America’s Next Top Model 18.02 “Kris Jenner” Review

top model british invasionYou remember the promise I talked about Top Model showing in its premiere last week?

Yeah, forget I said that.

In the second episode of cycle 18, the newness wore off and the problems that Top Model: British Invasion will be facing for the entirety of its run became clearer. The casting, especially, has yet to click, but surprisingly, it’s the American girls that are falling extremely flat for me this cycle. Say what you want about the Brit girls and their overconfidence last week, but thus far in Top Model, they’ve been far more memorable and distinct than their American counterparts, most of whom blur together in a sea of bangs and dreary confessionals. There’s no X factor on “Team America”, no girl that immediately makes me sit up and take notice; it’s a bunch of bland, interchangeable, extremely safe girls that don’t have enough spark to light the candle on my nightstand. Even after the makeovers, which have given models a confidence boost in the past, couldn’t really save Team America from becoming Team Vanilla, which is a problem if you’re going to do a team competition. You can have all the trash talking and repeated bouts of culture clash in the world, but if you just don’t care about one entire team, it’s hard to get invested in any type of rivalry Top Model is trying to sell us.

Even the two “edgy” American girls, Laura and Azmarie, are very soft right now, with the former irritating in her try hard-ness and the latter a nice enough girl that doesn’t know what to do with her features. For something like Top Model to have a great season, casting has to find people with A) personality and B) talent and thus far, A is lacking and B looks to be the same on Team America.

The makeovers did help the Brits further distinguish themselves among the competition, as Tyra and company opted for more drastic looks for each of the six remaining girls. The concept behind the funky colored hair may be lost on me, aside from the obvious trend chasing, so I haven’t quite taken to Sophie’s Katy Perry-ish pink ‘do (or Laura’s red-blonde-and-blue…thing on Team America), but Britain’s good definitely outweighed the bad. Louise served serious early 90s Linda Evangelista fierceness with her beige blunt cut, Catherine’s bright red hair contrasted nicely with her pale skin, Alisha got more editorial with her one-sided long hair, Annaliese had big hair teased to the gods to match her personality, and Ashley’s lighter ‘do brightened her up a bit. Each team member is clear cut in look and actually had understandable changes made to aid them in the competition; the Brits were already shining in their confessionals and showing a clearer idea of who they were, but the gap got ridiculous post-makeover. Team America, for its trouble, got three girls with heavy bangs, a modest weave, Laura’s…thing, and some symbols shaved into their head. Like…really? It’s natural for the beginning of a competition to have several models not popping, but makeovers are supposed to be the thing that makes them pop and jumpstarts the competition. In America’s case, they got the short end of the Top Model stick, as their team either looks silly (Laura, Azmarie) or even more nondistinct (everybody else).

top model british invasionThe competitions weren’t the best, either. I mean, what was that competitive eating event? I actually enjoy the idea of Team Top Model as an idea to keep the cycle fresh, but really? It relied on some very old stereotypes (“LOL BRITISH FOOD IS YUCKY”) and seemed like heavy-handed producer manipulation to stoke the “culture clash” angle that has been prominent this time around. And there wasn’t even a reward attached to finishing first, so the shots of Eboni spitting up and fights about haggis could have been replaced by a fun, relevant challenge instead. Speaking of relevancy (or lack thereof), Kris Jenner, you guys. I didn’t hate her as a guest judge and thought she had solid, constructive things to say, but man, did she not need to be invited in the first place. Her daughters popped up last season, but they have a clothing line and the previous cycle had a focus on celebrity/promotion that you could excuse an appearance by Khloe, Kourtney, and the other one. But Kris has no fashion connection at all, so her appearance was more like a way to promote her indentured servants youngest daughters and their fledgling modeling careers. Top Model did so well a couple of cycles ago about having fashion people at panel, but we’re breaking out the mom-agers this early? Did Dina Lohan not take Tyra’s call?

The shoot itself, pitting the girls as toddlers, was just too much, as well. Less surreal/abstract than self-parody, it allowed next to no movement and remained very static. Even though a shoot like that can be good to test how well a girl can make subtle adjustments, this relied too much on the styling/set and didn’t allow any majorly dynamic moments. Top Model can do big and goofy shoots well, but the best let the models off their leash to see what exactly they can come up with. If you’re trying to have a larger-than-life photo with bright walls, heavy make-up, and celebrity cameos, having everybody be sitting down or with their bodies tucked in tight makes everything else null and void. It takes some of the energy away that could be brought by the models and, like the last shoot, is very restrictive about allowing any personality to shine through.

I’m trying my best not to write Top Model off already, but man, was that episode a wreck. Not a wreck in the same way that the entire last cycle was a wreck, but for a makeover episode, it was just kind of there. Not much drama, a boring shoot, no challenge, no breakdowns at the salon – props to Tyra for spicing up the makeover selection, but light pink hair isn’t enough to save the episode, unfortunately. Now that Team UK has woken up after their tough first week, I think we’ll see them use their bigger personalities and bolder looks to weaken the Americans, but in the Top Model universe, where left is right, up is down, and class is in bad taste, you never really know what’ll happen.

Thoughts, Quotes, & Observations:
-Alisha on Native Americans: “I don’t think we have them in England. And if we do, they’re on the low down.”
-“Everyone keeps saying they just want to eat me.”
-“It smelled like a sweaty fat man who’d, like, done a poo.”
-“You’ve got to remember that you’re a toddler.”
-“One two three do Candace.”
-Final Call Out Order: Laura, Ashley, Eboni, Catherine, Candace, Kyle, Sophie, Annaliese, Louise, Alisha, Azmarie, Seymone, Mariah (eliminated).
-Nobody went that dark, which was a little disappointing. Usually, a blonde goes chocolate brown, but everybody either went lighter or added an unusual color.
-The scene with Sophie psyching Eboni out is a good example of how the Brits can get an advantage. They’ve done reality TV before and they know how to play the social aspect of it, so in the early stages of the game, they can use that to knock people out.
Ratings for the premiere were down 54% from the spring 2011 premiere, placing Top Model alongside the likes of Ringer, Nikita, and Gossip Girl. Could the controversial cycle 17 finale have turned that many people off from the show?
-Next week on Top Model: The girls have to create an ad campaign, a model storms out of panel after clashing with Kelly, and Cat Deeley guest judges.

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