Network TV continues to plumb the reality-TV depths. On offer this week is ABC's True Beauty, another inane contest to see who is the hottest hottie, but with a twist.
There's the usual line up of totally plastic-looking "beautiful" gals and guys -- 10 in all -- but this show promises to judge not just the outer looks, but also inner beauty. Or to put it another way: Which self-absorbed, vain hottie is actually an honest, caring, considerate do-gooder at heart? Challenges will prove this!
This idiotic concept is the unholy love child of celebu-producers Tyra Banks (America's Next Top Model) and Ashton Kutcher (Punk'd) and not surprisingly it combines their two métiers: Tyra's pick-a-looker with Ashton's Candid Camera-style gotcha follies.
In the first episode we met the contestants, and frankly they struck me as the very worst people you went to high school with: the over-lacquered mean girls, the pec-flexing jocks, the mirror-worshippers and the deeply delusional ("I AM the most beautiful person").
They arrived inexplicably in fancy sports cars, and were greeted by a couple dozen out-of-work actors hired as ... beats me, greeters? As the gathered on the patio of Ye Olde Tacky L.A. Mansion, they began sizing each other up like a pack of dogs. That is -- dogs with eyelash extensions, blonde tips, stiletto heels and way too much eyeliner. Girls and guys were slathered in so much product, I wondered if, after all, inner beauty might not be more discernible?
Anyhow ... the contest begins. Our beauties are assessed by a L.A. doctor who take a bunch of measurements and ascertains how symmetrical folks' eyes are.
Meanwhile ... secret tests are underway to check for inner beauty, namely a bunch of set-ups that the judges watch to see how the contestants handle themselves. First, a clumsy waiter pours liquid chocolate all over them. Then, would the contestants, if left alone, do a little snooping in their competitors' files? And the Final Challenge, which tested the two up for elimination: Would they hold the door open for a dude laden with coffees?
The judges are a motley crew, really: a Miss Teen Something I've never heard of; 1970s model Cheryl Tiegs (billed here as the "first supermodel," take that, Janice!); and Nolé Marin, stylist and staple of reality shows, who looks like he's gonna be deliciously bitchy but always disappoints.
The final decision goes down in the "Hall of Beauty" -- and the first elimination proved entertaining. Miss Thing, La-Dee-Day-Yeah or whatever her name was, gave a lot of attitude and made that fatal reality-show mistake: denying that she'd done something. Honey, there are cameras everywhere.
When they showed her the incriminating footage of her shocking crime -- bustling past the coffee-cup dude without a kind gesture -- she immediately averred: "I'm a good person!" The judges shook their heads in pretend distress, and America had a little laugh, because it's fun watching stuck-up people get taken down a few pegs.
The final indignity: Two fat guys dressed like janitors came by with a wheelie bin and unceremoniously dumped the loser's portrait in the trash. Tonight, here's one less masterpiece in the Hall of Beauty.