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The Goddess Was Discovered By Her Gait: "Top Model" Looks to Scale Mount Olympus in Cycle Twelve

Oh, the shrieking.

Yes, I'm talking about yet another cycle of the ubiquitous CW reality competition series America's Next Top Model, which kicks off its twelfth cycle tonight.

This season seems to be especially high on high-impact casting: it seems as though each of the contestants this year seems to have some sort of life-changing experience, medical issue, or just plain "quirky" backstory that the producers are thrusting front and center.

In the first hour alone, we're introduced to an epileptic, a burns survivor, a girl so obsessed with blood that she's been craving a nosebleed all of her life, a street preacher, and a woman who spends two nights in a toilet stall in Manhattan's Port Authority so she can audition for the series... and, we're told, whose infant daughter died from an epileptic fit.

Overkill? Yep, it's all a little much and this type of casting threatens to turn Top Model into yet another iteration of host/executive producer Tyra Banks' eponymous talk show. There's something to be said for using a reality competition as a platform to educate and inform but here it seems that every cycle includes more and more in-your-face casting choices rather than, well, casting young women who might actually find success as a model.

As for the quality of the contestants, it's still too early to tell just which models we should be keeping an eye on. There are a few who are gifted with natural beauty, others with that blank canvas quality that the judges are so enamored of season after season... and then there's Sandra, a Kenyan beauty who should be able to compete on her jaw-dropping good looks and stunning poise but who seems determined to knock out her competition through subterfuge and manipulation.

Which, yes, has been a rather crucial element of Top Model since the very beginning. But there's definitely a feeling that we've seen all of this before on the series. The premiere episode is set at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and casts the girls as ancient Greco-Roman goddesses, definitely a better fit than last cycle's disastrous faux-futuristic space lab setting. Along the way there are some touches that take the them a little far: the little Roman tunics, the gold laurel wreaths bestowed on the girls lucky enough to make it to the next round, and rather typically, the girls descending into a squabbling frenzy at the photo shoot that proves just how mortal--rather than divine--they truly are.

I've been on the fence about whether or not to watch this next cycle and the first episode doesn't allay those fears about predictability. Yes, Top Model is heading to a new location: Manhattan's Upper East Side (likely so that the network can do some cross-brand promotion with Gossip Girl) but I don't know that it's enough to reinvigorate a series that been showing some distinct signs of aging of late.

And in the modeling business, there's no worse thing than to be a model who doesn't quite realize she's the oldest one in the room.

Cycle 12 of America's Next Top Model premieres tonight at 8 pm ET/PT on the CW.


Anonymous said…
Yikes. I thought the last season (sorry..."cycle") was trying too hard but this one sounds even worse. Is this Top Model or The Real World?

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