I really don't want to make this habit of me talking or reviewing American television, but certain things come up and I feel the need to talk about it. I'm sorry. Anyway, I've been a fan of America's Next Top Model for quite some time now. From its humble beginnings on the first cycle to the all-star battle, it has been an interesting and entertaining journey. Unfortunately, the Top Model train has gradually been losing steam for me and it feels like there is a lack of ideas of where to go and what to do. The most logical decision to this probably is to take a break and re-evaluate the show's goals or accept that the show had a good run and end it after the all-star season. Instead, they decided to take an already existing idea from overseas to America (a.k.a the British Invasion cycle) and then it went downhill from there.
If you're expecting me to jump on the bandwagon with critics and probably viewers about the harsh criticism, exploitation, and give and take input on beauty standards, then you're expecting too much of me...or you haven't been paying attention to my older posts. No, no, this little list consists of simple little gripes I've had for the past three cycles (Cycles 18-20). You know, legit reasons for why I've disliked them so much, instead of simply saying, "this cycle sucks!" I'm sure my opinions won't affect anything as I've learned they've been renewed for a Cycle 21 and there are people who will probably disagree, but it's an opinion. So, here we go!
Use of Social Media
I understand that today's youth and Top Model's demographic is dependent on social media, but television shows shouldn't have to do that. Viewer participation only has a place when it comes to music related shows like America's Got Talent, American Idol, and America's Best Dance Crew. Shows dealing with fashion should be decided by experts. The general public usually doesn't know the basis of what works and what doesn't. If I wanted casual fashion commentary from outside the industry, I would just ask my friends about what they think. In short, I don't think America should have a say of who meets the requirements of being a model, especially when some of those viewers are infamously known for tagging their amateur Instagram pictures and claiming that they're professional models. Ugh!
Change of Judges and Creative Director
Yes, I'm fully aware that the judges have not stayed consistent from cycle to cycle, but they stuck around long enough to prove their expertise to viewers. Janice Dickinson was blunt and honest with her criticism, Nigel Barker understood what it's like to be on both sides of the camera and understood the relationship between a photographer and a model, J. Alexander was an expert on the runway in various scenarios, Jay Manuel served as a mentor on set and provided tough love, and Twiggy gave helpful insight of the fashion business as a former model outside of America. That's just to name a few of the most well-known judges that have stuck around Top Model. Tyra and producers have made a mistake of letting go of Nigel, Miss J, and Jay Manuel to "rejuvenate" the show. I have nothing against Kelly Cutrone as she shares a somewhat similar cutthroat and blunt attitude Janice had in the beginning cycles and is well respected in the fashion industry, but the new additions lack something. British model Rob Evans is suppose to add or at least support Tyra's input as a model, but clearly serves as viewer eye candy and a grope toy for the host. Occasionally he has some good insight, especially in Cycle 20, but it tends to fall flat or becomes forgettable, especially when it is directed toward the female models. Fashion blogger Bryanboy was probably the most useless additions as his duty is to show us what the fans' opinions are on each photoshoot while adding short, quick commentary every now and then. Honestly, it's hard to even consider him a judge. Do we really need a mediator of social media on the show? Lastly, the biggest slap in the face, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj's stylist and former model Johnny Wujek filling in the position as creative director. Why was this the worst addition? While Jay had a great balance of professionalism and personal connections with the models, Johnny doesn't have any of that. He lacks the ability to delivery constructive criticism and saves his critiques for the off screen banter to the viewers. There's also a lack of encouragement and personable connection with the models.
Appearance of Lower Production
Maybe it's just me, but I have asked a couple friends if they felt the same way and they agree. Something about the photoshoots seem cheap in appearance, from the make-up to the concepts. Sometimes the clothes feel thrown on or the make-up is just haphazardly trying to look artistic on the girls' faces. The worst was Cycle 20's decision to add animation to the photos which makes it look even cheaper. The surprise overseas trips aren't as exciting either. It just feels like the budget went to all the wrong things like the judging set, irrelevant stunt challenges, and probably the paychecks for the guests. I just miss the excitement of the models going abroad and experiencing the culture and atmosphere, even though it is a brief moment on TV. I also miss the diversity of quality in the photoshoots from high fashion to commercial to editorial. Everything just looks like an advertisement I would flip by in a magazine without a second thought.
I don't know if I was the only person who was upset about The Tyra Show ending so she could pursue her degree at Harvard. I thought after Oprah's show ended that she could sweep up some of the viewers, but at last, she did not. Why am I bringing this up? Because Tyra did what she does best...boast her ego. Getting a college degree is still a big deal, especially from Harvard, but having a university themed cycle. The whole idea felt more like an excuse for Tyra to mention her college experience and nothing extremely new was brought to the table for the potential models. Another example is one of the reasons already listed which is the whole social media gimmick. What takes the cake is this past cycle, Cycle 20, where Tyra and the producers decided to add men to the mix. It's easy to capture cat fights and disagreements with a house full of women. That's a fact, but adding men is just pandering to those who live for reality, sex tension filled drama. Who was interested in who or whatever completely took away from the initial purpose of the show and made it like every other reality show with a house full of people.
Lack of Ideas
Most of the above mentioned could all be tied into this final complaint. Things that Tyra and the producers thought would freshen up the show: changing the judges and creative director, creating cycle themes (i.e. College, British Invasion, Girls vs. Guys), and getting the fans involved with the elimination process. Aside from those things, the concept for each photoshoot seems uninspired to me. Some of them seem like concepts I've seen before. I remember Top Model pushing the envelope in the creative department by playing with race, gender, ethnicity, social commentary, and so on. Another thing, as I mentioned before, was being excited about the models' experiences overseas, but the whole experience seems like an afterthought now as oppose to a staple experience to the show.