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THIS ONE'S FOR THE GIRLS

Gals get their own "Queer Eye' makeovers:

Who better to make over a floundering, clueless straight girl than three gay men and a lesbian whose sole job in the endeavor is to be a woman?

The answer to that may be a reality TV show waiting to happen, but until it does, we're left with that dynamic in Queer Eye for the Straight Girl, a spinoff of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (which has five gay men make over a straight man, and none of them is assigned to just be a man).

Having set off a pop-culture phenomenon with Straight Guy, the show's creators took that formula, messed with it and went looking for female versions of the floundering, clueless males it has revamped.

The team picked to do the making over _ one fewer in number than in Straight Guy _ has three men, each with his own expertise (and a cutesy title): Robbie Laughlin is in charge of the Look (fashion), Danny Teason the Life (food and culture), Damon Pease the Locale (design).

And then there's the woman, Honey Labrador. Her title is the Lady.

"Honey ensures that all aspects of each make-better has a female perspective, touching on all categories as they relate to women," the show's press kit says.

We had hoped that Labrador, given her unusual name, would be in charge of bestowing a porn-star moniker as part of the makeover.

Alas, we saw on a preview tape of Wednesday's premiere that her big moment is giving straight girl Nicole Huntington skin-care products.

DOES THIS MEAN THE MISSION IS DOOMED TO FAIL? Of course not. No mission fails on Queer Eye. The Straight Girl four _ known as the "Gal Pals," rather than Straight Guy's Fab Five _ successfully take Huntington, a technologies executive who is freaking out about turning 30, from slobette to studette.

But as in Straight Guy, which starts its third season tonight, the show is as much about the journey, as we say in reality TV land, as the destination.

When the Pals meet Huntington, it's obvious that turning 30 is, in the Queer Eye tradition, only one of her many problems.

Her apartment looks like it is days away from being condemned for health-code violations. Her primary culinary skill is making a meat-and-condiments sandwich without using utensils and serving it wrapped in a paper towel so she won't dirty a dish (a good thing, since there appears not to be a clean dish in the place). And the outfit in which she greets the Straight Girl team _ T-shirt, cutoffs, a baseball cap and Ugg boots _ is, we find out later from her brother, essentially what she wore to his daughter's dance recital.

HOW DO THEY DO IT? With much of the Queer Eye machinations we've come to expect: witty (and wanna-be witty) reparte ("We need to Sex and the City this girl up," Teason says at the beginning. "She needs to be less Charlotte and more harlot!" Laughlin shoots back); new clothes and shoes; an apartment remodel (in a Straight Guy departure, three men are shown helping Pease with the project); inspirational chats; and lots of crying, though unlike in Straight Guy, most of it is done by the makeover subject, not the friends and family overjoyed to find out that the subject was not beyond help.

IS EVERYBODY HAPPY? Everybody, including Huntington, is very happy with Huntington's new self, which isn't to say that the Pals don't think her work is done. "She's walking like a truck driver," is one comment when Huntington appears in a black halter dress and heels. Apparently, not even the woman in charge of womanhood had time to teach her to walk in heels.

Sharon Fink can be reached at (727) 893-8525 or finksptimes.com.

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