Somebody recently told me that NBC would air it’s take on America’s Next Top Model Wednesdays at 8 PM. “Whoa!”, I thought. NBC has programming on Wednesdays? I mean, I love Law and Order as much as the next person, but Criminal Intent and SVU are more Tivo-worthy, and I can always see the episodes I missed every other day on TNT in a few weeks. The West Wing is, well, the West Wing, and although I have never watched it, people tell me it needs some coked-up Sorkin if it’s ever going to survive. To add a little twist to the lineup, and to perhaps bring Wednesday’s average viewing age below 50, NBC gives us Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Model Search. So, since the Tivo is pretty empty, and I can’t bring myself to write about Alias or Lost (that doesn’t mean we aren’t looking for others to fill in), I thought I would give it a try.
I am sure everybody sort of cringed if and when they heard about the Swimsuit Model Search. It’s quite obviously trying to build on the success of America’s Next Top Model. Just because one combination of factors made a good reality show on one channel, doesn’t mean you can simply tweak those factors and make a good TV show. Especially if that spinoff or sequel lacks almost any originality or cuts corners on production values, not that we are going to name any names (Rocket Science). I am happy to say that Swimsuit Model Search isn’t lacking in production value, but doesn’t yet have the entertainment value we’ve come to expect from Tyra and crew.The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model search starts with a group of twelve models. These twelve models are going to compete for a chance to win a cover in the spread of the next Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue plus a one million dollar contract from Next Models. In addition, NBC promises to let the viewers decide the eventual winner, putting a slight little American Idol twist to the whole thing. (American Idol is another show looking for some good TVgasm coverage, if you funny people are interested). Will it work? Only if the girls are bitchy and hot, and it probably helps if they are full of dumb as well.
We learn a lot in the first five minutes, such as “What in the hell are some people thinking?”. The show spent about 30 seconds on the details of the casting, which was plenty to see that a lot of people out their have not come to grips with reality, such as you might need an above average body as well as the ability to tan if you want to make it into the world of swimsuit modeling. When somebody says “I have nothing to lose.” and the audience thinks “Except about 15 pounds.”, I am not sure what your chances are.
But I am sure that you want to get into the nitty gritty of the show. Taking the place of the Supermodel Master of Ceremonies is Cheryl Tiegs. I guess she was quite the fine piece when she was in her prime, but I wouldn’t know since her first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover was almost ten years before I was born, and I hadn’t even reached preschool by the time she was in her last one. It’s not that she isn’t good looking, and she puts Janice Dickinson to shame in the “supermodel ages gracefully category”, but she is 57. If she is the face of the show, you have a feeling it’s not going to be the fun romp we got from Tyra and crew. It also didn’t help the low angle shot they used of her was the absolute worst.
The other members of the judging panel were Julie Campbell, who created the Swimsuit Issue and was a former editor, Roshumba Williams, a former Swimsuit Issue model, and Joel Wilkenfield, some idiot executive from Next models. Of the three, Roshumba is the best. She seems natural on camera, has good things to say, and you can tell she really cares about the girls. Ms. Campbell is ancient, and not in a Janice Dickinson sort of way. She’s ancient in a “she shouldn’t be driving” or “I hope she doesn’t fall and break her hip” sort of way. She’s also just barely audible, although you can make an argument that she is the funniest of the bunch, but believe me, that isn’t saying much. Joel really sucks. He is not funny, and is on camera way too often. To top it off, he is often chosen to speak for the judges, but I guess if you are the one offering a million dollar modeling contract to the winner, you get to have your face on TV.
After we meet the judges, the girls go into their house, which is gorgeous, and meet their Jay Manuel. His name is Nikko, and he is going to be the runway director. He tells them that they have 15 minutes to get changed into their hottest bathing suits. When they are changed, they are going to do a little runway show for the judges. Already, the gossip starts, because apparently some girls aren’t shaved enough, which probably means it’s been three or four days since their last wax job, and no mortal man will notice. As they are changing, we get a first look at our models. I have to say that they did find a variety of body types. I was expecting almost everybody to be tall, and have huge fake boobs, but it looks like only a few of them implants, and it looks like there is only one natural blonde. Overall, they were quite the bag of fit birds. This review is going to be too long without a little critique of each one, so visit the model bio page for all of the vital stats.
As they made their way on the runway, we learned a little more about the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model search. For instance, they seemed to search largely in places where you don’t have to wear a swimsuit for long amounts of time during the year. I was quite expecting to find we would have a bunch of girls from places like Florida, Arizona, and California. As it turns out, most of the girls came from Texas or the upper midwest. I didn’t even really notice the geography until I started listening to the girls talk. In particular, Nancy sounds like she comes from the farthest reaches of the Upper Peninsula.
The other girls that stood out in the first segment include Shantel, who is a Kristin Davis look-alike. There is also Krisi, who has a terrible blonde dye job, but does sport implants and carries all of the finest Paris Hilton class and elegance into the competition. I also can’t forget to mention Stacy, mainly because I was trying to hide my eyes whenever she was on camera. She does have that Darryl Hannah in Splash sort of thing going, which only means she would have looked good 20 years ago. But let’s look on the bright side. When they are casting for disfigured zombies for the next Resident Evil sequel, that’s going to be money in the bag. Easily the worst dye job I have seen all year belongs to Marcela. Most in need of a dentist is Shannon, judging by the gap in her front teeth. And Betti is the old woman of the group, clocking in at 26.
After doing the runway, everybody got to pick their rooms, and we had a nice little shot of everybody running around and screaming. Isn’t it fun learning which models are OCD (Shannon), and watching along as people first discover a bidet? It’s almost as good as watching models eat, which was the next scene. It looked like they had a healthy spread available, it was truly sad watching Stacy fill her plate one small leaf of lettuce at a time. When everybody was done, it was time for cake, and several girls dared to have a piece, which of course caused lots of controversy.
The girls spent the next day enjoying their house. Ahh, the life of a model. Sit around the pool, gossip with your friends, work on your tan, and…do some basic training. Yes, if you are going to be a swimsuit model, you should be fit, so the producers sent in some people in camo pants to put the models through a workout. I would call these people trainers, except the workout consisted of nothing more than a game of Simon Says. Yes, you heard me. The girls had to do jumping jacks, situps, or pushups, but couldn’t switch tasks until the guy in camo pants blew the whistle. When he told them to do jumping jacks without blowing the whistle, and nobody moved, we could see that these girls were going to be a match for this “trainer”. After about an hour of this, Sabrina won, and we learned she also won the “Supermodel Pass”, which would probably make sense if we knew what you could do with it.
Following their horrible day filled with almost one hour of sweat, the girls were roused out of bed at 5:15 the next morning, and put into a bunch of pink track suits for their first shoot, which was going to be SURPRISE! in their swimsuits on the beach. I know an assistant or two at Pariah (well, what once was Pariah), and so I finally got to see what they did to keep themselves busy. All that time, they were thinking of creative ways to judge the talent. Man, I wonder if they’ll do something crazy like go to a tropical island or take a picture in a waterfall or lagoon? Now that’s something I have never seen before.
We at least learned what the Supermodel Pass was all about, at least for this challenge. Sabrina was given the opportunity to pick the order in which the girls were going to have their pictures taken. And while any sane girl would allow a few others to go first and learn from their mistakes, Sabrina opted to go first and help everybody else learn from her mistakes, the largest of which was coming to this competition with no idea on how to pose in a swimsuit on the beach.
Sabrina wasn’t the only person who had problems. Our girl Jenna had some problems with the waves. Roshumba had warned the girls that the waves were coming in pretty strong, and right on cue, Jenna was thrown off of her perch on a rock by a huge wave. Now, I don’t know who was doing the editing at NBC and Pariah, and maybe some people were on vacation, but you think that after 150,000 people die in a tsunami, the producers would have found a way to cut out the footage of the blonde girl complaining about her bruised shin and the tough life of a supermodel. When it came time for Krisi to take her pictures, the judges were talking about how she is every guy’s dream. Well, I guess if you like really fake blonde hair, fake boobs, and could keep her gagged all day, she would be your dream, but I am not that impressed.
During some other parts of the show, I noticed that they seemed to have set up a lot of sports venues for something or other. It turns out that these sports venues are going to be used for the eliminations, and the first one of the list was Staples Center. The girls were told to dress to impress, and were lined up in front of the judges. Four girls were to be eliminated the first night, and those left would have a group picture taken in celebration.
When it came time to read what each girl did well, and where they needed to improve, the judges were actually pretty good. They really didn’t hold any punches. That is not to say that I completely agree with their taste. Nancy was the first one to be eliminated. She had a great body and a fine ass, but the judges believed she wasn’t quite proportional between her upper and lower halves. That, and she had no neck. I thought they could have done a lot worse than her and she deserved to last past the first round at least. Maybe she wasn’t going to win, but how can they drop that smoking body so soon?
Next they dropped Shantel, our Kristin Davis clone. This wasn’t a bad choice, because she was quite unremarkable, and the judges agreed that there was nothing that really stood out about her. Marcela was next to go. Although I think there was worse among those who remained, I could see why she was eliminated. She had a good look, but her hair sort of made her look cheap. Julie said that she needed to work on her moves, at least that’s what I think she said. She might have been reciting her recipe for matzoh ball soup, I am not quite sure. The last to be eliminated was Sabrina. Her major flaw was that she showed weakness by not taking advantage of the Model Pass.
The judges called out a lot of people, including Krisi for her horrible roots and trashy skirt, and Alicia for her love handles and droopy butt. (Just more cushin for the pushin is all I say.) The worst part about the whole thing was Joel, who has way too much time speaking. I guess they are imagining him in the sort of Simon Cowell way, which would work except Joel has none of Simon’s smarmy charm. More often than not, he comes across sounding like he is auditioning people for his casting couch and not for a spot in Sports Illustrated. Plus, as I was watching this whole thing, I started to wonder why Cheryl Tiegs was even brought before us. Other than the little introduction and some comments from the first runway, she played no role in the show, and was absent from any judging.
Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Model Search isn’t great, but it still has potential. If it is worthy of NBCs Wednesday night love, I might just try and stick through it for a few more weeks.