America's Next Top Model

Beware, you will find yourself picking a favourite, and you will find yourself genuinely wanting them to win.
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Beware, you will find yourself picking a favourite, and you will find yourself genuinely wanting them to win.

Anyone currently viewing Britain with indignation in the light of recent events on reality TV can take solace that, as is so often the case when society appears to spiralling out of control, things across the Atlantic are much, much worse. Quite how America’s Next Top Model made it to its fifth series without becoming the clinical benchmark for demented behaviour in broadcasting is a mystery, but the campaign to set that straight starts right here, right now. Though there are many similar shows on TV there really is nothing in quite the same league. It is the uncut, class A narcotic of the whole reality phenomenon, extremely entertaining at the expense of its contestants and hopelessly addictive to behold.

The format is familiar enough, 36 fame-hungry neurotics are whittled down to 13 then picked off weekly. What sets this apart are the contestants, who combine unusual bone structure with deep-seated behavioural problems in manner ordinarily confined to pedigree animals. To the best of my knowledge there is no single adjective in that can some up these young women’s relentless self-aggrandizement, impenetrable delusion and hysterical faith in their own their own imminent fame. In other cultures personalities like that might be sculpted into terrifying military, political, or religious leaders. But this is America and they just want to be models. In a way we really should be grateful.

The counterweight to all this mania comes in the form of the show’s judges, in particular Tyra Banks, a vision of sanity and serenity and who bestrides the whole event with the benign detachment of a farmer who knows that even their cutest lambs are bound for slaughter. Assisting Tyra on the road to the abattoir are her camp lieutenants, Jay Manuel and J Alexander who make Simon Cowell look slow- witted and accommodating by comparison.

En-masse, the girls are like a herd of six-foot babies. They applaud everything. They speak in half-baked psychobabble and yell inexplicable phrases like, “It’s all about me, baby!” and “I have pretty genes!” with dependable frequency. On an individual basis of course they’re more likeable. There’s the shrewd lesbian, the sassy Latino lawyer, the one who works at Dairy Queen and the one who has recovered from terminal illness the only lasting symptom of which is the fact she can’t shut up about it. But beware, you will find yourself picking a favourite, and you will find yourself genuinely wanting them to win.

Anyone currently viewing Britain with indignation in the light of recent events on reality TV can take solace that, as is so often the case when society appears to spiralling out of control, things across the Atlantic are much, much worse. Quite how America’s Next Top Model made it to its fifth series without becoming the clinical benchmark for demented behaviour in broadcasting is a mystery, but the campaign to set that straight starts right here, right now. Though there are many similar shows on TV there really is nothing in quite the same league. It is the uncut, class A narcotic of the whole reality phenomenon, extremely entertaining at the expense of its contestants and hopelessly addictive to behold.