The Fab Five are down to their final 10. "Queer Eye," one of television's most innovative reality series, wraps up its four-year, Emmy-winning...

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The Fab Five are down to their final 10.

“Queer Eye,” one of television’s most innovative reality series, wraps up its four-year, Emmy-winning run starting Tuesday night.

When the show debuted in July 2003, many weren’t sure what to make of its premise, let alone its title: Five gay men — each an expert in his field — whose mission it is to help straight men in desperate need of lifestyle changes.

But the five — Ted Allen (food and wine), Kyan Douglas (grooming), Thom Filicia (interior design), Carson Kressley (fashion) and Jai Rodriguez (culture) — and their show set the bar for makeover programming at Bravo, which went on to launch other series with similar themes, including “Project Runway,” “Blowout” and “Workout.”

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Tuesday’s episode is preceded by a “Straight Guy Pageant” (at 9 p.m.) hosted by soap diva herself, Susan Lucci. The pageant will bring back former guys who were helped on the show, to see who has kept up with their makeovers, and who has slacked off.

Someone will then be crowned the “Ultimate Straight Guy.”

That will be followed by an all-new episode featuring a guy named Eric from Colorado. He connects with Tracie, who lives in New York, at After six months of e-mails, calls and text messaging, Eric is finally going to see Tracie up close and personal. “Queer Eye” gives him the once-over before the date.

What else to expect this final season? Topics such as unibrows, nose hair, pleather and, of course, “manscaping,” Douglas’ ongoing attempt to tame or remove unruly body hair.

For more, we recently caught up by phone with “culture vulture” Rodriguez, who, since finishing “Queer Eye,” has relocated to Los Angeles.

Q: When you look at the final 10 shows, what jumps out?

A: That I finally look age-appropriate, not 13 anymore. Actually, we completed production in June 2006, so we haven’t seen each other in over a year.

Q: What made the five of you click?

A: There was something magical about our chemistry. So much of the creativity came from us because we had to work fast. The producers guided us because they knew the most about the straight guy; we didn’t meet him until the day of. That’s why the plan of attack had to be devised so quickly.

Q: The show always ends on an emotional note, with the five of you hugging the guy and leaving him on his own while you watch the results from a studio loft. Do emotions get the best of you?

A: Well, deep down, the guys are crying out for help. So, yes, it’s cathartic. It’s hard to step back and realize we’re changing someone’s life, especially when they’re so moved. That’s when it’s more than a job.

Q: What was your audition for “Queer Eye” like?

A: I was 23 and starring in a Broadway show — it was a mix between a Justin Timberlake concert and an Ellen DeGeneres talk show (singing and comedy). The New York Times did a write-up about it, and my agent called and said Bravo was looking for a nightlife expert for one of its shows. At the time, I was sporting platinum white hair, so I figured I already had one strike against me. They asked me to take them through a romantic date featuring a 35-year-old divorced guy who lives on Long Island.

I got a call-back with the producers. When I arrived, Carson and Ted were sitting there. At the time, I didn’t know them and figured they were vying for the same job. But they … (were) catty, quizzing me. I told my agent it was the worst audition I’ve ever had.

I found out the producers wanted to see if I had chemistry with those two, who already were on board for the show. I was hired the next day.

Q: Your area of expertise isn’t as specific as that of the other four. Has that been good or bad?

A: My role was all-inclusive, so I kind of am like the cohesive gel. I have a lot of physical things to handle. Early on, though, I was panned for not having enough to do. So I decided to get a little Oprah-esque and give the straight guy a gadget to improve his life. After that, a lot of the emotional conversations with the guys happened through me.

Q: What have you learned from the show?

A: That straight guys aren’t the only ones who learn. The five of us are better men because of it. I think it was the best life-coaching school I could have gone to. I don’t think I could have relocated to L.A. and found a home and jobs pre-“Queer Eye.” I have an album coming out Friday. I’m all grown up, and I even have a beard now!

Q: What’s one of the funniest experiences you’ll take from the show?

A: When we’re in the loft at the end of the shows (watching the results), we have little ear pieces. People always wonder why Kyan loses it when the straight guy shaves in the wrong direction. It’s mostly because the scraping hurts our ears.

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