the review site with a difference since 1999
Reviews Interviews Articles Apps About

Paramount Studios presents

America's Next Top Model: Cycle One (2003)

"I'm not willing to alienate Giselle, because she's the only one with a straightening iron."- Elyse, on her competition

Stars: Tyra Banks, J. Alexander, Jay Manuel, Nigel Barker, Kimora Lee Simmons, Janice Dickenson
Other Stars: Adrianne Curry, Katie Cleary, Robin Manning, Shannon Stewart, Tessa Carlson, Ebony Haith, Elyse Sewell, Nicole Panattoni, Kesse Wallace, Giselle Samson
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, nudity)
Run Time: 06h:18m:00s
Release Date: 2005-03-29
Genre: television

Buy from Amazon

Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B A-B+B C-

 

DVD Review

America's Next Top Model is the best reality show you probably aren't watching (most likely because it's on UPN). Confounding all expectations, the competitive reality show, which pits various conventional and non-conventional (or "striking," read: odd-looking) beauties against one another in photo shoots and runway walk-offs in pursuit of a modeling contract and a fashion spread that isn't in Maxim or Stuff, is surprisingly smart and very entertaining.

Created, executive produced, and hosted by Victoria's Secret angel Tyra Banks, the series premiered in the summer of 2003, a rare hit for UPN with both audiences and critics. Despite the fact that the show had disaster written all over it (vanity projects usually don't turn out so well—watch the WB's The Starlet with Faye "Face Done-Away" Dunaway for evidence, or don't), it succeeded (and has continued to do so through three subsequent seasons) because the producers obviously realize reality TV isn't about the competition, it's about the personalities. Top Model, particularly in Season One (or, as Tyra wants you to call it for some reason, Cycle One) has just about the most amusing cast in reality TV history.

It's obvious from the start the show isn't really about finding someone who could realistically model (i.e., none of the girls are 14-year-old Ukrainian refugees, and none of them appear as thin vertical lines when viewed in profile), but making good TV. Thus we have the clash of the Bible-thumping Christians like plus-size Robin (plus sized intended ironically, I assume) and atheist Elyse, a relationship that must be seen to be believed (Robin spreads Christian cheer by pointing out a Bible verse that reads, basically, foolish is the atheist, and she shows to it Elyse all, "SEE?" and, really, the best way to argue with people who don't believe in God IS to quote scripture, good going Robin). Then there's crazy Adrianne, a knockout in photos with a fun personality, even if she can't swallow her Chicago accent, and Giselle, the youngest, who likes to fish for compliments by complaining about how ugly she is. There's Nicole, who is a bit too sexy for high fashion, which is a nice way of saying she looks kinda porny, and Ebony, a striking African American who perhaps takes the competition side of the show a bit too seriously (told she has dry skin, she moisturizes liberally, generating one of the season's best moments, the drama known as, "Who is going to tell Ebony she's getting the doorknobs all greasy?").

Each week, the models are given a task to perform, whether it has anything to do with fashion or not (why would models have to know how to impress skeevy Parisian society men?), and they take part in a high-concept fashion shoot. This is usually where the drama comes from, as the bubbleheads deal with, say, posing with a snake, or with a male model in their underwear, or naked, and at the end of the episode, they go before a panel of judges and one of them is eliminated. The cuts balance the right amount of self-serious pageantry (Tyra's mantra, "You're still in the running towards becoming America's next top model," is repeated nine times every episode) and who are we kidding sarcasm, the latter courtesy of snarky judge and heavily drugged supermodel Janice Dickenson.

The first season has some flaws. If you look closely, or, well, if you look at the screen while watching, you'll see how the footage was pieced together haphazardly, and at only nine episodes (including on filler recap show), it's a little short. But there are so many strengths, it actually winds up one of the better seasons of a reality show I've seem (and I watch an embarrassing amount of reality TV, sadly). The editors know how to play with the footage to produce running gags that couldn't have been written (Robin's constant Bible-reading is a highlight), and a show with the basic premise, "modeling is like, so hard you guys!" is dumbfoundingly smart. Weird.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The show looks fine on DVD, considering it was shot on video and on the cheap. The image is fairly detailed and mostly free of grain, and I didn't spot any obvious digital artifacting.

Image Transfer Grade: B+
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a 2.0 surround mix that might as well be stereo. Speech is always clear, though quality of the recording varies, and the music fills out the front soundstage a bit. Pretty basic, but suitable for the material.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 72 cues and remote access
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Talk about a missed opportunity. Not that photo galleries are typically my favorite feature, but you'd think since the entire series is predicated on the fact that these women are models posing for pictures, it would perhaps cross someone's mind to include them on the DVD. I also would have liked to see each finalist's unedited audition tape (we see only bits and pieces during the recap episode).

Alas, what we do get is less than 15 minutes worth of new featurettes, all found on Disc 3. Casting Call (7:06) features interviews with Tyra Banks and casting director , talking about the quick work that went into finding the original group of contestants (there wasn't enough time to hold multiple casting calls, so many were chosen based primarily on video submissions). Or, as Tyra tells it, "With Season One, a lot of people hadn't heard of the show before because it didn't exist." I... see. Interesting, but short, the piece looks to have been filmed during the casting process for season, oh, I'm sorry, Cycle Four, as I spotted one of the finalists in a brief clip.

Reliving the First Season is also too short, but fans will like to hear Tyra and executive producer Ken Mok talk about how they created and sold the show quickly, and produced Cycle One (sigh) by the skin of their teeth. "If you look closely at that first year, the seams show," Mok says. Which is true, if you're legally blind. The seams are obvious, is what I'm saying.

Finally, The Two Jays tells us more than we need to know about runway trainer J. Alexander (who is often seen showing off his disturbingly well-shaped legs) and useless, catty "fashion director" Jay Manuel, who, we are told here, has been Tyra's make-up artist for years. So why is a make-up artist suddenly planning entire photo shoots? And why, and I'm not trying to be rude here, I'm just asking, but why is he orange?

Episodes are divided into six chapters and are not subtitled.

Extras Grade: C-
 

Final Comments

I'll have to check, but I don't think it's possible I could care less about models or fashion, and yet I find America's Next Top Model to be one of the most entertaining programs on television (the mind boggles). Of course, if the show was actually a model competition, and not an excuse for catfights and personality clashes, that might mean something. Considering the biggest prize anyone has gotten out of it is a close physical relationship with Greg Brady, I'll just considering it the smartly edited, guilty pleasure reality show it is. You fierce, Tyra, you alien-headed weirdo.

Joel Cunningham 2005-03-22