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The thing that you should know about True Beauty, well, the thing that ABC really, really wants you to know about it judging by the commercials, is that it is the brainchild of executive producers Ashton Kutcher and Tyra Banks. Evidently, the idea for the show sprung forth fully formed from their collective nine-head (that's Ashton's forehead plus Tyra's famed fivehead), like a terrible reality show beauty competition Athena hammering her way out of Zeus's skull. Could anything but pure televison idiocy drool from such a source? Of course not.


In fact, True Beauty seems to be almost equal parts Tyra and Ashton: It's a beauty competition with a panel of "expert" judges a la America's Next Top Model (Tyra), but there are also several hidden camera set-ups meant to reveal the contestants' true characters a la Punk'd (Ashton). Some of the pranks are meant to be funny (Ashton), but ultimately the audience is supposed to believe there's a deeper message, even though there clearly isn't (Tyra). Basically the show is equal parts ANTM, Punk'd, and the episodes of Tyra where she puts on a fat suit, or dresses up like a homeless person to get an in-depth, 50-minute look at what it's like to be dressed up like a fat or homeless person for half a day. In short, it's kind of a jumbled mess served on a bed of stupidity, hosted by Vanessa Minillo (who is credited as a former MTV VJ and a former Miss USA, but strangely not as Nick Lachey's Girlfriend, which is her most prominent role to date).

The show opens with Minillo intoning with her best Tyra Banks brand over-enunciation that somewhere in Los Angeles, 10 people are gathering at a mansion for a unique beauty competition. At stake: $100,000, a spot in People Magazine's 100 Most Beautiful People List, and the title of America's True Beauty. She doesn't mention the humiliation, because that's just an added bonus. But little do the contestants know that instead of an outer beauty contest, True Beauty is actually an inner beauty contest! Burn! They've just been Punk'd, I mean, True Beaut'd.

So how does one, or Vanessa Minillo, former model Cheryl Teigs, and ANTM cast away Nolé, evaluate a person's inner beauty? That's easy: with improv actors and hidden cameras. On tonight's episode, while the contestants luxuriated on Ikea couches literally five feet from the fake red carpet lined with fake paparazzi and fake on-lookers they'd just walked, their first inner beauty challenge appeared in the form of a waiter who pratfalled into their group, spilling what was apparently a tray full of chocolate sauce all over them. When the waiter/actor fell, Minillo mirthlessly guffawed so loud and long she's probably still laughing. Apparently, if you help your fellow human beings clean chocolate sauce off of their bodies, you have inner beauty. Other things that are great indicators of inner beauty: resisting the temptation to look at the other contestants' files in a doctor's office when they were obviously left out as a test to see whether or not you'd look at them, and holding the door open for a strategically placed PA/actor.

In the end, however, none of the inner beauty challenges mattered nearly as much as the contestants' aesthetic beauty. All ten were evaluated with a "beauty equation" by a plastic surgeon–or, as Minillo often referred to him, "science." The contestants with the highest beauty scores (anything above 85 is considered "good-looking," while anything above 95 is "star quality." Sounds scientific, right?) were allowed to remain in the competition, regardless of how they performed during the lame "inner beauty" challenges. So being pretty is most important after all.


The two deemed ugliest according to science–Chelsea, a girl whose eyeliner walks into a room about two minutes before she does, and Haddiyyah-lah, who has a hyphen in her name–were invited to the "Hall Of Beauty" for elimination. There, Chelsea was allowed to stay on the show, mostly because she had shown slightly more common courtesy to the PA/actor than Haddiyyah-lah. For her terrible displays of totally arbitrary inner ugly, Haddiyyah-lah was sent home, but not before Minillo made her watch a "you're a bad person" montage, which included shots of Haddiyyah-lah crying when Vanessa Minillo told her that, according to science, she's not that pretty. See, people with true, inner beauty aren't bothered when Nick Lachey's Girlfriend says those kinds of things to them. Then, as a final send-off, two janitors/actors took Haddiyyah-lah's portrait off the wall in the Hall Of Beauty and put it in a trash can (Tyra).

Grade: C-

Stray Observations:

—Who were those fake on-lookers surrounding the fake red carpet outside of the True Beauty house and how much do you think they were paid?

—For a show about beauty, the lighting seemed especially harsh, and the whole thing rather cheap-looking—but True Beauty probably has tons of inner beauty.

—Another element that was pure ANTM: Contestants who even question the judges or the challenges are instantly reprimanded. C. "when I walk into a room, it's like time freezes" J. had the audacity to question the plastic surgeon's "beauty equation" and was given many, many dirty looks.


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