You might be asking yourself, why exactly does America need another reality competition seeking its next top model when Tyra Banks and her bumbling brigade of Fierceness continue to trounce across our television sets every few months or so, and then ad nauseum whenever VH1 runs out of washed-up TV stars to follow around? I can answer that question in two words, my friends.
Nine seasons–shit, cycles, I mean cycles!–in, Top Model is pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of interesting "characters." Though to be fair, there are only so many obscure diseases to go around. But take even the most tiresome quirk–a propensity toward tuxedo shirts, being a "professional skimboarder"–and slap it atop a six-pack and a man-pout and ta-da! Instant intrigue. And by intrigue I mean comedy.
Make Me A Supermodel essentially throws Bravo's pseudo-sophisticated sheen atop Top Model's basic premise, and then mixes in 50 percent more penis and a dash of viewer participation, asking the audience to choose between seven female and seven male models whom they want to be a "supermodel," which as we all know by this point means precisely shit. (Where are you CariDee? Naima? How's life as a Brady treating you Adrianne?) Tonight's casting special didn't reveal much in the way of how challenges and voting will work–that will come with next week's official premiere–but it did begin to set the tone for the rest of the series.
While Supermodel spouts a lot of the same "modeling is hard work" and "this is my DREAM you guys, for reals!" claptrap as Top Model, it so far lacks the tiresome (or should I say TYRA-some, BAM!) "inspirational" bent that makes that show so unbearable at times. No one involved in Supermodel, including hosts Tyson Beckford and Niki Taylor, has yet indicated that they believe this competition to be about anything other than who is the best-goddamn-looking. And that's refreshing, as it leaves them free to poke and prod a lineup of models like they were so much state-fair livestock without having to couch it in any "but you're beautiful on the inside" horsepucky.
With only a casting special to go on, not many faces stand out just yet (always a good sign when you're essentially auditioning to become a human billboard). The male models are pretty collectively enjoyable, if only because men tossing their hair and saying things like "every time I walk by my reflection, I'm thinking of poses," will always be entertaining forever and ever, but with the exception of early favorite Jacki and Hair Bob, a.k.a. Holly, the female faces are a big white blur (and I mean white… despite that girl who said "ethnicity is hot," I'm not seeing a whole lotta melanin in this cast). Two of the final 14, Ben and Angelica, were "saved" by online voters, and I think they got it right with mush-mouth Ben, whose deer-in-headlights terror (despite the fact that he works in a jail) is endearing, though I can't imagine him adding much drama-wise, which means he probably won't last.
It's also a little early to be judging the hosts, but it's clear that neither Tyson nor Niki have been drinking anywhere near as much crazy juice as Ms. Banks. In fact, Niki Taylor is practically catatonic, but she does provide ample opportunity for the male models to awkwardly flirt with her. Tyson Beckford seems to be running for the Sweetest Reality Show Host title, giving lots of "keep chasing your dreams" speeches and defending that zit-faced girl against the other judges ("Maybe she's just nervous"). He has a little more flair than Niki, but he'll have to learn to move the upper half of his face if he's gonna win me over.
—Anyone here watch So You Think You Can Dance? 'Cause I'm pretty sure that "Sex" who tried out here was the same "Sex" who tried out the past two seasons of SYTYCD. Quite the career this guy's working on for himself.
—Who loved 40-year-old Robert, who, when asked why he was auditioning, basically said, "I dunno, I saw a line, I thought I'd stand in it and see what happened." THAT'S how you get discovered, models!
—When Shannon said, "I'm actually a man," glorious visions of America's first gender dysphoric supermodel floated through my head; but no, she just "acts like a guy." Fuck you, Shannon, for crushing my dreams.
—"Photoshoot" equals "awkwardly pretend to have sex while some producer dude snaps Polaroids." GLAMOR!
—I'm pretty sure this will kick in next episode, but come on Bravo, I expect a little more production value from you guys than Polaroids taped to a corkboard and a folding table. I mean, I'm not looking for Chinese dragons appearing out of nowhere or giant blown-up photos of Tyra Banks' face everywhere, but give me something to look at besides terrified models against a white backdrop for an hour.