It's a Newer, Boy-crazier (and Better?) America's Next Top Model!

By Price Peterson

Aug 04, 2013

America's Next Top Model S20E01: "Meet the Guys and Girls"

First of all, to answer your most burning question, yes. America's Next Top Model is still on the air. Somewhere someone—or perhaps even multiple people—still watch this thing. Second of all, after 19 cycles it should be more than clear by now that this franchise will never, not ever, produce a "top model." If anything, the winner of each cycle should be crowned America's Next Top America's Next Top Model Model because the best career these winners could hope for will be a slot on a future all-stars edition of this show (should there even be future seasons). 

Anyway, forget the fraudulent title and premise; all that matters is good TV and for a while there ANTM was pretty great... so long as you could suspend your disbelief long enough to enjoy its madness. Personally I grew tired of this franchise around Cycle 13, when its patterns and cliches began to grow unbearable—particularly the clownish judges, arbitrary eliminations, forced in-jokes, barrel-scraped contestants, silly stunt cycles (short girls! British Girls! Girls who attend college!), and of course the retirement of Rich Juzwiak's legendary ANTM recaps, which by the end seemed to be the primary safety net keeping this trashball from falling down an abyss of unwatchability. Further killing my interest in this franchise? Shows like Bravo's Make Me a Supermodel and Oxygen's The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency began besting ANTM in at least one crucial way: male models. Yes, this can be chalked up to personal preference, but good TV is good TV and it turned out that preening dudes were just as hilarious and riveting as their female counterparts. And, you know, fun to look at.

So now, in a major NO DOY move, Tyra Banks has finally unveiled a Cycle 20 in which eight women will compete against eight men for a single title. After this week's two-hour season premiere, the question isn't whether or not the new formula will work (it does), it's whether the introduction of men is a too little, too late situation. Can the new dynamic save a franchise which has seemed graveyard-bound for years now? The answer, so far, is yes. Despite STILL being rife with ludicrous cliches both self-aware and oblivious, ANTM's infusion of menfolk has created a brand-new show, one that is much, much more watchable than recent seasons. That diamond-studded decimal point in the season's logo isn't a mistake: Cycle 20 is ANTM's Version 2.0. Yes, the software's still buggy, but an upgrade is an upgrade and this one hopefully won't crash the system as quickly as the last one threatened to. #computermetaphors

So far the male model version of ANTM works for the same reason any long-in-the-tooth reality show works: casting. The men in this case follow ANTM tradition in that they aren't quite model-caliber (I think we can all agree that people with actual model potential probably avoid this franchise like the career-ender it is), but to make up for their lack of gorgeosity they at least seem to have well-defined personalities (for better or worse) that make them not only not interchangeable, but poised to butt heads in the most entertaining ways. There's the self-defined "strong Christian" bodybuilding virgin who must live alongside a proudly effeminate finger-snapper and a bearded lumberjack-type. But the gender-split also works out well for the female contestants, as fewer women means that each of the eight seem more singular in looks and personality. Best of all, ANTM's most consistently admirable quality—its unwavering dedication to diversity in a lamentably not diverse industry—seems more fully realized than ever, as the cast includes a multitude of ethnicities, body shapes, economic backgrounds, sexualities, and genders (Virgg, a female semi-finalist, is transgender). In short, an invigorated, almost celebratory tone has arrived along with the fellas, making this one of the most promising premieres in ANTM history.

So let's talk first impressions! Obviously we'll learn more about these people as the cycle progresses, but here's who stood out in the season premiere (per the editors' screen time allotments):

Phil, 24, Lanesboro, MA

At first glance, Phil's the most bearish of the guys, but it was hard to get a read on his exact personality. At first his artsy outfits and hipster beard made him seem sensitive and possibly even above this televised circus (his initial no-big-dealness at kissing Virgg definitely counted in his favor) but as the premiere went on he began to bro out more and more, nearly coming to blows with another model over a playful crotch-punch gone wrong. While it's unclear whether he'll be sympathetic or not, one thing is very certain: The life or death of that beard will most likely be a recurring plot point. Can't wait for the makeover episode! (Will PHIL be the one to break down sobbing?)

Jeremy, 19, Mission Viejo, CA

Heartbreakingly sincere but definitely not the sharpest contestant, Jeremy was a formerly obese child who suddenly got ripped and his mom entered him in ANTM. Out of all the men he probably has the most to learn when it comes to modeling, but also ladies: He clearly has a crush on 19-year-old divorcee Jourdan, but his "strong Christian" morals and attendant virginity contributed to his onscreen awkwardness.

Marvin, 20, 6'1, Bronx, NY

Almost the entirety of Marvin's sob story (and all ANTM contestants are legally required to have one) revolved around the fact that Marvin's Honduran immigrant father is a JANITOR for a living. Yup, that's what plagues Marvin. It's his deep dark secret. The issue of his father being a janitor had apparently haunted Marvin so much that during his obligatory, Tyra-encouraged tearful catharsis, he shouted proudly "My dad's a janitor!" So yeah. The humiliation he probably caused his father, coupled with his "joke" that wearing stage makeup in the Bronx would get him murdered, made Marvin come across like a bit of an asshole. 

Chris H., 25, North Bergen, NJ

While having the weirdest (and by definition, most model-esque) face, Chris H. seemed socially awkward from the get-go. From his weird unicorn hairstyle in the opening round to his inability to make friends (he mistakenly believed that running around punching dudes' crotches would be well-received), his unintentional misfit persona seemed most tragic. Particularly when he explained that he'd been raised by a desperately poor teen mom and had lived in a series of cars and hovels all his life. (Tyra goaded him into discussing this with the tasteful prompt, "We've had some interesting people who have not had homes and you are one of them.") Yep, Chris H. is the underdog-with-weird-beauty that this show loves to rally around, so I'm guessing he'll go pretty far.

Nina, 18, Berkeley Heights, NJ

As for the ladies, Nina made the strongest impression due to her huge eyes, penchant for hula-hooping, and possible lunacy. She's definitely a classic ANTM type: borderline weird-looking and awkward in confessionals but stunning in photo shoots. Plus if her soundbites continue to be this good (she explained that Tyra looks like an alien), it's hard to believe she won't go far.

Jourdan, 19, Bend, OR

Jourdan was the girl who got the most screen time, presumably due to her catchy, oft-repeated bio: "I was married at 18 and divorced at 18." While the extremely tall frontrunner first seemed interesting and slightly tragic, just like with Phil, her personality grew less appealing as the premiere wore on, particularly when she called out Jeremy's crush on her in front of everybody else. At this point her insistence on 100 percent fidelity to her boyfriend back home whiffs of overcompensation, so it's possible the show is setting her up for a cheatin' heart situation? 

Alexandra, 21, Palm City, FL

Another classic ANTM outspoken blonde type, Alexandra's main personality trait (aside from frequent, casual, and unconvincing boasts) is the way she openly discusses having been previously wealthy, losing everything, and is now using all her efforts to restore her family's fortune. Uh, it was not quite the most relatable sob story, but it was certainly memorable.

And although these people didn't make the main cast, they're worth pointing out:

Virgg was the aforementioned transgender contestant (and very proud of it!). She ended up withdrawing due to general physical unease related to her hormone-replacement therapy, but it's hard to imagine that someone as reasonable, sympathetic, and chill as Virgg would have been a right fit for this show. Still, it was a nice surprise having a transgender person included in the early rounds of a cycle based on gender differences, and she was treated really well by the guys, which was admittedly pretty heartwarming.

Finally, this stack of river stones named Delten (?) didn't end up making the final cut, which was a bummer since he looked like a lost Hemsworth brother or something. Oh well! He will just have to go back to being an Alaskan carpenter who looks like a male model. There are worse things to be, I suppose.

As for the rest of the episode's events, the format, challenges, and even story arcs were exactly what you'd expect if you've seen even a single cycle before. For instance, Tyra's wigs are still ludicrous and the judges (some of whom are new to me) are still carefully calibrated to never upstage her. The first photo shoot involved lingerie, was possibly inspired by Eyes Wide Shut, and included a co-ed runway makeout session notable mostly for how gross it made kissing look. Things DID get surprising when the two most effeminate male models opted to escort each other, but I have to assume from Tyra's approving laughter that it was her idea in the first place. 

The runway kisses were telling, though: This is a show that has traditionally feigned interest in fashion in order to film women getting into catfights, but now it basically wants to be Bachelor Pad. Which, fine! It's hard to imagine the addition of men would make the female contestants treat each other worse than they already did in previous seasons, so why not spice up all that interpersonal drama with crushes and broken hearts? If Cycle 2's infamous orgy with Italian male models is any indication, steamy times could be exactly what ANTM needs for a proper resurrection. Are all the models still too unremarkable-looking to be plausible as working models? Yeah, unfortunately. But are these human beings with interesting affects and the potential for compelling storytelling? I don't know how to tell you this, but it sort of looks that way! It may be early still, but first impressions are crucial, and in this case the 2.0 version of ANTM is a definite upgrade. Now bring on those makeovers.

What did YOU think of America's Next Top Model: Guys & Girls? Any early favorites? Least favorites?

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  • Laurpr2 Aug 12, 2013

    "Who's gonna be on top?" suddenly has a whole new meaning......

  • SaraStojanovi Aug 06, 2013

    Alexandra's mom had cancer though....Surprised you didn't catch that.

  • JohannaSch Aug 06, 2013

    Obviously, Jourdan is gonna go far on this show because she a) stirs up the drama and b) has an extra vowel in her name, making her a super special snowflake. If only my parents had thought of that!

  • ryhutch Aug 05, 2013

    I wish I fad been more aware of this season's auditions. My son belongs on this show

  • emmy021889 Aug 05, 2013


    Can we please talk about the 30 year old guy who claimed to be 22?!?! WTF?

  • emmy021889 Aug 05, 2013

    This show is sooooo ridiculous..... and yet I haven't missed a season yet. What the hell is wrong with me?!? Im actually embarrassed to say I enjoy this; it makes me question my taste in television! But..... yes, I love it.

    anyways! This season has started out great with the inclusion(finally) of males! Don't know how I feel about only having one winner though, I think they should have a male and female winner. I have a feeling they are gonna rig it to have a male winner because of the branch out. well, we'll see I guess...

    so the people....

    Phil- thought he was cute, wit the right kind of quirky(keep reading to find out what's the wrong kind), and he actually photos really well.... then he revealed what a dick he is. Take a joke dude, you look the type that has that group of friends who thinks its funny to hit each other in the balls. Your just mad cause it wasn't you doing the hitting.

    Jeremy- he looks waaaay too baby faced for modeling, I think he looks better in person than on camera. Maybe he would do better not straight on. But he seems to have a good heart.

    Marvin- I hate hate HATE the contestants who have a sob story because they always go further in the competition than they should because of pity. Why cant they just base them on how well they model? which leads me to....

    Delten- HE ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE A MODEL! why decide to NOT choose him? he seemed like he performed well for the shoot. I guess because he didn't go in telling them "oh yeah I used to poor" Also Price, he was a plumber not a carpenter.

    Chris H.- Yes he is a bit socially awkward but he has the perfect brow and eyes for modeling. He didn't really bother me as much, Phil just came off as an asshole bully.

    Nina- The WRONG kind of quirky. To me she came off a bit insane sometimes. But it was really nice to see her befriend the ostracized Chris.

    Jourdan- sigh... We get it! you married an divorced all in one year. Who hasn't these days? She seemed cool but the way she openly put down Jeremy by basically calling him a stalker was really bitchy. True colors girl.... Also very catalog looking, too pretty for high fashion. Guess we better cut that hair off Tyra!

    and finally Virgg- MISS YOU ALREADY! She was great. Beautiful with a good soul to boot. Hope she tries again next year. Was really amazed how open the guys were with her! :)

    All in all I have a feeling this season will be good one!

  • Sheikia Aug 05, 2013

    OMG I really want to see Tyra give Jourdan an edgier look. It might put her in her place. I feel like she is just so used to being fawned over because of her looks, she needs to be knocked down a peg.

  • BranislavIvkovi Aug 04, 2013

    um... i expected prettier people. that's all.

  • Nikell Aug 05, 2013

    Yeah.. wth.. every season they pick more average looking people.. that's why i'm totally agree about the fact that they will never crown a real Top Model.. the corkyness is overated at this point... is that hard to find a breathtaking beauty with modelling skills after all this seasons?... mahh

  • Sheikia Aug 04, 2013

    Chris was edited to look very sympathetic but I have a hard time believing that all of the guys mentioned having a problem with him just for the reason of him playfully hitting them and then sitting by himself. They all (especially Phil) seemed to really hate him, so there must have been something else going on. That said, Phil, while interesting looking, seems like a dick. Same with Dom.

    Jourdan is the worst in my opinion because she seems to be passing judgement on everyone else, but is in fact quite the bitch herself.

  • JohannaSch Aug 06, 2013

    She's that typical "angel-faced Christian with a loving boyfriend" cliché that then turns out to be the biggest b!tch of all - been there, done that! At least when they admit to being catty b!tches in the first place, I can respect them for the honesty, but not this one.

  • JT_Kirk Aug 04, 2013

    ANTM is the biggest lie on television, only gets away with it by not defining what a "top model" actually is. All this show is is a way to justify Tyra Banks keeping her face relevant - it's a nice face, but she's semi-retired from modeling and no longer has a talk show.

    I occasionally get roped into watching this enough that I rarely but sometimes tune in myself, there's not much else on and I'm familiar enough with it.

    "The clownish judges" really is so true, between the ones that are just a red state's worst nightmare and the ones who just take themselves and their industry WAY too seriously, that description hits it squarely on the head.

    Surprised to hear you think this works. Not surprised to hear they start bro'ing out, that's just how it goes.

    Ok, let's judge the meat!

    Phil, if you didn't dress like Ashton Kutcher's lovechild and you shaved down that halfway-to-homeless beard, you'd still be a skinny, way too hairy guy but with good camera presence for a male model. You can't be a bear, a twink, and a hunk all at the same time.

    Jeremy, why didn't your parents stop you? You are destined to be spank-bait for pedos. Oh my god, your mom put you in this, you're the next Honey Boo-Boo.

    Marvin, yikes, you are the too-skinny model of the group and your shot there looks like duckface.

    Chris, the trying-too-hard one I guess. His eyes are model eyes, they are hard and speak volumes that turn out to be empty when you open them (not saying he's dumb, saying his eyes are telling a story that's not true, which is the job of a model). The outfit in his shot doesn't fit his look at all, which is probably on purpose.

    Nina is a bobblehead and scary, and once she hits puberty who knows how she'll look. Tyra kinda does look like an alien, but PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES, NINA!

    Jourdan, oh sonny boy, she looks like the perfect type to get cut about 3/4s the way in because her look is trapped in Seventeen Magazine.

    Alexandra looks exactly how you described her, too funny.

    Virgg's look is too jaw-heavy, why is it so many transgenders have exceptional masculine features? Probably best she pulled away from the show, looks fairly sensible.

    Delten looks like his face was carved off a middle-aged man from the 1960s and stuck on a small boy's head (the high ears and hair suggest 10-year-old). His eyes look both sad and brainless - judging models based on their looks is both cruel and THEIR ENTIRE JOB.

    So, this seems like another cycle I'll probably not tune into, but not for the format change, just nothing compelling for my interests.

  • emmy021889 Aug 05, 2013

    Wow harsh! I usually really enjoy your comments, but did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or what? I didn't so much mind you making fun of the show in its entirety because it is rather ridiculous... but you so were sooo judgey on these people. Its fine to make fun of ones personality when they show certain negative sides of themselves, but I felt like you were pushing it when mocking their looks. Are you Adonis personified? It kinda just came off as bullying....

  • JT_Kirk Aug 05, 2013

    Oh, and if this is about Virgg, I wasn't clear there, I was saying she has a sensible look and thus it's better for her not to get poisoned by ANTM. I wasn't trying to suggest that her somewhat masculine jaw was the reason it was best she pulled away, they weren't related thoughts, it was just a paragraph about her that had 2 unrelated comments.

  • emmy021889 Aug 05, 2013

    It was never about just Virgg, No I don't like a lot of these people based on their personality but I'm not judging them based on every minute physical flaw. And yes I get that is what modeling is about. But models are never perfection of beauty and grace, many never occur to others that they are "pretty" enough to even be one. I misspoke I guess when using the term bully, I just meant that comments like that are often what lead to self hate and low self esteem. But you have every right to say whatever you want! I wasn't trying to come off preachy or anything! haha I guess it just felt like an overload of negative and bitterness since you didn't say a lot of nice things(except for Virgg). So it kind of struck me wrong. Hey! you are still one of my fav commenters though!!

  • JT_Kirk Aug 05, 2013

    A bully is someone in a position of power using it to harm others, which does not define the relationship going on here. Not everything negative is bullying. You could call my post catty, it was, and even nasty if you feel it really got under your skin, but "bullying" is a stretch.

    Also, not everything I said was negative. And again, this is a modeling reality competition, judging on looks is the point, the show asks the audience to invest in the contestants via forming an opinion based on their natural gift - this isn't So You Think You Can Dance, although looksism certainly infects shows like that as well, but I try not to prescribe to it there (because their gift is dance, not looks).

  • JT_Kirk Aug 05, 2013

    I was just having fun, nothing said here was in spite except towards the show itself, which is pretty grotesque when you break it down.

    And to be fair, I'm judging them only on the material presented in this article, personality and photos, and the show does a pretty good job bringing out snap-judgmental attitude since that's the entire point of it. They work hard on ANTM to make everybody fairly unsympathetic.

    And it's a modeling competition, judging based on their looks is the focus, it's how they sell the show.

  • iheartfrosty Aug 04, 2013

    This is the first time I've watched since Cycle 3. I didn't tell anyone, either. I secretly recorded it on my DVR and watched it at 1 AM with a bowl of low-fat store-brand popcorn and a bottle of Vitamin Water.

    Anyway, my top three guys are Phil, Chris S. and Cory. But I also like Jeremy and Chris H. As for the girls, right now they're just a blur. It'll take a couple of weeks for me to care about them.

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