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21st November
written by Steph
I have a confession to make: I am a big fan of bad reality television. Don't get me wrong - I like good reality tv just fine as well (ever since I started watching The Amazing Race in its fourth or fifth season, I haven't missed an episode... also, I own several seasons of Project Runway on dvd, and really enjoy Top Chef too), but there is something immensely satisfying about low-brow reality television. Maybe it is that these shows allow for awkward trainwrecks that far surpass anything even the most creative person could ever come up with, or maybe it's the complete wackadoos who inevitably feature on such shows... I don't know. It's like poutine - all junky and bad for you, and yet oh so satisfying. It is a problem, I realize. I had a brief and very unhealthy relationship with "The Hills", when the various cast members started being featured in the mainstream media and I just wanted to know who the heck these people were. And then I found out that I could watch every episode ever on MTV's website and it was all over for me. I think "The Hills" is probably the worst form of entertainment to ever happen, as it really is not at all entertaining as truly NOTHING EVER HAPPENS on it... but I still watched four full seasons of it before I had had enough of its vapid plastic people. I also binge on marathons of other MTV programs, such as "My Super Sweet 16", which never ceases to blow my mind each and every time. Or what about their short-lived series "Underage and Engaged"? All it did was follow around "underage" couples who were planning their weddings, ultimately culminating in their special day. Did the fact that the youngest couple on the show was maybe 18 (so, no actual underage people then) deter me from watching? Of course not! Such titular inconsistencies really don't bother me much. I think my favorite episode featured the lesbian couple who, shortly after their commitment ceremony aired, broke up and MTV removed their episode from their website. See? It's all about the life lessons: don't move to LA, don't be a spoiled kid, and don't get married if you're still in one of those experimenting phases of your life! But above all of these shows, sits the paragon of a "so bad, it's good!" reality program. And that show is, of course, America's Next Top Model. I have unabashedly enjoyed the craziness that is ANTM for many many seasons (or "cycles" as Tyra would have you call them), never deterred by the fact that it is often the runners-up who are more successful than the actual winners, who more often than not fade into immediate obscurity. Having watched the program from other countries (the last two seasons of Australia's NTM were AMAZING), it is clear that the American program is really not all that concerned with selecting individuals who will have anything resembling a successful modeling career. For one thing, most successful fashion models (the nameless, walking fashion hangers, at least) tend to be approximately 14 years old. At a minimum entry age of 18, the American girls are often well past their prime... At least the Aussie version of the show lets 16-year olds compete, which is a tad more realistic. Then again, at least the American show has a vastly superior budget as compared to, oh, let's say, Canada's Next Top Model (which is hosted by the lesser of the two Jays (that is, the small orange one), no less). Anyway, all of this is to say, that I know my modeling shows (you can imagine my disappointment several years back upon discovering that the listing for "Manhunt" in the tv guide, was for a show on the History Channel, and therefore not about discovering male models). In general, I enjoy fashion-based shows (see comment re: Project Runway above), so even though I must admit that I haven't followed the past two and half seasons or so of ANTM (I'm sure I'll eventually catch up with them when I have some large project due that I wish to procrastinate on), I was intrigued by "Stylista". After all, how could it not be gold with a mastermind like Tyra Banks behind it? [Note: The show is a trainwreck, guys... I'm not saying you should watch it unless you enjoy that kind of thing.] The basic premise behind the show is that it's the reality competitive tv version of "The Devil Wears Prada" - a group of 13 (?) individuals compete for a junior editor position at Elle magazine. Now, of course, unlike a modeling or fashion designing competition, it's a bit more difficult to come up with appropriate challenges for a position that essentially amounts to "intern"... which is why every week the remaining competitors have to execute both a menial assistant task (e.g., pick out and compose a breakfast for Anne Slowey (aka "Miranda Priestly/Anna Wintour wannabe"; pick out an outfit with this $1000 for Anne Slowey that she can take on a last-minute weekend trip to the Hamptons; etc.,) as well as a more editorially minded task (e.g., put together a style page or a page detailing a hidden gem that is desirable to Elle readers and can be found in China Town). So, the challenges are fairly lame, and probably wouldn't be that hard if these people had two neurons to rub together (or you know, to form a synaptic circuit so that even some remotely reasonable reflexive behavior could start occurring)... What is most awesome is how horribly awkward Anne Slowey is in every scene, as she wears things that are only marginally less ridiculous than the things Tyra Banks outfits herself in, and appears to have some kind of difficulty walking in heels that a) might be due to one of her legs being dramatically shorter than the other; and b) definitely detracts from her "imposing" entrances/exits. She also occasionally affects a weird faux-unsuccessful-Britishy accent every so often that's funny, and proclaims things like "Cantaloupe should never be mixed with any other fruit," and "I don't do almonds unless they've been soaked overnight." If only she held heart-to-hearts with contestants and encouraged them to cry, she would be poised to take over Tyra's daytime tv reign! Then there are the contestants who are all tragic in their own ways: there's the token fat girl who gets excessively complimented on her style, only because Anne Slowey doesn't want to be so obvious that you can't be a fatty and work in fashion; the rich bitch who claims she's very cunning and intelligent, but every "scheme" she comes up with backfires; the girl whose mom was a model back in the; the gay dude who is overly catty given his actual level of talent... and there are probably others (or maybe not), but the best is the "former law student" Kate who is just a total disaster. She is always crying and then fighting with people, and at first I felt bad for her (for about the first 25 minutes of the first episode) because I thought people were being unjustifiably mean to her, but she's so ridiculous. She realizes that people hate her, but then can't figure out what she might be doing to alienate and ENTIRE house full of people; it's one thing to have an arch-nemesis, it's another for everyone who has met you to dislike you. Having gotten some praise from Anne, she now resolutely refuses to listen to others, and says things like "Of course I don't work well in teams - I'm a taurus!" I suspect she will make it to the final three, simply because she is so deluded and makes for good tv. Other predictions? Rich bitch and Chinese translator girl (Johanna! I forgot about her) also make it to the final three, and I suspect Johanna takes it all, because she is clearly the most professional of the group. That is if the show doesn't get canceled before the finale! (And to think, I'm up to date on this crap, but three weeks behind on Dexter... obviously I need to reprioritize my viewing habits...)

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  1. 11/21/2008

    Nice Site layout for your blog. I am looking forward to reading more from you.

    Tom Humes

  2. taryn

    Ahahahaa, i totally remember Manhunt!!

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