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November 3, 2008 |

By Dustin Rowles | PaEHba Day | November 3, 2008 |

This is my guiltiest of guilty pleasures. The show that has never disappointed me in my search for the highest levels of ridiculous imaginable; the show that has introduced me to such classic terms as “Fierce!” and “smile with your eyes!” and “Ugly pretty!” The show that makes me cackle in glee with every episode.

This is one of the best shows ever.

I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out.

I cannot stress the pure, unadulterated enjoyment I get out of this show. It’s a ridiculous hour of television, but everyone involved knows it, and there’s nothing I love more than mindless, harmless entertainment. This is one of the reasons why Television exists.

Of course, if you think about it even a little bit, you’ll be disgusted (as you probably are reading this) and will try very, very hard to ignore it for the rest of your life. I don’t blame you. I used to loathe the very mention of this show until I watched it by accident with my college roommate on a Wednesday night. It wasn’t until later that I realized that this was one of the few honest shows in television: “ANTM” knows it’s a joke, it knows it’s a circus, and it offers nothing more than to give you a good time. There are no bad episodes—they are all equally hilarious and silly. And it’s a pleasure to watch.

Every episode follows roughly the same formula. The 14 lucky girls, who all very seriously believe that this show will get them fame and fortune (even though after 10 seasons not one of the previous winners has even come close to reaching super-model status) are given some sort of modeling “class” and “challenge” at the start of each episode. These are highly varied. There’s learning how to strike “modelesque” poses with a guy called Benny Ninja — my favorite supporting character, who is the most flamboyant gay man you can imagine. There’s learning how to walk down a runway with “coach” Miss Jay; a black man with a penchant for high heels and short shorts. There’s learning how to shill cheap Cover Girl products for high-class stores like Wal-Mart. A challenge winner is chosen and receives some cheap prize, usually consisting of jewelry or clothes from Tyra’s obscure sponsors.

The second part of the episode is a photo shoot. Tyra picks out some ridiculous concept (natural disasters, “voting is sexy”, underwater photography) and the girls take turn practicing what they learned in their “lessons” while having this Jay Manuel (another flamboyantly gay man with orange skin and silver hair, whose job has never been clearly specified) shout out useless instructions at them while they pose. The episode ends with “Panel,” where each girl’s best photograph is judged by Tyra Banks, Miss Jay, bitchy British photographer Nigel Barker and a former supermodel.

Panel is the best part of the entire episode. The girls are supposedly judged by how good their photographs are, but the guidelines for this are very blurry, and most of the time the girls are judged by something beyond the photographs: Their personalities (because everyone knows that what counts in modeling is your inner spirit!), how bitchy they were to the photographers, or just how much Tyra Banks likes them. This is where our illustrious hostess shines. The show is clearly all about Tyra, and she lays down the law over who wins or who gets to go home. She doles out ridiculous advice (“Smile with your eyes!” “You have no neck!” “You are too pretty!”) while looking at the camera with her crazy eyes, and woe to whomever encourages the wrath of the Tyra monster.

In the end, two girls are picked for having the worst pictures, or rather, for not being good enough for Tyra. The worst of the two is kicked off the show and fades into utter obscurity. And that’s the show.

With a formula this simple, it’s easy for a show to get repetitive and predictable; but that’s not a danger for “ANTM.” The insanity of Tyra Banks has kept things fresh and fabulous for 10 seasons, and there’s no end in sight.

It’s the one show you can watch that will never disappoint you. You can root for one girl or another, but you know it won’t make a bit of difference how good a model the girl is, because Tyra will choose the girl who will make Tyra look better. She loves pretending that any of this matters, while everyone around her knows that if any of these girls were really meant to be models, they wouldn’t have auditioned for this show at all.

Judge me all you want for loving “America’s Next Top Model,” but I will keep watching as long as it’s on the air. And at least I’ll know before you do that the moment has come in which Tyra Banks has decided to take over the world.

And who’ll be laughing then?

Figgy is a diminutive and currently unemployed high school art teacher living in the forgotten hills of central Honduras, where she waits for the right time to invade Texas. She watches way too much television, tends to become obsessed far too easily, and will fight you to the death over a piece of chocolate. She hopes to one day get somewhere with the rants and raves she decides to inflict upon the internet. You can contact her by email and read her rants here.

An Ode to America's Next Top Model / Figgy

PaEHba Day | November 3, 2008 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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