After 20 seasons, one billion nutty contestants (true fact: if laid end to end, they’d stretch all the way to Modelland and back), gallons of haircut-related tears, myriad delightful variations on “I’m not here to make friends,” countless instances of Tyra Banks randomly slipping into one of her four accents (“vaguely British,” “almost French,” “Oprah,” and “daaa-yum, girl!”), and challenges involving roaches, tarantulas, clouds of pheromone-crazed bees, and Fabio, saying ”that crazy thing on America’s Next Top Model” is sort of like talking about suicide in Buffalo—it’s redundant.
And yet! While I would under no circumstances call ANTM’s 21st cycle “good,” I would call it “kinda great”—mostly because from minute one, it dials the crazy up to 11. There’s a bisexual Wiccan contestant who immediately busts out a crisp pack of brand-new tarot cards. The semi-finalists have to stomp in an EDM-themed runway show. At one point, a voiceover declares that ”the toochers and boochers are back,” as if that sentence actually means something in the English language.
So yes—even though the following 10 moments are all naked attempts to grab attention from people just like me (and they indicate, for the nth time, that Top Model has abandoned all pretense at discovering anybody who could viably make a living by posing for cameras, let alone a “top model”), I have to give ANTM an “A” for effort. For a few seasons in the middle of the series’ run, its increasingly colorful antics seemed more desperate than deliciously ridiculous. But adding men to the cast last year really did revitalize the show, and the new season (so far, anyway) is firmly in the “deliciously ridiculous” camp. The proof is in the pot ledoms:
10. The mechitza that separates the men from the women at the beginning of the episode
This season, on America’s Next Top Mazel…
9. Tyra’s big fashion show entrance
She’s lowered from the rafters in a sex swing. This contestant probably said it best: “I look up, and I see someone descending from the ceiling. And I’m like, ‘oooookay.’”
8. What Tyra says about special guest Cory, who placed third in cycle 20
“Just last cycle, Cory was a young man with a dream. And now he’s here, standing beside me.” So much has changed!
7. The parameters of the first challenge
It is a) an EDM-themed show in which b) the contestants must cover themselves in neon body paint and c) each come up with a unique “personal hashtag” (one picks “#lolwhut”) before d) taking a selfie at the end of the runway. Welcome to the year 2012, everybody.
6. What Tyra says to contestant Mirjana during her first meeting with the judges
“I hope you take this time to give birth to yourself.”
5. The advice contestant Denzel’s mother apparently gave him once
“You’ll lose money chasing p—-, but you’ll never lose p—- chasing money.” Eww. Another quote: “I want to prove that an alpha male can dominate this industry.” Finally, a dude brave enough to stand up for the rights of alpha males everywhere.
4. Contestant Danny from Staten Island’s hair
The higher the hair, the closer to “oh my gawd.” He’s basically Danny Castellano, but terrible.
3. Contestant Adam’s blasé assessment of his female competitors
The ultimate frat boy—who assures us that he’s actually studying smart stuff, i.e. mathematical risk management and actuarial science—assumes he’ll “probably French seven or eight of them.”
2. Tyra’s reaction to contestant/living Realdoll Jamie Rae
“You look like a Barbie doll come to life… It’s like Eve’s friend.” Tyra does not bother explaining what she means by this, probably because she knows anyone who’s stuck with this show for 21 damn seasons has also seen the 2000 Disney Channel Original Movie Life-Size.
1. Everything about the show’s first two minutes
I could watch, oh, six hours of Lil’ Tyra and Lil’ Miss J wagging their heads and widening their eyes and trading Dr. Seuss-lite verse in the voices of their grown-up selves. New idea for Cycle 22: Baby Edition. It’d be Top Model plus Toddlers and Tiaras, and it would almost certainly violate child labor laws. Tyra: Think about it.