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'America's Next Top Model' Recap - Season 18, Episode 1 - British Invasion

March 1st, 2012 4:56pm EST

ANTM - British Invasion What a day or two it's been in the world of global pop culture. The sun has set sadly and suddenly on a British icon. RIP, Davy Jones And today America's own Justin Bieber celebrates his 18th birthday. Something else is turning 18 too... America's Next Top Model celebrated the debut of its impressive 18th season last evening on the CW. Or, I'm sorry, its 18th cycle as its being referred to in the rags and the blogs. Isn't it odd that the CW is using such transparent networkspeak in the public sphere? It's ok, C-dub. We know you're a real television network on real American teevees. You don't have to prove it to us with language that should be reserved for internal emails. But if nothing else, it functions to remind us of the ever-present cycle of birth(days), death, and of course, reality television.

The curtain rose last night on an episode titled "Kelly Osbourne," presumably named for only one of the new Kellys serving on Tyra's panel of jolly judges. This season's theme is British invasion. 7 real, grade A, American models will be squaring off against 7 Brits, who have already been through a round of Britain's Next Top Model in an effort to claim the prize that consists of: a modeling contract with both an L.A. and NYC-based agency, a myriad of ANTM-related endorsement deals, and a single (what?) to be produced and released by CBS. Because if Real Housewives can produce amazing talk-techno singles, why shouldn't models get their chance too? There's no such thing as too much bad music on iTunes. That what I always say (no, I don't). Let's meet the contenders, shall we?

For Team Union Jack, we have: Annaliese, who I will be referring to as Downtown Julie Brown for the duration of the season. Not only does she look and talk just like her, but she also is the British equivalent of a VJ. There's Ashley who is Scottish, and therefore unintelligible to our American ears and eternally subtitled. She's also a mom: a story line that will be driven home throughout the course of the episode through interview bytes and non-sequitor scenes. Sophie is from the place where dictionaries were invented. No, not Merriam Webster (that's probably not even a town), nope not Cambridge either, the other one. Oxford, yes, the other one that's both a dictionary and a University. Alisha is perpetually annoyed by everyone and from "what we would refer to as a ghetto." Catherine is the "plus-sized" which in model means like a size 6 or 8. Y'know, huge. And Jasmia and Louise are around too, but we don't know much about them yet.

Team Stars and Stripes is comprised of the following: AzMarie, a striking and androgynous lesbian. Laura, a wrist band-rocking, attention-craving tornado of krimped hair and overt bisexuality. The producers are leaving the door open to a little somethin' somethin' to develop between her and AzMarie. Though, if they both last long enough, I'm going to call shenanigans; I don't see AzMarie being into it. Mariah is the first token Native American, and will be playing the role of Pocahontas later (yes, seriously). Kyle is the requisite southern girl-next-door, and hasn't given us much yet, aside from the dream in her heart and the song on her lips. Eboni's claim to fame here is that she's tried out for ANTM 8 times. Now if I were her, I might keep that little failure factoid in my back pocket, but I've always been a glass mostly empty type of girl. Oh, also, she's from Brooklyn, and since this is reality television, you probably shouldn't mess with her. And Seymone is the other "plus-sized" girl. So there you have it.

After we got to get a sense for the contestants and this year's theme, we have to have that filler event that has absolutely no stakes, and just serves to demonstrate to us who everyone is and what team they're on. This time it was a "Pose-Off" in a parade in Universal City where each contestant was paired up with an opponent and ordered to strut as fiercely and model-y as possible down their red,white and blue parade float. Extra points for the most awkward attempt at trash talking. I seem to remember that going to one of the Brits, perhaps misunderstood the point, and accused the crowd of speaking English. Well, it is true. Apropos of nothing, but true. I'll give her that. And in the off chance you dozed off (a distinct possibility) and forgot you were watching a reality television competition show, there were those bytes that the editors are contractually bound to insert. You know what I'm talking about, the "I didn't come here to lose"s and the "go big or go home"s. Boom, done. OUt of the way. Tensions and teams established. Let's get onto the meat of the competition.

The first real event was a 3-D photoshoot which was kind of cool. There were 60 motion capture cameras set up in a half circle designed to capture the models while they jumped on tiny trampolines against each other while simultaneously embodying an iconic figure from their country. Yes, the concept was a bit muddled. It seems like maybe the producers should have just settled on either the 3-D trampoline jumping or the iconic figure shoot. But maybe that was the point.

The most successful pairing appeared to be Michelle Obama (Seymore) and MArgaret Thatcher (Sophie). Catherine also rocked her Queen Elizabeth costume, and poor AzMarie was assigned George Washington which was not as stunning a victory. Someone put her in a gold skirt and gave her a telescope or something which she brandished as a prop weapon and pointed it at the queen like a gun. Awkwardly. Eh. Rhythm Nation-era Janet Jackson (Candace) and Mel B. (Annaliese) were even less successful. Candace ended up coming off as a dominatrix, and Annaliese looked like she was en route to a 70's era Swingers' Party. Laura's krimped hair worked to her advantage as Madonna, circa "Like A Virgin," but her tall, lanky, African American partner, Alisha was unfortunately assigned Elton John and ended up looking more like Flava Flav in a Tina Turner wig. Not satisfied, Jay Manuel kept yelling nonsensical things about bottle service and "Thriller" at her, and hen accused her of spoofing Elton John and not bringing a more fashionable sensibility to the shoot, but it seemed kind of inevitable. I mean, how would a talk, black female embody a short, white, flamboyant gay man without a bit of whimsy? Especially when she's dolled up in a florescent glitter suit and a Whitney Houston wig. I don't know, it seemed a little destined for failure. It just got stranger after that. Andy Warhol (Kyle) went up against Amy Winehouse (Louise) in a nondescript match. Eboni was assigned Jacquie O., stuffed into the tightest zebra dress on Planet Earth and somehow ended up not killing it. The Jacquie O. I know was black and often clad in tight stripper clothes, so it seemed like a victory to me too, but somehow she managed to miss the mark. Her competitor, Ashley got Princess Di, and that seemed a more natural fit, but couldn't seem to relax, and cried about that for awhile. By far the most uncomfortable and bizarre pairing was Pocahontas (Maria, obvi) versus John Lennon (Jasmia). Not only was this strange onus placed on Maria to be the best Native American model ever, but what the hell to those two have to do with each other? And Jasmia, another lanky and ambiguously ethnic (her words) model was forced to play an average looking white man. And then, on top of that, that idiot Jay kept yelling things like, "interact in a more fashion way!" Yes, like the way Pocahontas and John Lennon would have naturally interacted upon running into each other in Bryant Park at Fashion Week. Go with that. So that was weird.

And then, after the competition, there was this strange little insert scene featuring Ashley crying on the phone with her kids for no real reason. Were the producers setting us up for AShley's departure? She certainly did not crush the photo shoot. Or are they setting up something more permanent? Like her being the homesick one whose head isn't really in the game? Hm.

Meanwhile, at the judging panel, all the contestants appear to have been punched in the mouth. Or maybe they were bitten by the Banks, and became zombies overnight? Oh, no, wait! All the contestants have painted their lips in red, white and blue; the colors of their homeland. Red, white and blue is a gorgeous palate for the mouths of ladies. Hypothermia chic, I'm calling it. You heard it here first.
Then we were introduced to the Kellys of cycle 18: Cutrone and Osbourne. Should I assume that since the episode is named after the Osbourne that she is a guest judge and Cutrone is a staple? These are the things I will ponder in that space between sleep and dreams tonight. Tyra was certainly in rare form too, wasn't she? Confession: I'm new to this show. I have never seen an episode in its entirety. But to me, she seemed downright gleeful. Maybe it's because this was the maiden episode of a new season, but she was almost maternal. I'd like to say this, too. Kelly Osbourne was pretty impressive, too. Not at all reminiscent of that smirking, puberty monster I remember from The Osbournes. She was poised, articulate and insightful, and she also head the best quote of the evening, describing the Elton John photo as an angry Aladdin which was spot-on. And if I were a betting woman, that's who I would've wagered my hypothetical paycheck on Aladdin's departure this week. But ultimately it was Jasmia who was sent packing for both her inability to capture the spirit of John Lennon, and an apparent lack of passion when defending herself to the judges.

Related: America's Next Top Model, Kelly Osbourne, Starpulse Exclusives, Recaps, Television, The CW

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