Okay, look: it's not like these are the glory days America's Next Top Model. If anything, the last few "cycles" of the endlessly-running reality modeling competition have been a long, dark shadow of the show's earlier seasons.
ANTM has always been a joke: instead of functioning as a wise, supermodel mentor, Tyra Banks was a pedantic crazy person with lots and lots of opinions but very little sense. She chooses winners on the basis of some inscrutable internal logic which doesn't at all reflect the reality of the external world. None of Tyra's America's Next Top Nobodies have managed to forge noteworthy careers since leaving the show.
In fact, the rare ANTM success stories are about the competition's losers and runners-up: after coming in third place on the show's first season, Elyse Sewell enjoyed a fruitful modeling career in Hong Kong for many years; after Toccara Jones was dismissed midway through the third season, she went on to sign with Wilhelmina Models and nab magazine covers and campaigns galore; Analeigh Tipton was eliminated from the eleventh season for forgetting her lines in a CoverGirl commercial — lo and behold, she landed a role in The Green Hornet, got a part in Crazy, Stupid, Love, and went on to play the lead in indie-fave Whit Stillman's Damsels in Distress.
In her tenure as the host and lead judge of America's Next Top Model, Banks has repeatedly demonstrated a remarkable lack of judgement and complete cultural illiteracy. The success of her series was predicated on its value as camp. Tyra had unintentionally stumbled onto a brilliant formula: since the viewers knew the contestants' shot at success was little-to-none, the trumped-up stakes and hysterics which governed the behavior of the show's players were pure comedy.
And here's another reason it worked: Tyra Banks, judge Nigel Barker, photo director Jay Manuel, and runway coach J. Alexander were the show's stable core from season to season. Even if the photoshoots were outlandish, even if the contestants didn't seem believable as models, viewers always had a familiar place to hang their hats.
I haven't heard of a single ANTM fan who wasn't shocked and appalled when Tyra fired Nigel and the Jays. This will be their very last season. Tyra did sign two new cast members: male model Rob Evans will step in to Barker's shoes as the panel's requisite dreamhunk judge and celebrity stylist Johnny Wujek will take over for Manuel.
Also, ANTM is going American Idol and giving viewers a chance to vote for who will be eliminated each episode. Cool. I already know I'd like to eliminate Evans and Wujek, and bring back Nigel and the Jays.
Image via PNP/WENN.com