With "America's Next Top Model" now entering its 16th cycle, one might think the venerable reality-show warhorse fit for the glue factory, but as programs such as "Survivor" have shown, the proper mix of preening personalities and pop-culture tropes (and, in the case of "ANTM," a healthy dose of the ever-buoyant Tyra Banks) can help prevent a one-way trip to the prime-time pasture.
In a premiere that takes a page from "American Gladiators," the models endure an awkward photo shoot, then strut their stuff on a thin runway over a pool while encased in a giant plastic bubble. Yes, beautiful people fall down.
amNewYork identifies some early standouts:
What the judges like: A self-possessed blonde with sun-kissed good looks, Alexandria's profile was highly praised by fashion editor-at-(very)-large Andre Leon Talley (sporting an awesome feather-duster Tyrolean cap).
What we like: The clear house heavy, Alexandria at times seemed to be competing in a different show, perhaps abbreviated as "ANTB." Drama!
What the judges like: A baby-faced Southerner with a helium squeak for a voice, Jaclyn's personality is sweeter than sweet tea, and Tyra deems her best photo "stunning."
What we like: Her boundless naivete. When confronted with the runway challenge, she responds: "What if they can't get it open and I'm stuck in that bubble for the rest of my life?"
What the judges like: Her quirky, androgynous appeal. Tyra says her photo looks like "a 19-year-old boy with makeup on. But that's what I like about it."
What we like: Sporting an Anakin Skywalker brattail hairdo and Whoopi Goldberg vest in her first appearance, Sara is clearly the "alt" choice. We hope she goes far.
What the judges like: This cycle?s plus-size model (or, as Tyra says, "fiercely real"), Kasia already has modeling experience, making her the mature, runway-ready choice.
What we like: Her charm and Midwestern mien. Kasia made it through an entire hour without seeming anything but genuine (if a little boring). In model-land, she's good people.
What the judges like: Fashion photog Nigel Barker called her shot "mpressive," and Talley says there is "something of a young Jennifer Aniston" in her striking looks.
What we like: We get something more of a Blair from "The Facts of Life" with Hannah (though her penchant for pigtails reads a bit more like Natalie). But she seems like a dark-horse candidate with staying power.
On TV: The 16th cycle of "America's Next Top Model" premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CW/11