Bring on the men!

First things first: Yes, I’ll admit right up front that I’m shallow. After having given up on AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL years ago, I was drawn back in by the 20th cycle’s cheap ploy for attention: adding men into the mix.

I’m only human.

Since the first episode was basically about narrowing the approximately 4 million would-be models down to a more manageable 16, this first recap will focus more on what works and doesn’t about ANTM 2.0 than the individuals. )I generally don’t start trying to remember names until the final 10 or so. Before that, they’re all “the dude with the hairy chest” or “the chick with the cray cray eyes.” And there’s always a chick with cray cray eyes.)

What’s charming about this show is that even after 20 cycles which have proved otherwise, these bright-eyed and bushy-tailed kids actually seem to believe that when all is said and done, one of them will become a top model. Instead, they will join the ranks of… well, the 19 other winners whom I couldn’t pick out of a line-up.

I was disappointed to discover that many of the things I loved about ANTM during my years-long obsession with it are now gone. No more Mr. and/or Miss Jay/J, Janice Dickenson or the dreamy Nigel Barker. In their place, we get as judges the sexy Rob Evans, annoying Kelly Cutrone and the inexplicable Bryanboy as well as hostess with the mostest Tyra. (Bryanboy is described as a “Social Media Correspondent”, which apparently means the dude has Twitter. Guess I’m one as well.)

Also gone is the judgest table, replaced with what looks like the white room in which all the vamps are slated to die on this season’s TRUE BLOOD and the wildly uncomfy-looking chairs atop which the judges awkwardly sit while passing judgment.

That said, it’s incredible how something as simple as making the show co-ed reinvigorates the franchise. Casting wise, ANTM remains one of the most diverse reality offerings out there thanks to a mix of ethnicities and sexualities you won’t find on any other mainstream offering.

As for the contestants themselves? A few standouts based on the initial 2-hour episode include…

• Phil. First, in a world full of hairless twinks, this dude has both chest hair and a beard! It’ll be interesting to see what Tyra does with him come the makeover episode. He also scored big points for, after the opening challenge in which each pairing kissed, declaring, “When I kissed Virgg, I thought there was about a 37 percent chance I kissed a dude.” When he had.

• Virgg. It’s too bad the transgender contender withdrew from the competition, because I suspect she would have done well. But kudos to her for putting her health about all else.

• Nina. The girl is a ball of twitchy and compelling as heck to look at.

• Chris. He’s socially awkward and has something weirdly vampiric about him. If he can stop “playfully” punching guys in the balls and tamp down his emotional issues, he could go far.

• Dom. He repeatedly reminded us that he has a girlfriend, yet made it wildly clear that he’s a player and “can’t resist all the girls.” Something tells me that with this rooster being put into the henhouse, his girlfriend will not enjoy what she’s going to see transpire.

• Renee. Poor thing seems almost too sweet for this show. She could wind up being eaten alive by these vultures.

• Jourdon and Jeremy. She accused him of following her around like a puppy dog and then declared it was somewhat inevitable, given that she’s a gorgeous model and all. She has a girlfriend and he’s a virgin. Yup, this is the couple to watch as far as showmances are concerned…

By the end of the two-hour premiere, 36 would-be’s had been winnowed down to 16 finalists… who were then told that they’d be taking part in a Guess runway competition that involved them walking down the side of a building. In a move that was both brilliant and tacky, the promo for next week’s episode asked “Who… Will… Fall?” And while I’m going to go out on a limb and guess nobody actually falls, let alone plummets to their death, I have only two words for this newly-begun cycle: All. In.

Richard Simms is the Executive Editor of  Soaps In Depth magazine and the author of Crimes Against Civility, which is available on

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