‘Drag Race’ returns & the 1st out is …

Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race revved up last night, with 14 new queens competing on what is, for my money, the best competition show on TV. And was it just me, or have the girls upped their game?

Think about it: On Project Runway, professional designers are given a decent budget and days to do nothing but design a gown for a fit model to walk in; on America’s Next Top Model, girls just have to walk and chew gum at the same time. Both skills are legit — but the girls on Drag Race do all those things, and they have to lip-sync and do their own makeup and … well, it takes talent, grrl.

And these 14 seem to have it. Among the contestants were Texan Alyssa Edwards, pictured, who made it to the middle-ground in the first outing (neither in the top nor bottom). Honestly, she was lucky not to be in the bottom, as her red carpet look seemed scattered. Still, with one of her nemeses also on the show (that’s a story that will surely develop), she made an impact.

Also making an impact: Alaska, the partner of last year’s winner, Sharon Needles. As with Sharon, the queens underestimated Alaska’s creativity because her style of drag is more shock than illusion. But her Saran Wrap mermaid gown was astounding.

Still, it was the wonderfully named Penny Tration who got booted first off the 90-minute extended season premiere. Penny Tration was already known to viewers — she was the queen voted onto the show through an online poll last summer … in other words, the fan favorite. But no one can say she didn’t deserve to go: During her lip sync for her life, Penny forgot the words and looked awkward and surprised to have to perform.

We’re hooked. Again.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones