What felt so sweet when “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” brought gay style to straight men becomes borderline offensive in “Girlfriend Intervention,” a Lifetime series that enlists a quartet of African-American fashionistas to make over a “basic” white woman. Loud, brash and filled with stereotypes, it’s hard to know what’s most irritating — the sweeping declarations about black women as if they were monolithic, or the forced remodeling of women who are perfectly comfortable with their looks and style, after subjecting them to a “Catwalk of Shame.” If indeed there’s cause for shame here, the producers should start with a mirror.
In the premiere, there’s 24-year-old Emily, a mother of two (she started young, obviously) who has just earned her real-estate license. She is put through the paces by self-described “confident plus-sized woman” Tanisha Thomas, fashion maven Tiffiny Dixon, sanctuary guru (a fancy way of saying home remodeler) Nikki Chu, and beauty pro Tracy Balan.
The four must tear the subject down, naturally, in order to build her up, resulting in the obligatory heartwarming reveal that includes new clothes, makeup and home decor. The beneficiaries might object at first, but the lure of free stuff and high-heeled shoes, clearly, is just too much for any woman to resist.
Still, building all these familiar makeover-show elements around a racial component simply breeds a lot of tone-deaf blather, including the various things that black women will or won’t do. (The second episode, for example, involves a 30-year-old woman with a fondness for fantasy and Harry Potter — a hobby in which no self-respecting black woman, it’s stated as gospel, would never indulge.)
On paper, this logline must have looked cute — the TV version of “Ebony and Ivory,” and a way to put a new spin on “Queer Eye.” As executed, it just feels condescending on multiple levels — so much so that before letting Lifetime proceed with it, a true friend would have, well, intervened.