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America's Next Top Model: Meet the new cycle, same as the old cycle

February 21, 2008 | 10:36 am


Both the charm and irritation of "America's Next Top Model" is its steadfastness. Cycle 10 is upon us, and not that much seems to have changed since Cycle 1 (especially since the show is being brought back to New York from LA, which makes sense from a fashion point of view, but allegedly is being done because of Tyra Banks' own personal reasons.

So the inaugural episode of the new cycle was very much like all the previous ones.  The audience was introduced to a big group of girls, clearly encouraged by the producers to jump and scream as much as possible, especially when a cast member of the show appeared.  Per usual, they were winnowed down via a few small photo shoots, runway walking and a meeting with the panel.  You could say that this season they put a "spin" on that formula by telling the girls they were attending "Top Model Prep," however, they were put through the same old paces, the schoolgirl uniforms were taken straight from VH1's "Charm School" and we have already seen runway coach extraordinaire J. Alexander in a schoolmarm outfit.  Then, as always, Tyra appeared in an over-the-top reveal that was meant to show us how fun and spontaneous and real she is, and in case we weren't aware of how special she is, we were given ecstatic reactions from the girls, one of whom did say, specifically, that Tyra is "so special." 

As usual, the audience got to know the girls through their appearance at the panel, wherein they proved that they were worthy of making the cut not so much because of their looks or figure but because of completely other reasons.  A girl's most likely to be in luck if she's had a traumatic background, like Marvita, who was in an abusive relationship, or Dominique, who was also in an abusive relationship. But no one could top Fatima this season, or possibly ever, sob-story wise, thanks to her circumcision (note: female circumcision is not to be taken lightly but the ANTM standby of switching to an acoustic guitar when Serious Things Are Being Talked About should definitely be.) 

And as happens every season, a few token plus-size girls showed up who swore they'd win the whole competition, although they never do.  Tyra's priceless sense of humor was also on display as she, J. Alexander and Jay Manuel pulled out glasses of milk after speaking with a contestant who was breast-feeding. 

And in the end, there was a lot of jumping around, tears of joy and tears of sadness as the top 14 girls of Cycle 10 were revealed. 

It would be great if New York brought more of a fashion edge to the show, which has strayed further and further away from actual fashion and modeling and more towards a personality contest. But if it doesn't, really, who cares?  "Top Model" is and always will be guilty harmless fun -- the pleasure is in watching how the photo shoots turn out, of imagining which girls could model for which clients, so if it doesn't evolve with the times, it's lazy but if it's not technically broke, no need to fix it.

-- Claire Zulkey

(Photo courtesy The CW)