners very soon, so watch out for that very soon! Let me know down in the comments what you think of my rankings, and which season of Drag Race is your favorite!

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