Reviews

Americas Next Top Model

Lee Wang

In all likelihood, Melrose just doesn't understand the rhythms of a reality TV season: she should have saved her breakdown for Week Eight.

America's Next Top Model

Airtime: Wednesdays, 8pm ET
Cast: Tyra Banks, Nigel Barker, J. Alexander, Twiggy, Jay Manuel
Subtitle: Cycle Seven
Network: The CW
Trailer: cwtv.com/cw-vid-antm.html
US release date: 2006-09-20
Website
Amazon

To inaugurate the CW network, America's Next Top Model splashes down with its two-hour premiere, full of the expected bitch-fests and tears. Yet the Top Model premiere is also rife with imbalance. The first half relies on voyeuristic spectacles, while the second attempts to break out the dramatic fireworks without setting up the necessary melodrama. In either case, the premiere limps along the lines of a spectacle, without much narrative shape.

The first half is devoted to the hordes of semifinalists. Of the 33, nearly two-thirds won't survive this first hour. As usual, these eliminations are premised on voyeuristic spectacle. The semifinalists isolated in an interview room before the judges (Tyra Banks, Jay Manuel, and J. Alexander), who ritually compel several of the girls to recount traumatic childhood narratives. Leangela went from "homeless to Homecoming queen." African American Monique is the darkest-skinned member of her family. AJ is a 20-year-old cervical cancer survivor. Megan is an orphan who survived a plane crash in a freezing field only because she was kept warm by her mother's body.

After they tell their stories, the episode seems done with them, as the tragedies are unconnected to any overarching narrative, only asking viewers to gape at and pity the girls for their brief moments before the panel. Like sideshows or exhibition pieces in glass cases, the stories stop the action, and then we move on.

Where this episode's first half lacks any narrative payoff, the second is all payoff without setup. The competition constitutes the bulk of Top Model and always breeds tears and outlandish melodrama from the high-pressure and close-quarter situations. But such melodrama is effective only as the consequence of a compelling emotional buildup. Lacking that, the second half focuses attention on the most dramatic contestants, Monique and Melrose.

As the early frontrunner for this season's villain, Monique loses out on claiming a bed (producers only supply the house with 11 beds for the 13 girls). Instead, she usurps Eugena's bed by dripping water over it. "I... marked my territory," she explains. "I deserve a bed!" Later, during an all-important conference to hash out the house's bathing rules, Monique refuses to deny herself her God-given right to hour-long showers. "I don't care where I'm at, that's just me, that's just what I do," she says. "As much as I rush, I still take a long shower." When housemate Amanda asks her to change her habits in the spirit of sisterly camaraderie, Monique replies, "That's just Monique. That's just what I do."

Like all memorable villains, Monique seems to threaten the status quo through her obstinate refusal to compromise, but in truth, the girls have yet to establish a status quo before she starts throwing her weight around. The show accelerates from 0 to Diva in so little time that viewers are left to wonder if they missed anything earlier in the episode.

Similarly, the show's other burgeoning diva Melrose indulges in stereotypical model behavior, but her histrionics have no context; it's only the first episode, after all. At one point, Melrose collapses into a puddle of tears. Though the events that lead up to this outburst are obvious, they also seem too inconsequential to warrant the intensity of her reaction. As with Monique, viewers feel cheated out of the lead-up to her response (reality TV is less about the results than it is about the journeys, after all). Then again, maybe viewers didn't miss anything and it's Melrose who's missing something. Sanity? Perhaps. In all likelihood, however, she just doesn't understand the rhythms of a reality TV season: Melrose should have saved her breakdown for Week Eight.

In the end, the Top Model premiere is schizophrenic. The first half tries to exhibit the girls as spectacular sideshows and nothing more, while the second half offers melodrama without an emotional base. Such fracturing fails to entertain. I'm starting to wonder if Tyra is fallible after all.

4

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image