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From Across the Pond: "What Not to Wear"

Let me preface this by saying that I don't often watch makeover shows, of the personal or home variety. It's not really my bag. But I can't get enough of British import What Not to Wear, which inspired its own (blandly derivative) American adaptation on TLC. While I can't stomach the Stateside makeover (heh), I find myself itching for the next episode of this British style series.

Much of that has to do with the intelligence and spunk of the British original's hosts, authors and style experts Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine whose "cruel to be kind" approach to fashion makeovers has made them infamous. They are both beautiful, highly intelligent, and fashion savvy and complement each other perfectly. It also helps that they both have completely different body types--Trinny is tall and skinny, Susannah shorter and more curvy--and neither is above doffing their own clothes in order to prove a point to their makeover victims. In fact, the show's original opening captured this perfectly as the ladies stripped off their clothes while berating one another until the show's logo covered their, um, delicates.

While previous seasons of What Not to Wear have contained a typical makeover surprise element, recent offerings have instead focused on helping women (and a few men along the way) who have volunteered for the experience. (Which isn't to say that these volunteers are at all any less stubborn than their victimized counterparts.) Trinny and Susannah slog through a pile of videotaped "auditions" from these volunteers and whittle down the competition to two women who are most deserving of an image overhaul and the torture begins.

Trinny and Susannah also spend a day in the applicants' shoes--literally. They dress in their volunteer's clothes, talk to their friends and family, and generally live their lives to get a better sense of who these women are and how their dress impacts their image and sense of being. And they usually go through their closets and tear up or throw out most of their horrid clothes whilst making catty remarks about how out of date or generally ghastly all of the items are.

Returning to the studio, the women watch the video footage with Trinny and Susannah and then it's into the horror of all horrors: a 360-degree mirror that forces the makeover victims to see how they really look to the outside world and force them to see both their flaws and--more importantly--their attributes. The process is amazing to watch. The women are either stubbornly resistant or blatantly shocked at how they look and it's truly enlightening to watch. Last week, for example, this slender and beautiful woman--a British army officer--refused to see how thin she was and kept insisting that she was fat; forcing her to confront her body issues, Trinny took her pants off--revealing only a G-string--and compared the cellulite on her body to the woman's toned figure. It was truly eye-opening and rather depressing at the same time and even after Trinny had dropped trou, she really had to fight to get this women to see the truth.

What follows is two days of shopping hell--the first day unsupervised, the second day overseen by Style Svengalis Trinny and Susannah--which usually ends up in tears and tantrums, sometimes from both the hosts and the women they're making over. The results of the makeover are always amazing and it is inspiring to see these women transform, both on the inside as well as the outside. This show is less about cosmetics and the joys of wearing espadrilles than it is about forcing these women to see the beauty in each of them. (A sometimes daunting tasks considering how many of them flat out refuse to change, despite volunteering for the process.) I would usually find the concept to be corny but the road to realization is so painful at times--plus you get to see Trinny and Susannah nearly have nervous breakdowns in various department stores--that the show remains both serious and silly at the same time.

Ultimately, What Not to Wear is stylish and sassy. Much like Trinny and Susannah themselves.

"What Not to Wear" airs Wednesday evenings at 9 pm EST and 6 pm or 10 pm PST on BBC America.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: The Amazing Race (CBS); Deal or No Deal (NBC); One Tree Hill (WB); Alias (ABC); Bones (FOX); America's Next Top Model (UPN)

9 pm: Criminal Minds (CBS); Dateline (NBC); The Bedford Diaries (WB); Lost (ABC); American Idol/Unan1mous (FOX); America's Next Top Model (UPN)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Law & Order (NBC); Invasion (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

6 pm: What Not to Wear.

See above. On tonight's episode of the British import, two grandmothers get makeovers to match their youthful lifestyles. Aw, isn't that sweet?

8 pm: The Amazing Race.

Tonight's installment of The Amazing Race ("Do You Know How Much Running I Did Today, Phil?") sends the teams to the Land Down Under (maybe they'll run into the kids from 5 Takes: Pacific Rim?), where they'll have to ride tandem bicycles and a team picks up a hitchhiker.

8 pm: Alias.

On tonight's episode of the newly ratings-reinvigorated Alias ("There's Only One Sydney Bristow"), Sydney has to rescue her old friend Will (Bradley Cooper) from her old nemesis Anna Espinosa (the always sultry Gina Torres). Meanwhile--no, sorry, I can't do it. Too much bad blood between me and Alias for me to keep watching.

9 pm: Lost.

Tonight's episode of Lost is one of ABC's infamous pre-sweeps recap episodes ("Reckoning"). So if you've missed any of the clues--Ally, I am referring to you--here's your chance to catch up on the hatch, the balloon, the black smoke, the Other-Formerly-Known-as-Henry-Gale, and the zillion other mysteries that seem to abound on this fascinating, highly addictive drama.

10 pm: Top Chef.

On tonight's episode ("Wedding Bell Blues") of the real cooking showdown (heh, take that, NBC!), the teams must cater a commitment ceremony... with no advance planning. Meanwhile, one of the chefs uses store-bought cake mix for the wedding cake. (Shudder.) I think they'll maybe pull through. Just don't let Stephen give the toast...


Anonymous said…
HAHA - ok, you are right. I did pick up on the shout-out.

Even *I* am not that dense.

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