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Sneak Peak: The First Two Episodes of Catfights-and-Catwalks Series "Top Model"

Confession: I came to Top Model pretty late in the game, despite some people (ahem, you know who you are!) telling me that I had to tune in for several seasons (sorry, cycles). I'm glad that I did end up succumbing to its twisted spell; the series is pretty darn addictive, if only for its unintentional humor, surreal photo shoots, and the high drama and (sometimes) high fashion of its abrasive contestants.

So I was overjoyed to take a sneak peek over the holiday weekend at the tenth cycle's first two episodes and look at some of the drastic changes in store for the CW-based reality series. It's definitely hard for a series like Top Model to sustain the same energy and drive of earlier seasons, but so far this season proves to have a new spark, perhaps due to the series moving production from Los Angeles to that fashion epicenter, Manhattan.

The first hour, which airs on Wednesday evening, is the typical casting special we've come to know and love from previous cycles. This year's theme is slightly overdone but pretty darn fun: model prep school. (Hey, at least it's not the model boot camp again.) Miss Jay and Mr. Jay handle the tutorials as they coach the 35 girls in all things model-y, from critiquing their runway walk and bearing to dressing them up in schoolgirls' uniforms for a photo shoot for their "senior class picture." This being Top Model, a wide swath of them is cut from pack in this first installment, so don't get too attached to some of the girls.

So what worked in these first two episodes? Let's take a look.

I Heart New York. Call me crazy, but I really do think one of the best things for the series was to shift it from LA to NYC. For one, it gives the reality statesman a new patina of both newfound respectability and some much-needed grit. What better place for their new homebase than the heart of American fashion? And right away, the effect is felt: a Times Square runway show for designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka of Badgley Mischka pushes the girls in their very first challenge as finalists. Some are incredibly confident, others completely clueless. But it's clear from the open segments in Manhattan, that the pressure is on for these model wannabes.

Girls, Girls, Girls. I really like this new crop of fourteen girls, even though there are some (cough, Marvita, cough) that I could have done without. But Top Model insists on letting previous semi-finalists come back again for another shot, so this cycle we've landed ourselves another second chancer in the form of abrasive Marvita who lacks the humility of Jaslene (who was herself overlooked prior to her winning run on ANTM). Completely confused by awkward punk artist Lauren who is so completely ill-at-ease in her body, in heels, and in high fashion, but if Tyra & Co. do manage to craft a model out of her, I will be beyond impressed. Amis already irritates me to no end and Hawaiian surfer girl Anya wouldn't bother me so much if she just stopped talking. As for baby doll Kimberly and her constant whining about how she thinks spending money on expensive clothes is wasteful? What on earth did you think the modeling/fashion business was all about?

On the plus side, I am totally intrigued by Somalian-born genital mutilation-survivor Fatima; she is a dead ringer for Iman and I can't wait to see what they do with her hair. The girl is gorgeous and has the perfect face for modeling; she's clearly the one to beat. I think Dominique is reminiscent of Journeyman's Moon Bloodgood, but the judges insist on telling her that she looks like a drag queen. Cornell graduate Katarzyna is another one to watch; her polished Polish looks make her a virtual lookalike for supermodel Paulina Porizvoka.

Speaking of which...

PAULINA! Top Model's newest judge first turns up at Elite Model Management as part of their "teach" in the second week. There she offers critiques of the models' looks and offers suggestions on what to avoid and what to play up as the move forward in the competition. And before you know it, the former face of Estée Lauder turns up at judging panel in a gorgeous purple gown and takes her place of honor at the table.

I'll be blunt: I don't miss Twiggy one bit. While the "fashion icon and living legend" was fun at first (and softened the judging table after the departure of catty Janice), she quickly began to get on my nerves in recent seasons as she seemed to "love" anything and everything that the girls did and often picked her favorites from the bottom of the pile. In her first appearance, Paulina appears gentle but critical and, unlike Twiggy, more of a realist about the girls and their abilities.

Me, I've always loved Paulina and can't wait to see how she interacts with the girls and the other judges. In her first outing, she proves a worthy opponent to Nigel Barker himself, so you've got to give the woman credit for not being afraid to shake things up.

In the end, Top Model is back with a new look, new locale, and new judge Paulina Porizvoka. Me, I couldn't be happier.

America's Next Top Model airs Wednesday evenings at 8 pm ET/PT on the CW.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: NCIS (CBS); Biggest Loser (NBC; 8-10 pm); Reaper (CW); Just for Laughs/Just for Laughs (ABC); American Idol (FOX; 8-10 pm)

9 pm: Big Brother 9 (CBS); One Tree Hill (CW); According to Jim/Carpoolers (ABC)

10 pm: Jericho (CBS); Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC); Boston Legal (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

9 pm: Last Restaurant Standing on BBC America.

On the third episode of this addictive British import, the pressure is on for the remaining eight couples to make their restaurants as profitable as possible in their second week open by adding pricey cocktails and desserts. The pressure is on and it pushes some couples to their breaking points.


Anonymous said…
I don't know what the CW is thinking, pitting ANTM against Idol.

Why are they making me pick between my two favorite guilty TV pleasures...(except for Rock O Love, of course)?

Sorry Miss Tyra, since I must choose, I choose Idol.
Anonymous said…
I'm excited to see Paulina on ANTM. I think she'll bring some much needed spunk to the judges' table!
Anonymous said…
ANTM got its start in NYC where it should have stayed but Tyra had her talkshow so ANTM had to move to LA. The move back to NYC was done more for Tyra wanting to be with her new millionaire boyfriend than anything else. The show is all about Tyra all the time. Given that no real "Top Model" has come out of the show in 10 "cycles" (I'll make an exception for Dani Evans but the best she could do is walking in Chris March's Project Runway show) and it was disclosed that Tyra knew and worked with the eventual winner, Saleisha, ANTM is more camp than realistic and viewers shouldn't expect much more than that. That all said, I will of course TIVO this show and watch it on the weekends at my leisure.

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