Now, I have seen every episode of this show for the American, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, and British versions, so you know I enjoy the show. As I said in one of my other posts, I really enjoy competition based reality TV (probably in part because I wish I could do some of the things they do and in part because the dynamics of people in competition is so interesting, even if edited for television). And while I would never be interested in modeling myself, there’s something fun about other people whining and cat fighting their way through the competition.
Having seen the different versions, I will say that the American version is the winner in most areas. By that I mean of course, that Tyra Banks makes for a much better host than any of the others, perhaps because she is the most dynamic (possibly crazy) and the most invested in the aspiring models’ future. She gets down with the girls, gets involved if not leads the antics, and is not afraid to cry on camera. The other judges on the American version are also a bigger part of the show, with bigger personalities and bigger mouths. (Janice Dickinson anyone? Can’t help but miss her.) I wonder if this is simply because they haven’t found someone as lively and dynamic for the other shows or if it has something to do with the difference in culture.
I will say though that only the Australian and New Zealand versions have ever had a winner that I completely agreed with and while that could just be that I don’t know enough about the fashion world, I think it sometimes has more to do with favoritism.
Without a doubt, Tyra Banks is a marketing genius. She used the show to recreate her career, earning a second show to host, a clothing line at Walmart, an outlet to take pictures which can be used to boost her photography career, etc. She was even able to spin her weight gain in a positive light in the press, where most celebrities take a bashing and then either lose weight or drop off the radar.
In America, the show, in its thirteenth “cycle”, has hit the one upping point (aka jumped the shark named for when Fonzi literally jumped over a shark on Happy Days) by going the gimmicky route: aliens, dragons, a season of only under 5 foot 7 models (how that will really change the show I’m not sure), not to mention the strange things Miss Jay does like wigs and bow ties that grow bigger each week “to represent the girl who’s left the competition”. This is one of the points where I would say the international versions are winning since they have only had 5 cycles so far and have not felt the need to use such antics (yet at least, but who can imagine them doing so?).
Something that I find funny about the show is the sometimes incredibly obnoxious and occasionally shocking behavior of the contestants. The fashion industry is one where if people don’t like working with you they will just decide not to hire you, regardless of what you can do. Especially if you aren’t a big name. And yet, they sometimes resort to sabotage, bullying, and wild behavior that only tarnishes their reputation. Do they forget that they are on a television show which will definitely air their behavior and possibly ruin their careers before they start? Maybe they just can’t help themselves. Girls in close quarters and all that jazz.
While the girls always win CoverGirl campaigns as part of the prize package, you can’t help but wonder why these commercials only air during Top Model itself. Otherwise it’s a different model or actress in the commercial. (Granted, I don’t watch all that much television on actual tv anymore, but it’s almost as though they want to hold up the commercial to prove its success, only emphasizing its failure.)
As for the success of the winners of the show…well, I can’t say I’ve heard much on that front. I think it’s given them (and other contestants who lasted more than a few episodes) a book to show at castings, which gives them a leg up against other aspiring models, but none of them has had a career to really talk about. The first winner, Adrianne Curry went the Surreal Life, My Fair Brady route that washed her career away before it had the opportunity to take off. At the same time she has modeled for a number of ads and hosted or participated in random television shows, so while no one takes her seriously she’s certainly further ahead than where she started. It seems that while many of the girls have gone on to carve out careers for themselves in the Fashion Industry, we have yet to see a true top model. Will the show ever truly discover the next “It” girl?
(And just to be clear, just because I categorized the show as one that won’t go away, doesn’t mean I want it to. I’d be more than happy if ANTM stuck around for more.)
Own season one now: America’s Next Top Model – Cycle 1