Thursday, September 16, 2010

ANTM, Cycle 15: Return to the Glory Days?

Every time a new cycle of America's Next Top Model begins, I brace myself for Tyra's self-serving antics, bad special effects, and girls who scream at each other because they're not "real" or "respectful." Ever since Cycle 8 or so, the show's felt a little empty, like it needed to be put out to pasture. There were Wal-Mart challenges, guys. It was serious.

But I'm starting to think Cycle 15 may be singing a different tune. Has Tyra listened to fan feedback (aka common sense) and restructured the show to be more like cycles of yore and yesteryear? Gasp! It certainly seems like it.

This all seems to have stemmed from the fact that this is the "high fashion cycle." (Sorry, Wal-Mart.) The winner gets a cover of Italian Vogue, and Tyra's name is on the line. She can't deliver a half-assed winner like she could for Ann Shoket at Seventeen! Italian Vogue is legit. The girl can't be chosen because of her personality or because Tyra thinks she'd be a good "Cover Girl," whatever that means. Girl's gotta take flawless photos, consistently, and be intelligent about the business. This is serious pressure. And because of it, Tyra appears to be making sensible decisions again.

For example, Ms. Banks seems to have spent her budget on luring in actual icons of the fashion industry and not on superfluous CGI for worn-out gimmicks. Diane Von Furstenberg was there, y'all! And she didn't even seem bored out of her mind - because she's technically too good for this show. It's amazing! I was tired of seeing the same rotation of people involved because Tyra didn't want to add anyone on payroll.

Furthermore, the girls seem well-cast, personality-wise, which is hugely important. There's only so much needless bitchiness I can take, and last cycle I about had my fill. (How was it that no one was likeable?!) This cycle has its teen mom, its awkward swan, its biracial butterfly, its resident lesbian, and its girl-with-an-eating-disorder, but these tropes are playing out in compelling ways thus far. Last night's episode tactfully touched on homosexuality and anorexia, letting Tyra indulge in her therapist role without playing dress-up and overacting. Seeing Tyra sit down with the girls so early on was actually a treat. She had previously stepped away from the "I'm your cool aunt Tyra!" role adopted in the early cycles. But last night, she was refreshingly present. I guess when you're footing a model for Italian Vogue you better spend some time with her and make sure she's not going to destroy your reputation.

In short, this bit of added pressure is doing the show some good. So far we've witnessed a mini renaissance of the things that made us like this show in the first place: Tyra being silly but taking it seriously, interesting personalities interacting (sans temper tantrums), and focus on the modeling itself. And the best part? Tyra doesn't seem to be attempting to coin any new phrases! It's gonna be a good cycle.

I look forward to seeing the rest of you, 15! Don't prove me wrong here.

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