Imagine a reality show where 14 contestants compete to be THE BEST. Each week, their achievements are evaluated by three Judges. These Judges decide who is, or isn't, cut out to be THE BEST, and send one or two of them packing each week.
Now imagine it goes something like this....
The Judges call the contestants into the judging room and instruct them to wear something red the next time they meet. Thirteen of the contestants return wearing their most alluring red outfits. Contestant 14 has no red attire with him; therefore he chooses to wear a black tuxedo and a bow tie of burgundy.
Oh, how the Judges praise Contestant 14! How daring he is! What a risk he took with his choice! And how stunning he looks, indeed! Contestant 14, you are SAFE this week! Contestants 1 and 2, you did not take a risk at all, and in this competition, you must learn to be bold! GO HOME.
The Judges send the contestants a message telling them to show up at judging this week wearing green. Several of them do choose green outfits, but the others, remembering the advice given to them the week before, break free from the mold and wear yellow, blue, or purple.
The contestants are met with icy glares from the Judges. They look nervously at one another.
The Head Judge stands up. "You were all instructed," she says crisply, "To wear green this week, were you not? Yet I see that only a few of you followed this advice. In this competition, it is essential that you listen to us Judges and learn from our many years of experience. Take heed to what we say. Half of you IGNORED our instructions, and two of YOU will be going home.
And so Contestant 3, in her gorgeous yellow ensemble, and Contestant 4, with his shimmery turquoise cape, are sent away, while the others (especially Contestant 11, who wore violet) breathe sighs of relief.
The contestants are all given bed sheets to wear, temporarily solving the outfit/color issue, and are instructed to stand on one foot during judging while simultaneously looking "alarmed."
Several contestants perform to the Judges' satisfaction. Others wobble; one falls down. Contestant 5 refuses to do the task, citing religious issues, and Contestant 6, while agreeing to stand on one foot, declines to look alarmed, but instead appears refreshingly serene.
Goodbye, Contestants 5 and 6....
The contestants are given wet suits and are placed in large glass water tanks for the judging panel.
Naturally, they are given basic snorkel gear so that they do not perish, and while they await their fates, each grows increasingly cold.
"I'm done!" Contestant 7 cries after an hour. "That's it; this is too much!" Tears spring from her eyes as she climbs out of the tank and searches for a towel. "I wanted to be in this competition. My family was counting on me. But you don't know about the near-fatal accident I had at age seven involving a swimming pool and a plastic shark. I can't do this anymore!"
The Judges express their disappointment, saying they wished Contestant 7 had the bravery and the tenacity to continue, but agree to officially dismiss her. They also boot Contestant 8, who they say looked like a "drowned rat" in his own tank and was therefore an embarrassment to humankind. The others are declared "safe" and climb out of their tanks, breathing in the fresh oxygen from above as if their lives depended on it.
The remaining six contestants must hang from a cable for three hours over Times Square while wearing lingerie. Part of their final score for the week will depend on the mercy of the New Yorkers watching from below, who can text the number of their favorite contestant to 55117 at only 99 cents per text.
Contestant 9, citing an acute fear of heights, refuses to go on the wire, and instead chooses to watch from the sidelines. Later, at the judging panel, Contestant 9 expects to be eliminated but instead is surprised to learn that the judges admire her gumption.
"We'll be taking into account your performances in previous weeks," the Head Judge tells Contestant 9. "And you've been performing solidly since the beginning. Even though we're disappointed you did not participate in this challenge, we won't hold it against you."
Contestants 10 and 11, though they hung from the wire and earned some particularly nasty welts for their efforts, are sent home.
While dressed in a flamingo outfit and posing for zoogoers, Contestant 13 breaks down.
"I miss my family!" she cries, as she removes her plastic beak and wipes away her tears. "I thought I could do this, but... I can't, I just can't... I need my mom!"
Contestant 13 is allowed to call her mom, who urges her to be strong and stay in the competition. Contestant 13 agrees.
But the Judges are not impressed with Contestant 13's emotional outburst and the fact that she did not stay in character as a flamingo. "You had an assignment," says the Head Judge. "And you must NEVER let emotions get in the way of your duties, not if you want to THE BEST."
Contestant 13 is eliminated along with Contestant 12, who, while dressed like a sun bear, failed to look appropriately "fierce."
And the finalists are known! Contestant 14 (he of the burgundy bow tie) and Contestant 9 (who refused to hang from the wire in Times Square) are asked to participate in one final challenge to determine who will be THE BEST.
"Here's what you must do," the Head Judge tells them. "You will need to walk a fifty-foot-long balance beam while being pummeled by water balloons. You will be wearing high heels. You must also wear sneakers. You may not wear green, but you MUST wear blue, lavender, and just a hint of black. You mustn't wear anything too revealing, but you absolutely HAVE to look sexy while doing all of the above. Your past performances will also be taken into account in your final score. Who will be the BEST? We'll know soon enough...."
Contestant 14 falls off the balance beam twice. Contestant 9 forgets to look sexy. Contestant 14 forgets his clothes entirely. Contestant 9 wears a coat of many colors and blinds half the audience.
But there can only be one winner.
Back in the judging room, the Judges deliberate. They evaluate the past performances of Contestants 9 and 14. They review footage from their most recent endeavor.
"This is very difficult," says one.
"They're both great," says another.
"But we must choose one," says the Head Judge. "And it looks like we have!"
Contestants 9 and 14 are brought forth. "There can only be one winner," the Head Judge reminds them. "In my hands I hold one 8x10. That photo represents the person who is THE BEST. The person whose photo I do not show is the loser and must leave immediately. Whose name am I going to call? Whose 8x10 do I hold? The person whose face is shown in the photo that I am currently holding IS.... CONTESTANT 9!"
CONTESTANT 9 WIIIINS!
Contestant 14 tries to look brave as the Head Judge shakes his hand and wishes him luck in his future endeavors to be -- well, perhaps not the BEST, since there can only be one -- but at least be moderately successful.
Contestant 9 is given a crown of rubies and a cape made of faux fur. A glittery scepter is placed in her hands. She is rewarded with heaps of praise. A photographer comes and takes photos of Contestant 9 with the Head Judge. One of these photos will grace the main page of Head Judge's website for the next month! Why? Because she is THE BEST!
But be sure to tune in a few months from now, when the competition will start all over, and a new BEST will be chosen!
And then again the following year. Twice.
For the next ten years.
Yes (surprise?) I've just described the premise of the Tyra Banks masterpiece/fiasco America's Next Top Model, currently on Cycle 20 (guys vs. girls!)
OMG this show is insane. The judges are insane. Every piece of "advice" they give is a contradiction to something they've previously said. The contestants are expected to do crazy tasks, all in the name of modeling, and then are judged on some wacky criteria that can only be understood by the judges themselves, and which changes weekly, and sometimes hourly. If they win, the model receives a modeling contract, which will guarantee them a small degree of success within the near future, but after that, forget it, who cares. Meanwhile, the contestants routinely break down emotionally, cry, scream at each other, and are verbally beaten down by the judges.
That said, it is overwhelmingly entertaining. Sure, it'll make you want to pull out your hair one follicle at a time... but bald is beautiful, am I right?
ANTM currently airs Friday nights on the CW. And you have been warned.
DON'T WATCH IT.
OMG RUN, JUST RUN.