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'America's Next Top Model' (UPN/The CW)
Premiere date: May 20, 2003
Taking the wildly-successful "American Idol" talent-search format and applying it to the world of modeling, the enormously addictive Tyra Banks reality series proved a bona fide hit (particularly by UPN standards) in its first season, even competing with "Big Four" network shows among the advertiser-coveted 18-34 demo. Key to the series' success were entertainingly-weepy host/creator Tyra Banks and her quirky stable of judges and mentors - most importantly Janice Dickinson, the surgically-altered former supermodel who never missed an opportunity to deliver a catty takedown of the young ingenues. With its often-venomous tone and over-the-top histrionics, "ANTM" isn't what you would call "good television" in the traditional sense, but it nevertheless managed to bring the insular world of high-fashion into mainstream consciousness in a way that had never been accomplished before. A whopping nineteen seasons later the show continues on on The CW, and its pop-cultural effects continue to be seen in such subsequent fashion-oriented series as "Project Runway," "Fashion Star" and the drag-queen extravaganza "RuPaul's Drag Race" - a good or a bad thing, depending on your taste.
- Chris Eggertsen