TV’s newest broadcast network, The CW–"We’re just like UPN and The WB, except greener"–debuted last night, with a two-hour installment of America’s Next Top Model. Some thoughts, in no particular order:
* Dudes, dial down the green graphics. Seriously. It’s the next morning and I can still see bright orange when I stare at a blank white wall. I think you may have given me retinal burn-in.
* Speaking of the interstitial CW stuff, is every night going to be a festival of advertainment like last night’s? Top Model, like so many reality shows, is of course already full of product placements, but on top of that we had to segue to CW’s premiere night "report" from Fashion Week, chockablock with commercial plugs, and then to the actual commercials. Listen, I can laugh off the relentless advertorialization of TV as well as any other postmodern cynic, but go much further down this road and I may as well be watching HSN.
* ANTM is always as fun to watch for Tyra Banks’ self-promotional shamelessness as for the competition. (Remember the so-inconspicuously placed plugs for her new CD a few seasons back?) But this premiere outdid all others for sheer Tyraphilia, climaxing with the theme of the house, which was decorated with mock editorial layouts for "Tyra magazine"–even the Tyra Mail bulletins were laid out like subscription cards. (And suspiciously familiar ones to anyone who gets the dead-tree analog of this website. You had to figure we’d regret this sooner or later.) She’s not Oprah, but she plays her on TV.
* Is "Melrose" the real name of that model? Or did she step off a bus in LA and name herself after the first street sign she saw? Because "Sepulveda" would have been much prettier.
* I usually defend to the death envelope-pushing reality TV concepts, but last night’s ANTM photo shoot was not so much offensive as annoying, for how badly the producers clearly wanted it to offend someone and generate publicity. Having a model get slathered in fake puke and pose as a bulimic destroyed any cred the series earned for its occasional, butt-covering warnings about eating disorders. (Though, I’ll admit, I would not have been surprised to see the ad used as an actual, desperate-for-attention layout in a magazine.) And note to ANTM: when you actually announce in advance, on the show, that a shoot is going to be your "most controversial ever," you’re really saying, "most desperate ever."
* Finally, there has to come a point, doesn’t there, when the name of the show becomes a joke, given that it’s gone five seasons without producing an actual top, or even middle, model? You’d think the producers wouldn’t hang a lantern on that fact by placing pictures of past ANTM contestants in the house, forcing us to think, "Oh, yeah, it’s that one… and, um, whatsername… and, uh, the girl with the, uh, thing…" This is your future, ladies. Don’t look too closely.