'America's Next Top Model'
7 p.m. on WGN-Channel 9
One and a half stars
8:30 p.m. on WGN-Channel 9
Having watched at least every female-oriented reality show of this century and the last, I can tell you this: In America, the most privileged heiress is just as insecure, self-absorbed, ill-mannered, vapid, loathsome and desperate as any "Flavor of Love" reject.
Truly. These reality shows have something to teach us, and it's this: our common denominator is far lower than we feared.
I had high hopes for "High Society," starring the fabulous Tinsley Mortimer, a Bergdorf Blonde even I had heard of. Want to know how classy she is? Her ex is named Topper. Topper!
I assumed we would be watching how the other tenth lives. Socialites, as I understand it, are supposed to mingle and show horses until such time as they make a brilliant match and spend the rest of their lives languidly sniping at the nouveau riche.
The joke of Paris Hilton, I thought, is that she was supposed to be an aberration. A novelty.
Wrongo! These "socialites" want their debutante party - and they do not want the damn band to stop playing.
New York's sought-after Olivia Palermo now slums it on MTV's "The City." And we meet her pal Tinsley at a painful crossroads. "My mom is really mad at me, because I've been dating someone, and his name is Casimir, and he's a German prince," she laments.
Then there's a shot of Tinsley's mother actually checking out a library book about the country and saying, "I know the German people are lovely people, but let's face it," she says. "Their history. It's not good."
Just a few more of Tinsley's friends:
*Jules Kirby, who says: "I use the 'N' word sometimes, and I think it should be OK." Pause. "My dream is to work for the United Nations one day.
*Paul Johnson Calderon, who accuses Jules of faking cancer just to get money from her parents, and then throws his drink at her, instead temporarily blinding the woman next to her.
*Hannah Branfman, who just may pioneer the catchphrase "Freaka!"
Now let us compare them to the most recent set of "America's Next Top Model" candidates, Cycle 14. It's not required, but as with "American Idol," we like a rags-to-riches story. "Top Model" serves as a sort of finishing school for the diamonds that Tyra Banks plucks from buckets of Swarovski crystals.
Tyra has the formula perfected, and in Wednesday's hour-and-a-half premiere, she throws it all at us: a lame theme (a parody of "Facebook" called "MyFierce"), a candidate who whips her wig off and then falls to the floor in Tyra worship; not one but TWO candidates who got pregnant the first time they had sex; a woman who was molested as a child growing up in a cult; and a gratuitous kilt on Mr. Jay.
Tyra knows what works, and she's not even going to make us wait for it anymore. Remember when we had to sit through episode after episode before the infamous makeover scene when someone gets their head shaved? In the premiere, we get it immediately! And, oh yes, there's crying.
It's essential in a reality show that there's someone we can root for, or root against. We make no moral judgments, but we must be entertained.
The problem with "High Society" is that we don't love or hate the characters. We just want to shave their heads.