'The Face' review: 'Game On'

The new series may have a bigger diva, but is it better than 'ANTM'?

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"The Face"

 "The Face"

Credit: Oxygen

Yes, we've all had good reason to make fun of "America's Next Top Model." Tyra Banks, wiggling her neck in spastic delirium, often seemed one diva snap away from complete insanity. I have rolled my eyes at her bizarre behavior almost as often as I smirked at Andre Leon Talley's man muumuus. But now, having seen the newest player in the reality TV modelympics, I take it all back. Sorry, Tyra. You still crazy, girl, but damn if you're not so bad after all. 

"The Face" may be a confused mash-up of "ANTM," "The Voice" and, yes, "The Bad Girls Club," but it isn't a lost cause just yet. There's still time for the Oxygen show to find its footing and emerge a worthy player in the reality competition game. Clearly, the show's producers definitely know what the components of a successful show are. The problem is that all of those components are being winged at us hysterically like overripe tomatoes at a food fight. You can almost hear some producer shrieking, "Watch this crazy contestant! People like crazy contestants, don't they? Here's some make-up! Do people like styling? We can do styling! Likeuslikeuslikeus, OH GOD! PLEASE!" 

One person who's not begging us (or really, anyone) to like her, though, is Naomi Campbell. Yes, she's an icon and she was in that George Michael video in the '90s and she throws phones at people. She don't need no stinkin' TV show to cement her icon status. But maybe that's part of the problem. If anyone needed to take on a show that allowed her to sit on the throne, Tyra-style, and simply pass judgment on the peons below her, that's Naomi Campbell. Instead, she's landed on "The Face," which forces her to share judging duties with the less famous (and far younger) Karolina Kurkova and Coco Rocha. Because these days, it's not a reality competition show unless it's modeled on "The Voice" or "The X Factor" or "The Taste," the judges must battle one another to drag their best talent to the winner's circle. When everyone sees to enjoy the competition, as they do on "The Voice," it's fun. When they don't, It's "The Face." Guess what? If the judges aren't having fun, it's not much fun to watch, either. 

On the debut episode, Naomi's team does not win. Worse, one of Naomi's models is sent packing. Naomi might be expected to toss up her hands in exasperation, or make faces at Karolina (who, as the winning judge, lowered the boom on losing model Alexsandra), or maybe put a live spider in Karolina's handbag, just to be a little mean. But no, Naomi stomps from the room, slams the door, tells the camera guy to get lost, then levels Karolina with an icy glare that literally makes the other model look like she's going to burst into tears. I almost want to throw a phone at Naomi and tell her to calm the hell down. "Mark my words," she growls at Karolina, whose lower lip actually quivers. "It's game on from now on." I think to Naomi, that means she gets to cut Karolina's brake line and kill her family.

But, because reality TV requires LOTS AND LOTS of fighting, screaming and behavior that borders on mental illness (hey, this is "The Bad Girls Club" network, after all), the cray-cray doesn't stop with Naomi. We're also treated to one contestant who's nuts enough to make Tyra look positively low key. Sandra jumps on furniture, prostrates herself on the floor, screams and hoots and that's just two minutes after she arrives at the model house. Sandra can't wait to drive everyone insane, and while one or two loudmouth nuts can perk up a season, someone who seems to be in dire need of medical attention is just unnerving. 

That's the core problem with "The Face" -- too much is never enough. From the jump, the challenges are seemingly outside the requirements of a real modeling job. Accessorize this outfit! Come up with a story concept for this photo shoot! Design your own fashion line! Perform a gastric bypass on an unsuspecting stranger! Order lunch! It's all tangentially related to fashion, but I'm not sure these challenges will actually determine which one of these girls is actually cut out for a modeling career and not, say, a gig working for Rachel Zoe. 

"The Face" has some elements in this brain-numbing mishmash that work -- Coco and Karina deserve a show that feels less like a dysfunctional relationship with an abusive parent (Naomi) and some of the personalities in the house might be worth watching. Nigel Barker, who may also be missing Tyra, is woefully underutilized amd stuck in the thankless roll of host. But trying to sift the wheat from the chaff may just make you want to curl in a ball, grab a bag of Doritos, and watch reruns of "Americas Next Top Model" until the memory of "The Face" fades away. 

Did you see "The Face"? What did you think? 

 

 

 

Liane-bonin-starr-sm
Liane Bonin Starr is an author, screenwriter and former writer for EW.com. Her byline has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety and a lot of other places. Her last book was called "a scandalously catty, guilty pleasure" by Jane magazine. Expect the same from Starr Raving.
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