ANTM Episode 1101 / Network Notes

I went a long time — and for good reason — without watching “America’s Next Top Model.” After six seasons of being involved with the show as either a recapper or a producer, I was somewhat burned and somewhat burned out by the time Cycle Seven’s CarrieDee nabbed the crown and receded into instant nothingness. I took a breather during Cycles Eight and Nine, and then returned last season to watch the casting episode, point at Whitney, and say, “She’s going to win.” And she did! And so did I, because I loved Cycle 10 and its plus-sized affirmative action policy toward its eventual winner. Don’t get me wrong…I loved Whitney. But her victory was preordained. Tyra must have taken one look at her during casting and thought, “This is the only plus-sized contestant in the history of this show who has a shot in hell of winning — sorry Diane — so she’s gonna, damn it.” No end of bitchy eye rolls or pageant-y performances was going to stand in Whitney’s way.

So despite past hurts, my re-entry to “Top Model” after two seasons off was, overall, smooth sailing. I know and love a number of people who still work over there, and I’ve frequently stated that any lingering anger about the strike should be directed squarely at the Writer’s Guild of America and not Ken Mok or 10×10. So “Top Model,” I thought, was a proven formula that just worked. I was going watch it. I was going to love it. And it would give me one more thing to talk to Potes about. I miss her.

Then…Cycle 11. I guess my feeling that “Top Model” was a can’t-miss gambit disintegrated the first time Tyra and her team vanished into thin air. And while I have many times wished that Tyra’s basic matter would get beamed into oblivion evermore, I didn’t imagine I would hate it so much when it finally happened. Maybe it’s because she was also able to come back. Or maybe it’s because Tyra and the Jays floating through space has NOTHING to do with what is ostensibly a modeling competition. Because it isn’t. Not anymore.

And so, to the producers of “America’s Next Top Model” who politely declined the solicitation of any further opinion from me way back in 2006…well, I have some notes on the new season. So let’s just pretend I’m the network executive giving these notes, which means they are 100% prescriptive and I will need to see them fully addressed in the next cut. Get started…you’ve got some late nights coming up!

And if you’ve never seen network notes on a reality show before…this is what they look like.

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TO: Ken Mok
FROM: The CW Network
RE: ANTM 1101

Dear Ken et al:

Well, we’re underway once more! Our notes for the first hour of the two-part premiere are attached. Obviously, there’s going to be some major retooling needed, but we have some time built into the schedule and we’re all confident that, with the right finesses, this will end up being one of our best seasons yet.

When you send out the next cut, please be sure to let us know IN WRITING what you were unable to address from the attached so that we do not ask again. If you would like to schedule a conference call to discuss any of this further, my office will be happy to set one up. Or you can email me directly.

Again, thanks for the timely delivery of the first episode, and we are anxiously awaiting the next cut.

Best,
THE NETWORK

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OVERALL:

In general, the major positive is that the structure of the episode seems to work quite well. The key story girls are introduced in a way that makes them memorable, and I had no trouble tracking who was who, despite all of the Britneys.

My major concern, then, is in maximizing all of the girls and remembering to make THEM the stars of the show. “America’s Next Top Model” is a lot of things, but we need to remember that, above all, it is first and foremost a MODELING COMPETITION. While it is important for Tyra and the Jays to enjoy themselves and create a fun viewing environment, their shtick and gimmicks should feel more integrated into the story (ie. Tyra acting like a moose), rather than fighting the action and making the show seem cheesy and silly (ie. Tyra and the Jays magically disappearing into space).

On your next pass, we all encourage you to go back to the footage and find bites and footage that support the notion of this being a serious competition. Obviously we’ve all worked hard to court a younger demographic — we know that Elle has given way to Seventeen, Gilles Bensimon to Ann Shoket — but there’s a fine line between simplifying the story and making the show into a farce. And we all feel strongly that watching Tyra and Jay “beam up” heralds a level of dumbing down that even our 2-11 demo would call us out on.

SPECIFIC:

00:29 — Before you lock VO for the Cold Open, please play with some more colorful/descriptive alternatives to “ten successful cycles.” I don’t think that’s the best or most interesting word there. Similarly, while we all like the nod to the first ten cycles, it seems odd to refer to them collectively as a “decade,” when clearly the show has not been on since 1998. Not to be overly-literal with this copy, but I do think it needs some tweaking.

00:58 — Great to have a high-energy sound-up here, but it seems odd to have Sheena say her name before we have any idea who she is. Is there anything else in her interview we can use instead?

1:20 — Seems like we hear this music cue kind of a lot.

1:40 — Small point, but Sheena’s “in this bus” is clearly a Frankenbite. I understand the need for it for story purposes, but please see if you can finesse the audio in the mix.

1:54 — Okay, this is where we start running into trouble. Like I said in the overall notes above, this cycle seems more than ever like a showcase for Tyra and the Jays to do a bunch of comedy bits, rather than preside over a legit modeling competition. We’ve had some questions about the special effects since our earliest discussions, and I’m sorry to say they are playing exactly as cheesy as we’d feared. We need to scale down on this kind of thing in the future and remember that the audience watching this show wants to see a MODELING COMPETITION. We’re stuck with the footage we have now, but I think we can make some smart choices and scale down some of the greater excesses. First, please remove the green lightning. It is not working at all.

3:13 — After the introduction of the “body scan,” Brittney B.’s bite feels too generic. Does anyone speak to the fact that this so-called “body scan” is ALSO A PHOTO SHOOT? Is it? Or isn’t it? If it’s not, this moment is superfluous and confusing. Is it just a walk off? Bring it back to modeling…what exactly are the girls doing here and what do they think about it?

3:30 — Elina bite about veganism comes out of nowhere. Cut for time?

4:30 — Having a LOT of trouble understanding what Miss Jay is saying. Is there another take?

5:27 — B-roll shot of moon is very strange…we go back in and see the girls standing pretty much exactly where they had just been, and you don’t get the sense of time having passed. Is there any daytime exterior b-roll of the location we can use instead?

5:55 — Great Sheena bite.

6:13 — Lose this cheesy effect on the Glaminator.

6:17 — Again, I’m feeling confused when we first see Tyra…I don’t know what’s going on again. Is this JUST a method of introducing Tyra? Is there going to be another challenge? It’s hard to figure out, and the whole thing feels so STAGED and CONTRIVED. It’s not that I don’t like a through line for the casting episode (Top Model Academy is an example of this concept executed well), but this again seems like a playground for Tyra and the Jays. Really need to scale back on their focus and concentrate more on the girls.

6:59 — Don’t understand this Martian joke.

7:44 — Okay, guys…we cannot have Tyra and the Jays disappearing into thin air. This is supposed to be a real competition with real stakes, and I’m just not feeling them yet other than a few generic bites about “how I have to win.” We should go straight from Tyra saying, “I’m done with you for now,” then cut back to the girls clapping and the bite from Joslyn. ALSO, this act out should be about one of our GIRLS are her feelings/jitters about the competition. First off, though: did you shoot a straight exit from Tyra et al? If so, please use. If not, please cut out of this scene earlier…just as long as we lose this disappearing device ASAP.

8:09 — This is a lame establishing shot of the building. Is this the actual location? If not, can we pick-up something else before we lock this episode? Also, in Act One we transitioned to night and now it’s day again. Is it the next day? Not clear.

9:22 — Brit package good overall. Lots of energy, and ABOUT something. One issue: Mr. Jay is clearly cut off after “stunning.” If there was nothing of value in the rest of his thought, can we use something there so it sounds like there’s more of a button?

9:47 — Really weird Tyra bite about Lauren Brie’s doe eyes. Surely there’s something better that can go here?

9:55 — Don’t really care about Analeigh’s figure skating…what comes after it is much better, and ABOUT MODELING. This is great take away info and this episode could use a lot more of it.

10:56 — Again, this exterior b-roll really looks bad.

13:06 — After Kacey’s bite about how she chooses her friends, we don’t need to cut back to Miss Jay saying basically the same thing. I don’t disagree that he’s kind of getting lost in these panels so far, but if he’s going to say something it should be of some value.

13:09 — I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t want to see Tyra et al having fun, but this French nonsense is really superfluous and not at all funny.

13:19 — Same note as 10:56.

14:21 — Isis panel needs to be cut down by 50%.

18:11 — Some of this Sheena panel stuff seems to be in the wrong order. Miss Jay speaking in a foreign language cuts into another discussion of Sheena’s “flava,” and both Tyra’s discussion of Kimora’s race and the fact that Sheena dates black guys all seems to be in the wrong order. We love Sheena and her energy and don’t want to lose this stuff, but this section needs to be tweaked.

19:15 — If you’re looking to cut time, you can totally lose this Lindsey panel completely. It’s not that great and she doesn’t make it into the house. And, cynically, we know a plus-size model has no chance of winning Cycle 11. Suggest cutting.

21:09 — This is a good example of Tyra being funny in context. She’s being her wacky self, but not to the detriment of overall story. Does Tyra feel comfortable referring to herself as “a moose” on camera? Seems like the tabloids would have a field day.

22:01 — Slide whistle SFX when Tyra throws the towel is a bit much. Replace or cut.

23:10 — Like this cue, but we hear it a lot.

23:15 — This is a much better spot to introduce Elina’s animal activism. Don’t need it set up in Act One. This panel works really well.

24:32 — Weak act out. Anything from Clark or the other girls about Elina, or was this totally constructed in the bay? If there’s nothing, try moving Kacey’s bite about Clark not being her type a hair later, just so we feel a little more drama going into the break. Or, if we’re thinking really outside the box, maybe we can extend the act to 28:26, when Tyra schools Samantha at the end of the last panel. Then we can start anew on the Jays standing in front of the girls in their pink shirts. Let’s discuss this before you make any major changes.

25:07 — Anything more to Nikeysha’s panel than flashing? This whole thing is a little weird.

25:47 — We’re not calling her McKey in this episode at all? Interested to see how that gets introduced…

29:50 — Too many access granted/access denied without a bite. And when a bite comes in, I’d like to hear it from someone besides Isis. Already feel like we’ve seen too much of her.

32:33 — Can we split-screen a Claudia Schiffer pose to illustrate for the audience what Jay is saying to Analeigh?

34:48 — I hate to keep harping on the b-roll and the lightning bolts, but…

34:57 — After Tyra says, “Are we ready?” does she say anything specific about winnowing down X number of girls to Y number of girls? I’m losing the overall timeline here. Need something starting with, “So now it’s time to…” to reset for viewers.

35:57 — We hear nothing of Susan’s MODELING in this deliberation. The beat about her not knowing anything about her major should be a shorter pop, and we shouldn’t be hearing about it anymore by now.

36:54 — Joslyn’s deliberation ABSOLUTELY needs a reminder that this is the girl who tried out thirty times. That is her character, and we need to remember who she is to up the stakes when she’s the last girl allowed into the house.

37:33 — Need something better on Kacey than the fact that she looks like a Barbie doll, because she doesn’t and they say so.

37:14 — What is this magical ball of energy Tyra has?

37:54 — No.

40:27 — Is there ANY way to cheat the order of the girls called? Tyra saying we have three Britneys is potentially good setup, but then calling them all in a row after that saps the moment of drama.

41:09 — Like a lot of the Isis stuff, this is all bloated setup with no payoff. If we’re going to stick with the “outsider” storyline for Isis, can we see a few more cutaways to other girls besides Kacey looking surprised?

42:11 — Yeah, it’s been too long since we learned Joslyn was the girl that tried out thirty times.

43:12 — Sheena stumbles over “yellow fever,” and I don’t think we really need it.

43:17 — The way this is cut right now makes it look like Tyra could NOT get out of there fast enough. Can we leave out the goodbye and show her doing ANYTHING else with the girls?

My notes on 1102 coming shortly…