×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: Netflix’s ‘Dancing Queen’

The "Drag Race" alum takes on a solo reality show

This has been the year in which Netflix finally cracked the code of unscripted TV. “Queer Eye” is a zeitgeist sensation and an Emmy winner; “Nailed It!” is a beloved and askew take on the sort of competition show the Food Network popularized.

Now comes “Dancing Queen,” a series that follows a similar approach to Netflix’s other unscripted successes. Borrowing liberally from other franchises, the show ultimately comes into its own through a refreshingly sunny disposition, one it shares both with its fellow Netflix series and with its star.

“Dancing Queen” follows Alyssa Edwards, née Justin Dwayne Lee Johnson, a drag queen known for two seasons’ worth of appearances on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” In addition to drag success, Johnson, when presenting as himself, runs a dance studio in Mesquite, Texas, where he trains youngsters to work in unison toward aesthetic perfection. It’s a goal that shares, in both its careful attention to detail and its necessary backstage camaraderie, a lot with drag itself.

Edwards is known to “Drag Race” fans as a fairly loopy queen who — her acuity with dance steps aside — tends to march to the beat of her own drum. And the show is in keeping with both her loose, pleasant energy and the discipline she brings to her onstage life. She appears in and out of drag seemingly at random in her confessional interviews — whatever look suits the moment is the one she’ll have on, and her quirky, unschooled way of speaking makes her an indelible TV character even for the uninitiated. (Ms. Edwards has never met a metaphor she’s unwilling to mix.) And when out of bejeweled drag and auditioning students for Beyond Belief, Johnson sits in a simple T-shirt on a throne, without editorial comment needed. In his domain, he reigns supreme, no matter what. He may toss on a wig and tell jokes for a living, but, like so many drag queens committed to their respective specialties, Johnson takes dance gratifyingly seriously.

Few characters challenge Johnson for dominance or even parity in the first two installments of “Dancing Queen,” and as it goes on, it’d be nice to get a bit more texture of the Beyond Belief community. But those dance parents we meet in the early going are as passionate as any of those on “Dance Moms,” but portrayed with more heart. These are folks, we can tell, who truly want the best for their children, and (contrary to the stereotypes one might surmise about the beliefs of suburban Texans) are not just willing but eager to enlist a drag queen in helping them get there. That interplay between earnest parents and the serious side of a fun-loving queen makes for TV that edges up to inspirational. But it’s also just fun, serving as a much-needed tonic for tough times in precisely the way “Queer Eye” is while doing something all its own.

“Dancing Queen,” Netflix. 45 minutes, eight episodes (two screened for review). Fri., Oct. 5.

Executive Producers: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Tom Campbell, Roy Orecchio, RuPaul Charles

TV Review: Netflix's 'Dancing Queen'

More TV

  • black lgbtq actors hollywood representation

    TV Roundup: 'Pose' Season 2 Premiere Date Pushed Back on FX

    In today’s roundup, “Pose” gets a new Season 2 premiere date and Sara Gilbert is set to play a recurring role on Season 3 of Netflix’s “Atypical.” FIRST LOOK The TV Academy has unveiled the key art for the 71st Emmy Awards. The new design, which will be used across platforms including the Emmy’s website, [...]

  • James Holzhauer Jeopardy

    Why James Holzhauer Is Bad for 'Jeopardy!' (Column)

    James Holzhauer, who is closing in on a million dollars of game-show winnings, is on track to become the most successful “Jeopardy!” contestant of all time. And he’s become such a dominant force that a historic run has come to seem, as television, boring. Over the course of thirteen episodes and counting, Holzhauer’s methods and [...]

  • Joe Ianniello

    CBS Suspends CEO Search, Extends Ianniello in Role Through 2019

    CBS Corp. said it would suspend the months-long search it has conducted for a new leader for the company since the departure of Leslie Moonves and would instead extend the tenure of its acting chief, Joseph Ianniello, through the end of 2019. “Joe has demonstrated exceptional leadership during this time of unprecedented transition at CBS. [...]

  • Wanda Sykes Silicon Valleywood

    Wanda Sykes on Doing Business With Netflix: 'They Moved That Comma'

    MENLO PARK, Calif. — Wanda Sykes wears a lot of hats as a comedian, writer, producer and entrepreneur, and that gives her a keen sense of the ever-growing content marketplace. She also has a very clear understanding of what she’s worth in dollars and cents, as she shared Tuesday in her Q&A at Variety’s Silicon [...]

  • Jenna Hager Hoda Kotb

    NBC News Sets Joanne LaMarca as EP, 'Today' Fourth Hour

    Just after NBC News recalibrated the fourth our of its daytime “Today” program, it has named a new executive producer to oversee the show. Joanne LaMarca, a longtime “Today” staffer who left NBC News in 2017 after a long run, will return as the new head of the 10 a.m. hour that is now led by [...]

  • Adam McKay photogrpahed at the PMC

    HBO to Team With Adam McKay on Scripted Showtime Lakers Series

    HBO is bringing the Showtime Lakers to the scripted arena with “Showtime,” Variety has confirmed. The series, which has received a pilot order at the cabler, hails from Adam McKay, who will direct. “Showtime” will be based on Jeff Pearlman’s non-fiction book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.” “Jeff Pearlman’s [...]

  • The 100 -- "Sanctum" -- Image

    'The 100' Boss Breaks Down Season 6's New World and Theme of 'Can We Do Better?'

    When “The 100” returns for its sixth season on April 30, the CW drama will thrust its characters into a brand new world. After escaping a no-longer habitable Earth at the end of the fifth season, the characters went into cryostasis until the planet was ready for life again. One hundred and twenty-five years later, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content