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'The Beautiful Life: TBL,' premiering Wednesday on The CW

Glenn Garvin
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE: TBL

9-10 p.m. EDT Wednesday

The CW

It has been almost two decades since poor, benighted Linda Evangelista, mortally wounded by a lowball modeling offer, snapped, "I don't get out of bed for less than $10,000." And finally somebody has gotten around to making a TV show about the slings and arrows of outrageous (or maybe just outraged?) fortune suffered by the world's most oppressed minority, the supermodel.

"The Beautiful Life: TBL," The CW's new soap opera about lifestyles of the indolent and idiotic, is intended to simultaneously titillate the Barbie-esque fantasies of the network's teenybopper audience (those girls get paid lots of money to wear pretty clothes, and they didn't even have to pass algebra!) and propitiate its sense of social justice (being thin and gorgeous and rich doesn't make you happy, dammit, it doesn't!).

It stars Sara Paxton ("Last House On The Left") and Benjamin Hollingsworth ("The Line") as a pair of teenagers traipsing through the sort of post-apocalyptic world you might expect to result if somebody invented a bomb that killed everybody with a weight or IQ above 90.

Anorexic girls smeared with enough eye shadow to terrify a George Romero zombie shamble around everywhere, muttering lines like "She's so over!" Following in their wake are sexual predators of every conceivable gender and orientation, muttering lines like "How BADLY do you want this job?" There's even a Ghost of Model Decrepitude Future — Mischa Barton ("The O.C."), lumbering around unemployable at a full two pounds overweight and warning: "Don't feel sorry for me — this'll be you in a few years!"

"The Beautiful Life," in short, is hopelessly trashy melodrama about hopelessly trashy people. But Paxton, as a tougher-than-she-looks kid with a dark past, and Hollingsworth, as a callow Iowa farmboy trying to make it in the big city, are so unexpectedly affecting that you may find yourself sucked into the show against your will. Along with their performances, you can savor the fine irony of casting Elle McPherson as a ruthless agency owner — the same Elle McPherson who once said, "Acting and modeling have nothing to do with each other."


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