Oh, ANTM. I remember when you premiered. It was right after the finale of Buffy, and I was bitter, thinking you were the future of television—another crappy reality competition we didn’t need. Seven seasons, or “cycles” (part of Tyra Banks’ need to create not just a media empire but also a new super girly and sort of awkward language) later, America’s Next Top Model is still one the most consistently entertaining, interesting and satisfying shows on television. (Something I couldn’t say after Buffy was on for the same amount of time.)
It’s a fairly simple formula that’s been replicated a million times since, but never quite as masterfully. As Darwin suggested, certainly we can credit Ms. Tyra herself, the stern yet loving madam who breaks down her charges only to build them back up as working girls, er, models. But I think we also have to thank the casting department, who will consider no contestant too gangly, ugly, unhinged, damaged or illiterate to compete for the chance at becoming (and here we break into an urgent whisper) America’s… Next Top… Model. If the goal of the show is to turn out working, successful, dare I say super, models, Tyra has failed. But if its true mission is to make me giggle, hold my breath and cry on occasion while never ever forgetting that the center of the universe—fashion or otherwise—is Tyra Banks, then she has won. We all have.