As drag queens Kita Mean and Anita Wigl'it float through the opening scenes of TVNZ's House of Drag aboard giant hot dog and flamingo pool inflatables, it becomes quickly apparent this new local reality show is quite unlike anything else in the state broadcaster's stable.

That observation is reinforced about two minutes later when a contestant by the name of Lola Blades rocks up to the show in her best Jessica Rabbit ensemble and promptly proceeds to demonstrate a sex act on her champagne glass.

TVNZ, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

Much like the network's Heartbreak Island earlier in the year, House of Drag is a hybrid of a few well-known franchises.


While the former was a mash-up of Love Island, Survivor and The Krypton Factor, House of Drag is the very bright and bitchy little spawn of reality TV behemoths RuPaul's Drag Race and Big Brother.

Hosted by Kita and Anita, the show sees a group of "dragstars" – eight drag queens and one drag king – living together in a mansion while they compete in a series of challenges. The winner of each challenge reluctantly chooses the worst two performers to go up for elimination, until one dragstar is left, ultimately winning a prize package worth $10,000.

With the first two episodes of House of Drag already available on TVNZ OnDemand, the show wastes no time getting straight into the action.

As Kita and Anita welcome their guests on the mansion's red carpet, we get to meet the likes of "one-of-a-kind fat Bratz doll" Vulga Titz; Wellington "It Girl" Bunny Holiday; my new style icon, the fabulous Medulla Oblongata; and drag king Hugo Grrrl, who already feels a cut above the rest of the competition.

Their first challenge is a glamourpuss photoshoot, which is really just an opportunity for hosts Kita and Anita to shout demeaning instructions at their models.

They tell Hugo Grrrl to make love to the camera, for example. But not too much.

"More like a platonic flatmate situation, but sometimes you bone on the weekends," quips Kita.

Another challenge sees the contestants given two hours to create and perform a stand-up comedy routine – an exercise that shows there's some fragility under all that drag queen bravado, as one queen crumples under the pressure of extreme resting bitch face in the audience and flees the stage in tears.

While it's always tricky to tell the manufactured drama from the real emotions on a "reality" TV show, that line is blurred even further in something like House of Drag, where the contestants are always putting on a performance.

But what a performance it is.

The shade that's thrown around the mansion is top-notch, even if it does feel uncomfortably cruel at times. And the poisoned chalice that is winning a challenge provides a bit of drama as each victor is forced to ponder the fate of their fellow contestants.

But there's fun in House of Drag's smaller moments, too, such as Trinity Ice taking time out of the frenetic stand-up prep to make a ham sandwich or a hysterical Leidy Lei being affectionately told to "do a lap of the roundabout" outside in order to calm down.

Then there's the inimitable Kita and Anita. Reality TV hosts aren't supposed to upstage their show's talent, however it's almost impossible for this duo not to. But when they're this delightfully naughty, who really cares if they're hogging the spotlight?

My only real quibble with House of Drag is how much they've crammed into each episode.

I don't often say this about a TV series, but it feels much too short. With a running time of less than half an hour per show, there's little opportunity to learn much about each of our queens and king, and thus little chance of developing much of an attachment to any of them.

Still, after 10 years of RuPaul's Drag Race, it's refreshing to see even a small slice of New Zealand's drag scene on our screens – and these Kiwi dragstars promise to bring a whole new meaning to the phrase "fierce competition".

House of Drag is available on TVNZ OnDemand, with new episodes released on Thursdays at midday.