by Al Hoff
The self-absorbed, long-limbed wannabe-models are back, and just in time for us to start early fretting about revealing our blobbier-than-ever post-winter selves. Remember, their humiliation helps us feel better.
As a convenience to the never-say-die, reality-TV viewers like myself, we've got aspiring-model shows running back to back, albeit on two channels: The CW's America's Next Top Model is back for the 12th time (!!!), while Bravo's spools out season two of Make Me a Supermodel.
ANTM began with a pointless detour to Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, which at least provided a real-life matching cheesy backdrop to the show's female-gladiator/ sexy-toga framing device. (Anything would have been better than last season's alien invasion.)
As we hurtle through the try-outs, one thing is obvious: Tyra's talk-show half is emerging as the dominant force. These models are more picked-for-TV than ready-for-the-runway. It's enough to fill a week's worth of daytime-TV couches!
A burn victim; a girl who lived at the Port Authority bus station; an epileptic; a street-preacher; a conspiracy theorist ("300 families run the planet"); Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s ex-girlfriend -- plus the usual assortment of fresh-off-the-farm, single moms and walking hair-weave disasters. (Remember, we've already had the legally blind, the autistic girl, the circumcised gal, the she-male.) Oh, and what about the blood-looks-cool girl with a head like a lemur, who breathed "jealous," when Tyra talked about getting nosebleeds?
The epileptic girl got cut first, even though she survived walking the runway while strobe lights went off. (In a freaky bit of TV-universe synchronicity, those epileptic dogs attending their own benefit show over on HBO's Flight of the Conchords weren't so lucky. A backed-up DVR meant I watched both shows in one night.)
Thank heavens that the producers have re-tooled Make Me a Supermodel for this season. Gone is the tedious time-wasting process of America voting. America tuned out to be an idiot, usually voting for contestants that were simply hot, and not necessarily good models. Plus, doing the show live week-to-week to allow voting didn't let the producers craft decent character and story arcs. (Give us reality, but make it a good story first!)
Now we've got a panel of judges, including the indecipherable fashion designer Catherine Malandrino and former model Jenny Shimizu (who a couple weeks ago, while guest-judging on RuPaul's Drag Race, was making jokes about past cocaine use -- girl, bring the crazy!).
The wooden Niki Taylor from season 1 has been banished to the wilderness, and co-host Tyson has been re-assigned as a mentor for the boy models. The girls got some model -- Nicole Trunfio -- that I'd never heard of, though that may just be a reflection of my ignorance. She at least has a cute accent.
There are so many contestants right now that it's hard to sort out all the pouty people into raves and rants. A few eliminations and fight or two back at the model-house will help out. The early fave looks to be Sandhurst, who seems to be the total package of exotic background, gorgeous face and body, and a strong sense of self -- plus a classy/wacky name!
Some of the girls are less-than-bony, though I suspect the producers throw them in so they can 1. get credit for having other body types and 2. get maximum entertainment value harassing these poor girls for being "fat." (In fairness, what little I remember about last year's winner was that she wasn't super skinny.)
And speaking of last year's winner that I can't remember: Part of my amusement with these shows is the accepted delusion of both viewers and contestants that anything of note will happen to the winner. While some may indeed find work, certainly no winner has ascended to the promised heights whereby they become stars. These shows are really just make-work exercises to keep us amused, not to actually find and develop "super" or "top" models.
So, open up another bag of Fritos and get pumped for the underwear episodes.