The gravitron of ridiculousness that Tyra built, America's Next Top Model is now on its eleventh cycle–a fact that sends shivers up the spine, and waves of nausea up the esophagus. Still, Bankable Productions' ability to crank out the cycles is nothing short of amazing. Considering her output, Tyra Banks is like the Woody Allen of CW reality modeling shows that have little to nothing to do with modeling.
To give you an idea of exactly how many cycles eleven cycles is, one of the contestants (Joslyn) on tonight's two-hour premiere was able to audition for the show "over 30" times. Is that even possible? Apparently. Should that be possible? Definitely not. Even Tyra seemed skeptical and a little weirded out by that fact.
But without 10 cycle/seasons of practice, Tyra wouldn't have had the opportunity to shape and hone her chosen craft: outrageous, gratuitous, utterly corny displays of ego. And tonight's entrance into the Top Model Institute of Technology might very well be her best/worst work yet. Her entire career on UPN and the CW have all been leading up to that magical moment of "system overload" of the Glaminator 11.0 (aka, re-purposed shower stall from Home Depot), when the door slid open and there stood TyraBot in all of her ridiculous, futuristic (read: silver lipstick) glory.
[Insert 60 solid seconds of the requisite contestant screaming and Tyra compliments "She is really hot! And tall!"]
Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the cornball parade that was the ANTM Institute of Technology premise in the first half of the premiere. The cheap lightning effects, the cheesy "beaming" flashes, "Alpha Jay and Beta Jay" in all their creepy spacesuit finery, the constant repetition of "Beam me up fiercely!" (the Bankable employee who thought up that phrase must have gotten a bonus Cover Girl Hip Slicks tube in their paycheck), the hand scan: it was all so deliciously stupid. And just thinking about how awkward it must have been for Tyra and the Jays to stand there and pretend to be beamed up (fiercely) in front of all the contestants is pretty funny.
Following the traditional two cuts (the first via handscan, the second via Tyrabot), the girls were whittled down to a tidy 14, featuring at least one token bitch (Clark, who looks like a Clark), one militant vegan (Elina), two hippie-ish girls who are virtually interchangable (Annaleigh and Hannah), one loud ego balloon on legs (Sharaun, nee Brittany B.), two quiet possibly normal girls (Lauren and Brittany R.), one ultimate fighter with really bad hair (McKey, nee Brittany S.), two utterly dense but enjoyable girls (Samantha and Nikeysha), one Kimora Lee Simmons lookalike (Sheena), one lovably awkward French weirdo (Marjorie), one lovably loud Southern weirdo (Joslyn), and, of course, one transsexual (Isis, who is pretty much guaranteed to make top three).
Naturally, as soon as the girls moved into their L.A. home/Tyra shrine, a number of them started gossiping about Isis. Apparently Clark and Hannah are uncomfortable thinking about what Isis has, you know, down there. Not that they're "close-minded" or anything. (Incidentally, Clark, if you have to preface a statement with, "I'm not close-minded," then you're about to make a close-minded statement. Kind of like how if you're shown on ANTM making bitchy comments about someone's photo shoot, you're inevitably going to be proven wrong and take a worse photo than the person you were bitching about.)
Later on, at the convoluted voting issues photo shoot, Sharaun (who chose that name with that spelling for herself, so she has no excuse) lead a group of the girls in insulting Isis as Isis was trying to convey that privacy was important, voting is sexy, and voting is super-important all at once. Despite the distractions, Isis managed to do just that (according to Tyra and/or the little man on a bicycle inside her brain who spins and spins to keep her thoughts moving). Still, it's not surprising that Isis did so well: She looks more like a model than most of the girls, which makes sense because apparently she was a working model before trying out for the show.
In the end, the nice, weird, model-looking girls (Isis and Marjorie) were able to fit the weird parameters of the convoluted voting issues photo shoot best, so they came out on top. And the mean, not-very-model-y girls (Clark, Sharaun) came out closer to the bottom, with Sharaun getting kicked off for a terrible interpretation of "homeland security meets sexiness," as well as a terrible, constantly inflating ego to rival Tyra's.
--Early favorites: Isis, Marjorie, Joslyn, Samantha. Early hatreds: Clark, Elina, Hannah.
--"The photo shoot was like the coolest thing ever. It's like Politics. The economy. I'm representing." You said it, Samantha.
--Ever notice how the shots of the contestants during their down-time at the Top Model school resemble a prison yard on the verge of a riot? It's always so crowded, and echo-y, and loud, and it feels like everyone could snap, shank in hand, at any minute.
--Sharaun: "I am America's Next Top Model." Then why does it look like you're eating your face when you say that? She was basically asking to be eliminated.
--How many times are we going to see that Tyra-as-postal-worker picture this cycle/season? Just contemplating that number makes me nostalgic for the terrible Tyra-mail ticker of Cycle 10.
--Mr. Jay's shoes: Higher, lower, or equal heel to Prince's shoes?