For 18 seasons I have been a loyal America's Next Top Model fan. I've followed the show through high and low points, but I'm just not sure I can do it any more.
My confidence was shaken earlier this year when executive producer Tyra Banks abruptly fired Nigel Barker, J. Alexander and Jay Manuel --three friends who had been with the show since the beginning and helped make it the international success it has become (there are now 20 international versions and the show is seen in 100 markets).
Now the modeling competition has returned for its 19th Cycle, also known as America's Next Top Model College Edition--although at least one of this season's contestants actually attended a local beauty school, not a four year college.
Since last season's insipid British Invasion, Top Model has gone through a lot of changes, not the least being the addition of a "social media correspondent" who reads aloud Facebook comments, and the ability for viewers to vote on their favorite models.
(Find out more about the changes, why they were made, what they mean and who wins--and loses out--because of them.)
Personally, I find the changes so annoying I'm literally forcing myself to sit through episodes. Even the guilty pleasure I'd normally get from, say, watching a Harvard Divinity student refusing to pose nude but happily calling ANTM judge Kelly Cutrone the C-word has been soured.
Every time new photo director Johnny Wujek appears on screen I miss Jay Manuel; when YouTube sensation P'Trique pops in I can't help but wonder where Miss J. Alexander is and when blogger BryanBoy reads Twitter feeds I mourn the death of print publications and resent the American public's seeming need to dis-empower true experts in exchange for promoting the uninformed opinions and vile outbursts of foul-mouthed internet surfers.
The only thing I don't miss about the old Top Model is the over-the-top, special effects driven, campy fantasy land that Tyra Banks seemed to be slipping more and more into during the last few years. But I long for the days of classic America's Next Top Model, when the drama was a natural offshoot of naive girls facing the challenges of the competition rather than manufactured drama.
After all, its when the ANTM contestants are left to themselves that they fight about who's the bigger b-word or melt down about how having a hair cut will make them look like a lesbian; which are exactly the kind of scenes that (at least should) spark conversations among viewers.
What do you think? Do you like the new Top Model? Take the poll below.
You can watch America's Next Top Model on CW Fridays, 8/7PM Central.
Photo © CW.