Okay, so I missed Episode One. As far as I can tell from the "Last week, on America's Next Top Model" bit, I missed some denim leg-warmers, an ocean cruise, a life-jacketed walk-off, a bunch of tears and screaming, and Tyra dressed as a feathered showgirl from The Best Little Fried Chicken Joint In Texas. I'm not overly distraught.
What I am upset about, though, is missing seeing actual evidence of the unsuccessful contestant named "Spontaniouse". I can't think of anything else except the name Spontaniouse. I can't say it enough, I can't write it enough, I can't read it enough. It epitomises everything that is perfect, good and right about this show. Plus, it's like, way fucked up.
But let's not roll around in the fetid carcass of the past. Let's dive headlong into the blossoming, scented chrysanthemum of the present. ANTM has a message, which surprisingly isn't 'Be Sure To Tweeze Out Any Strays' or 'Undies First'. No – as Tyra makes crystally and polyunsaturatedly clear, this is a Non-Smoking Show. So stub it out and move away from the ashtray – it's the Gettin' Ciggy With It episode of America's Next Top Model.
· I'd better start with a brief rundown of our module finalists. I said brief rundown, not briefs down, ladies. Important distinction. As usual, many of the modules' parents seem to have named them by shaking up Scrabble tiles in a bucket. Starting with my two current favourite modules and then just randomly plonking:
o Heather – has Asperger's Syndrome, a kind of autism characterised by limited social skills and clumsiness. If Naomi Campbell is anything to go by, these symptoms are no barrier at all to a successful modelling career. Heather is endearingly awkward, and gob-smackingly beautiful.
o Lisa – at times looking like she's missing the top of her head, Lisa is otherwise stunning, like a blacker Christy Turlington, and ever-aware that there's a camera on her. Her hair is quite possibly thinner than a porno plot, and she'd know – she's an 'exotic dancer' by trade.
o Chantal – Blonde and pretty, but unfortunately God ran out of matching eyes on her birthday, and just picked two at random, accidentally sticking one of them on the side of her head.
o Saleisha – Cutey McCute from CheekPinchingVille.
o Mila – If you got some pale tumbleweeds and blew them across a dewy hot-tub in Sweden, you would have Mila. At high school, I bet she was voted 'Most Likely To Say "Um… What?" A Lot'.
o Kimberley – oh, please. Didn't I used to sit next to you on the school bus? So girl-next-doorsy I can see into her loungeroom from here. Apart from her ability to summon Essence Of Slut in photographs (just like the girl next to me on the school bus), there's not much to her, really.
o Bianca – I'm glad this girl has a bitchy ghetto personality and a penchant for mouthing off at anyone who gets in her way. It keeps me from developing a deranged tic trying to figure out why she's dyed her fringe purple. Way to look like a trailer-park grape, arsehole.
o Victoria – goes to Yale, so much is made of her gigantic brain. Fortunately, not anywhere near as much hoo-hah is made of her chunky legs. Shut up. It's a modelling competition. This matters. Gorgeous Merchant Ivory face, personality of an erudite shrew. We'll see.
o Ebony – Oh, hello Ebony. When you're finished looking like Dionne Warwick with a bead fetish, would you mind being this series' Psycho-Bitch Megalomaniac? Ta.
o Janet – is fulfilling the Short-Haired Girl quota for this series. Or Tyra owes one of her paler cousins a favour. Or the show is being sponsored by the American Fund For Pointy Faces. Or the producers are being sued by someone Ginger. Or.. I really don't know how to explain her presence. A little help?
o Ambreal – oh, BULL that's your name. Decent body, but the face is nothing to write home about, unless it's to say "Saw some uninteresting people today, mum. Oh, and please send fifty dollars". Meh.
o Jenah – I think they're PhotoShopping contestants now. Half-lemur, Jenah can probably see in the dark and suck apples through her strange teeth. And I really hate a redundant 'h'. But that's probably not her fault.
o Sarah – Who? So non-descript I'm considering legal action. A little bit fat.
· Mr Jay shows the girls the new Model Mobile, telling them that Tyra wanted to show concern for the environment this series, so the car is "bio-diesel". Luckily, this saves all the petroleum in the world for use in Vaseline, Tyra's Favourite. Beauty. Product. Ever. There's grass on the back of the seats, which are made from recycled tyres, and there are leaves painted on the outside of the car. Mila, helping out by preserving thinking energy, comments that it's good "to be aware of what makes the earth good". Now, I know an intensely detailed tour of a big green environmentally-friendly bus should be interesting, but I'm momentarily distracted by methane.
· Our modules are driven to their bio-soy-recycled-raffia-solar-powered Module Mansion (see: 'Same Shit Every Series', especially subtitles 'Scream', 'Claim A Bed Is Yours', 'Admire Omnipresent Tyra Imagery' and 'Suggest A Skinny-Dip'), and everybody plays the get-to-know-you game. Everyone, that is, except Heather, who sits by herself drawing and writing in her notebook. She holds the notebook right up close to her face, and I think I hear her say "Aren't I pretty, book? Look at my pretty face! You, book, are my only friend". But I'm not sure. In the Hippie House, showers are limited to ten minutes, so ten of the modules all pile into the bath together, in a scene I'm either calling "Boyfriends Can Watch This Glorious Shit, Too" or "Soup With Dumblings".
· No time or bleach is wasted as Mr Jay introduces the first photo shoot of the series, and announces The Message, which is 'Smoking Is Bad'. Next week: 'Dogs Have Four Legs'. Each module will pose for two photographs – in the first, they will pose glamorously in front of a mirror brandishing a cigarette, and in the second, which will be superimposed into the mirror, they will be made up to demonstrate the harmful effects of smoking. It's a bit like the juxtaposition of realistic and dream-like imagery in the Surrealist movement, or, for the lowbrow amongst you, like looking at yourself in the shiny bit on the inside of a Violet Crumble wrapper. Whether it's activism or autism, it's time for a summary:
o Ambreal reflects lung cancer, and spits fake blood into a tissue.
o Jenah reflects hair loss from chemotherapy, and looks like the saddest novelty condom in the world.
o Mila also reflects hair loss from chemotherapy, and looks like Mick Hucknall in a wind tunnel. She finds it hilarious, but I'll never be able to look at a rambutan again.
o Janet reflects a burn victim with scars, and I kind of feel like eating steak.
o Chantal reflects a tracheotomy with a hole in her neck, making it look like God slipped when applying one of her eyes and her anus.
o Heather and Saleisha together reflect second-hand smoke, and are made to look old and ugly. They have trouble relating to each other, which must be a huge surprise to the producers, who recently devoted fifteen minutes of the show to exploring how bad Heather is at relating to other people.
o Kimberly reflects a sunken face. Headline reads GIRL NEXT DOOR LOOKS VAGUELY LIKE SLIGHTLY OLDER GIRL NEXT DOOR. Next.
o Sarah reflects premature aging, with lines on her face. What? Who?
o Victoria reflects a stillborn child. She cries whilst holding a dead baby. Like, I know these photos are supposed to be disturbing, but that's… disturbing. Sort of a lot.
o Ebony, in a gold dress that does nothing to take away from the whole Dionne Warwick thang, reflects a collapsed lung with an oxygen mask, and Jay comments that she looks like she's sitting on a toilet. Be nice, Jay. Smokers have to crap too.
o Bianca reflects gingivitis with rotting teeth, and except for the implied associated halitosis, is uninteresting.
o Lisa, after having a borderline-awesome snarky bitch fight with Bianca in the make-up chairs, reflects a facial tumour, and looks like she's balancing a Subway foot-long on her cheek.
· One problem with seeing about five hundred thousand episodes of this show across two continents is its predictability. Just as you'd expect crowds of Emperor Penguins to display the same behaviour in two different documentaries, crowds of emaciated bimbos tend to all waddle in the same direction, too. Hence heated arguments (in this case Lisa and Bianca) get all up in them bitches' faces. Hence the 'outcast' (in this case Heather, and granted, at the time she's sitting outside clutching a toy monkey) is usually easily able to hear the other modules making fun of her. Hence Tyra spouts senseless drivel, gesticulating with her great drumstick appendages. Hence I want to be buried with an International ANTM DVD box set.
· It's Challenge Time, and also time for me to question the direction the show is heading. The winner used to be on the cover of Elle, not Seventeen. The photographer of the winning magazine spread used to be Gilles Bensimon, not PixieFoto. And the shopping/styling challenge used to be at Rodeo Drive, not Old Navy, a place where you get the feeling the change-room walls are made out of egg cartons and Paddle-Pop sticks. Benny Ninja The Flourescent Pirate appears behind a rack to introduce the moduels to their challenge – they have ten minutes to find an outfit comprised of 'model basics'. Just like Emperor Penguins, the girls run, scream, trash the store, and line up looking plasticky and flammable. Most of the girls have interpreted 'model basics' as 'denim on the bottom, polyester on the top'. The real challenge here is to not throw a brick into the television.
· A Tyra-Mail summons the girls to the Elimination of Doom, and they file in wearing their new outfits, nervous and machine-washable. Tyra is mercifully scarf-free this season, although she appears to have forgotten her iron and remembered her arse. She enthuses about the prizes, which I think this year include an A4 envelope and a pair of nail scissors, and then introduces the judges – Miss Jay (in disturbing close-knit afro wig), Twiggy (dressed in traditional boring), and Spunky Nigel Barker (who I'm visiting the chemist for).
· Outfits are assessed, and Saleisha is announced the challenge winner. She gets excited until she's told that the prize is a one-thousand dollar shopping spree at Old Navy. It's a bit like winning a case of beer for overcoming alcoholism, only much more likely to induce sobbing. Photographs are trowelled through, and aside from Heather being the most stunning person in the entire world, and Tyra telling Kimberly she "doesn't have to hoochify herself to be beautiful" (in the Bible, this would be referred to as 'Tyra 3:14'), I'm already waiting for the closing credits. Tyra then announces that, as of tomorrow, there will be a ban on smoking, so the girls should get in their last puffs tonight. PS: Heather is really, really pretty.
· Eventually Tyra grabs the photos and starts calling out names one by one, until only Mila the Swedish Meatball and Ebony Warwick are left. Mila is told that she's a pretty girl, but not a model, and in an unexpected twist, Ebony is told that she's a pretty girl, but not much of a model. Mila stares into space like she's trying to find Sputnik, but Ebony takes it one step further. Gone are the days where being faced with being in the Bottom Two merely elicited a single, slow-rolling crystalline tear. Ebony ups the ante by producing the most magnificent glistening snot-glob I've ever seen, balancing it between nostril and lip with the light-catching grace of gossamer. Several mucousy minutes pass, and Mila is given the arse. Bye, Mila! Don't bump the IKEA smorgasbord on your way out, Frauline.
Next week, the girls practice their walking skills, fights develop about body image, and people in scary costumes instill terror into every module. Walking Scenes. Venting Spleens. Halloweens.