Why the ‘Top Model’ makeover makes me ‘smize’

Allison Lasher, Blogger

“America’s Next Top Model” is the cockroach of reality television — it just won’t die. I don’t know who’s watching it and how it has continued on for so long. I used to watch “ANTM” for the first few seasons and continued watching sporadically for a few more after that, but I fell off around the time when Tyra Banks only wore jumpsuits to panel. I decided to check back in with the show after my hiatus and I have to say, for the most part, I was pleasantly surprised.

There were definite improvements made to the show’s format for the 19th season. For starters, we said goodbye to “Top Model” staples Nigel Barker, J. Alexander and Jay Manuel in exchange for blogger Bryanboy, supermodel Rob Evans and creative director Johnny Wujek. The real star, however, is judge Kelly Cutrone. The PR maven from “The Hills” returned to the panel and is exactly what the doctor ordered. She is harsh but not for the sake of being cruel. She knows what she’s talking about and isn’t riding the struggle bus to crazy town like some of the show’s past judges.

The challenges seem just as insane and random as the photo shoots of seasons past, but at least the judging system finally makes some sense. This season, the girls are given a score of 1 through 10 for their challenge performance, three for their photos (one score from each judge) and then one from social media. The girl with the lowest combined score goes home — no ifs, ands or buts. I love this scoring system, minus the social media component. It has always been unclear how much challenges matter and how the judges reach a decision. I still am a tad suspicious that Banks manipulates the scoring by throwing a higher score to some models for reasons other than their photo (i.e., good TV). Although the judges’ assignments seem a bit arbitrary at times, the system itself has made for an interesting series of eliminations. Anyone can go home at any time and this unpredictability is something I can get behind.

However, this season of “ANTM” does not receive my full seal of approval. This cycle, fans voted on pictures during the competition and their tweets, Facebook comments and videos are being posted, read and shown throughout the episodes. Between “ANTM” and nobody’s favorite, “The Glass House,” reality shows are becoming video games for an America with too much time on its hands. Banks will do absolutely anything to succeed and once again, she completely sold out. I’m sick of hearing how “high fashion” teenage boys think the contestants are. If “ANTM” lives to see another cycle, I hope this feature is phased out.

As always, the theme of the season is completely irrelevant and its impact can be boiled down to one sentence. This cycle’s gimmick is the “College Edition,” but it has done nothing to change the group of contestants cast and is only an opportunity for tacky decor, plaid outfits and puns.

— Allison Lasher