Jonathan Van Ness On Why He Doesn’t Like ‘The Real Housewives’

The ‘Queer Eye’ star shares which shows he loves and which he… doesn’t

Over the last two months, Netflix’s Queer Eye has skyrocketed to the top of everybody’s list of favorite television shows. It’s endearing and heartwarming and just the right amount of pure amusement. It’s the kind of show you’re not sure whether to binge or relish, since you know that, once it's over, there'll be a big Queer Eye-shaped hole in your life where the show once lived.

A big part of why the show is such a hit is new Fab 5 member Jonathan Van Ness. He handles the grooming part of the makeovers and has a personality as infectious as his unofficial "Can you believe?" catchphrase. And in the same way many people use Queer Eye as an escape from the rest of their lives, Van Ness, too, is somewhat television obsessed (he even has his own Emmy-nominated Funny or Die web series, titled "Gay of Thrones," where he recaps the HBO show). 

“TV is like my safe space at the end of the day,” he tells us. “After doing hair and running around, it's very much where I like to come home to. I would say that I definitely get in a good two hours, maybe three at night if I'm not going out, which is the usual prescription for me.”

There are two kinds of television watchers in 2018: the type that watch shows live, and the type who watch on their own time. Van Ness is part of the second group. He’s a self-declared “cable-cutter,” and subscribes to the streaming lifestyle. He also fluctuates between binge-watching and taking in shows one episode at a time—depending on his mood. “If I'm in for the weekend—I'm doing a little nest moment—then I can totally binge,” he says. “But then, if I'm really obsessed with a show and I don't want it to be over too fast, then I try not to binge. I was like that with Stranger Things. I was really milking her, I didn't want it to be over.” As any big TV watcher will tell you, the key to a good watchlist is diversification. “I feel about TV like how I feel about food. Like, someone who would smoke a lot of pot and can't decide what they want to eat, if they want something salty or sweet. That's how I am with TV," Van Ness says. "I'll want a little bit of Westworld, but then I'm like, 'Oh my god, I feel traumatized, let me get some Family Guy or some Modern Family.' Something to lighten the fare.” 

And so, ahead, we had Van Ness divulge what shows he loves and which ones he’s iffy about. Along with those listed below, he also mentioned Westworld, The Handmaid’s Tale, House of Cards (“Robin Wright’s going to own this season so hard”), and, of course, Game of Thrones ("It's just becoming a callus in my gay heart that I have to wait until next summer. I’m compartmentalizing that, I don't want to think about it too much”) as shows he’s looking forward to watching once they return. Scroll through to see what he's watching, what he thinks about the Roseanne reboot, and why he’s not a Real Housewives fan.

Roseanne
I've been scared of watching Roseanne, but I feel like I need to. I've always been a fan of [Roseanne Barr] until I heard her talk so much recently. I thought she was this really hilarious comedian—and she still is a hilarious comedian—but I'm just like, "Alright, okay, okay." And not only is she a Trump supporter, but she's someone who perpetuates conspiracy theories on Twitter. [But] once I found out that Wanda Sykes is writing [on the show], and then there's Laurie Metcalf [acting in it], there's so much female creativity, and I'm so here for that. 

I'm very aware of TV shows that are people's creative livelihood, it's people's everything. I'm totally there to support all the other amazing women and actors on that show. And even [Roseanne], because she's allowed to have her views. That's cute, I guess. 

I guess I'm just confused. Are we normalizing, like, really crazy bad behavior? Or, are we meeting someone in the middle who has sincerely held beliefs? Because I'm down to meet you in the middle with a sincerely held belief, as long as you're not literally full racist. Which, you know, sometimes I wonder about our president. [I feel like what our show is about is that] you can't judge based off one person's political belief, even if you don't agree with them. I think that's a good lesson; I think that's a good conversation to be having now. 

Maybe I could have Roseanne on my podcast and have a talk and be like, "Why do you think like this, mommy? Let's have a chat, what's going on?"

British Bakeoff
I love British Bakeoff. It's, like, my everything. I think that with certain shows, they're very cathartic and comforting. I just like to watch them over and over and over again, and that's British Bakeoff for me. For years, it was Veep. I would watch Veep just when I wanted something on, and I could watch it over and over and over and never get sick of it. For the last three years, it's very much been British Bakeoff, but only Seasons 1 through 4, because I'm not here for a world that Mary Berry's not in. Even though I have heard that the new people are great—and I know that's ironic because I'm on a reboot, and we’re new hosts, and I should really be open to new people—I just love Mary Berry. I love her so much that my mom just made me a quilt that Mary Berry's on.

Wild Wild Country
Okay, everyone's obsessed with Wild Wild Country right now, which is on Netflix, which we love. Love our Netflix. But it's so intense. I can't binge on it like I did Making a Murderer, even though that was really intense, too. But I agree with everyone, that it's really, really good. I think it is amazing, but it takes me like two days to get through one episode because I'm like, "The Sheela lady, what is your deal? Are you cool or are you not?" Obviously, I'm only on episode two because it's taking me days to get through it. 

On reboots
I think there is something to be said for a formula working and people wanting to revisit that, whether that's having new people or different people, because it's not really the exact same thing. Especially with Queer Eye, I feel like it is a new version, and it does feel like it's grown, and it doesn't feel—to me anyway—like I'm resting on anything. I feel like I am pushing, and I am trying to get curious, and I am bringing everything I can in my personality in those situations to bring something authentic. I feel like Queer Eye grew up from the first version of it. I'm here for it, I'm totes here for it. 

One show that I'm really excited is back that is super-duper-good—not to tout the network that my show is on—but I'm obsessed with Joel McHale. His new show [The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale] is so cute, it's funnier than ever. Love him, I'm so glad that it's back. He always gives me such a good chuckle.

On spin-offs
I'm trying to think of a spin-off that I would like... Well, I loved The Golden Palace, it did not get the acclaim she deserved. That was the spin-off of The Golden Girls, like one season, maybe two. It was about the Miami bed and breakfast that they ran. So, I loved that one. 

I guess that means that spin-offs don't typically do super-well now that I'm thinking about it [laughs]. But, I feel like I'm gonna have such a gigantic Westeros-shaped hole in my heart that I feel like I will watch the spin-off of Games of Thrones. Especially if the original creators come back to do that, then for sure. I would definitely be here for it. I also think that, because Game of Thrones is such a rich world, picking the right spin-off, and picking the spin-off that could garner that much interest, would be important.

On guilty-pleasure shows
I'm obsessed with Family Guy. I love Bob's Burgers. I'm obsessed with Nailed It right now. Love Nicole Byer, cannot get enough of her on that show. I want more, I need more messed-up baking stuff all the time. Oh my god, Chopped, love Chopped. Really into it. I don't know, I never used to be into it, then, all of a sudden... I don't know if it was because of Queer Eye and working with Antoni [Porowski] so much, and then he's friends with Ted [Allen], so I was like, "Oh, Hulu, Chopped, there she is, she's cute, love it." Love me a Chopped moment. Talk about a cute concept. 

What else? Also, like, the news. I love the news, I'm always watching the news. My favorite is David Muir because I totally just want to get married to him. Like, if you ever read this, David, I'm single. I'm pretty sure you're straight, but who cares.  

On reality TV shows
Unscripted television sometimes just makes me feel hollow afterward. Like, "Oh my god, is that all there is?" I don't want to say anyone specifically, because I'm sure they're all really nice people, but, you know, just, like, reality TV that doesn't add to any sort of conversation about diversity or inclusivity. RuPaul Drag Race is like my favorite thing ever, obviously. But that's something that feels fun and amazing. I feel like if you have a platform, and you're on TV, [and not] furthering the conversation about something that you're passionate about other than the drama within your friend group, [that] feels empty to me. 

[Pauses]...I'm talking about The [Real] Housewives, I don't like the housewives! I don't like any of them! I'm sure they're probably really nice ladies, I'm sure they're all really, really sweet. But I just, I feel like I've worked in New York and L.A. for long enough that I've seen that type of person—when the cameras are off, and they're just not nice. And I just want to spend my time helping people feel better. I feel like I had to stop watching Law & Order: SVU—that used to be my Veep before Veep—because I was feeling so depressed after watching it. It literally left this film on my soul. And I was like, "Oh my god, this is actually making me depressed, putting myself around this energy is actually making me depressed." Because it's so heavy. And that's kind of how I feel about those type of shows. And maybe there are some good storylines, and I don't watch it, and I should get into it, because they are doing stuff for charity or women entrepreneurship or something cool and I haven't watched it, so I don't know. But, I don't like things that make me feel worse about people. I like things that make me feel better. 

Oh my god, I hope everyone doesn't come at me for saying that, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. And I'm sure that they're really nice. I'm sure that they're all sweet people who want to be loved, I'm sure. Or maybe they're vile. I don't know. Who knows?