Michael Slezak
April 01, 2009 AT 12:00 PM EDT

I’m a huge fan of the nonstop camp rollercoaster that is America’s Next Top Model. But this season, er, cycle — the show’s 12th — I’ve found myself building up a DVR backlog, and when I finally got a chance to catch up this weekend, I had to (blasphemy alert!) fight the urge to hit the fast-forward button on my DVR. It’s not that there aren’t contestants to love (Aminat!!) and loathe (Sandra, Natalie), it’s just that the show’s formula of mentally and emotionally torturing pretty young ladies has grown suddenly stale. Which got me thinking about five ways Tyra & Co. can freshen things up for Cycle 13. Read on, then make your own suggestions for reviving Top Model in the comments section below!

1. Turn the contact sheets over to the contestants and let them choose their own “best shots.” Think about it: In its current incarnation, Tyra and the producers have way too much power to script and manipulate the outcome of the competition. “Here’s your best shot” could easily be translated as “here’s your worst shot because we’ve determined your story arc is ovah!” Why not let the show’s dim-witted mannequins have a larger hand in determining their own fates? Especially if it allows us to see a weekly range of pho-tos — the fierce, the hideous, the ones that fail to capture this season’s keyword of “tension!” — for every girl in the competition.

2. Make sure there’s something at stake at each week’s photo shoot. Come on, there are hundreds of magazines, Web sites, clothing labels, and retailers that would kill for some free publicity. Instead of draping the models with meat-kinis (remember THAT one?) or making them try to scale the Great Wall of China, why not have ’em compete to land actual spots in editorial or advertising spreads, and thereby see on a week-to-week basis who’s got the goods to survive in the real world. It’d sure beat having the week’s winning shot displayed as digital art in the Top Model house. (Bunk!)

3. Replace the man at Tyra’s right hand — at the judges’ table, that is. Keeping it really real, Miss J and her growing bowtie simply isn’t cutting it when it comes to delivering the funny — or the pertinent critiques. Why not bring back Nolé Marin, who slayed during deliberations in the March 25 episode.

4. Turn Paulina into Top Model‘s Tim Gunn. Seriously! She’s smart, she’s funny, she actually knows a thing or two about modeling. Bring Paulina on to the set to help advise clueless contestants as they try to smile with their eyes while fighting back the tears that result from listening to Mr. Jay’s patented brand of bitchery.

5. And finally…bring on Princess Thursday! (If you don’t know who that is, then it’s time to familiarize yourself with America’s Next Top Doll…after the jump. And fret not, ANTD fans, the long-awaited series finale will be filmed when Idol season is over!)

addCredit(“David M. Russell/The CW”)

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