“The Swan” is an unmistakable sign that the trend of
plastic surgery on reality television has gone horribly wrong. The
show, touted by FOX as “the most incredible competition ever
devised,” is easily the most shameful and tasteless program
ever to appear on TV.

The premise takes two average-looking women each week,
inaffectionately dubbed “ugly ducklings,” and has them
go under the knife to improve their looks. Once this is complete,
they will train to compete in a beauty pageant, which will make up
the show’s finale and result in one “ugly
duckling” being crowned “The Swan.” During this
process, neither woman is allowed to look at herself in a mirror.
At the end of the show, the two contestants of the week finally get
to see their new appearances, and one of them is chosen to go on in
the pageant while the other one goes home.

“The Swan” features many familiar reality show
staples: a spacious L.A. mansion, an attractive host with an accent
(Amanda Byram, “Paradise Hotel”) and participants who
share entirely too much information with the audience. Kelly, the
loser in the premiere, wept that she’d only had sex with her
boyfriend seven times in the past three years and wailed that being
spit on in school caused her to “lose her soul.” When
the candidate is crying hysterically every five minutes, it’s
hard to feel any sort of pity for her.

The show follows the contestants extensively through their
training, as they go to the gym, eat only 1,200 calories a day and
visit a therapist. The audience also gets to see the recovery sobs
and the unflattering head bandages.

Regardless of the show’s insistence that it’s a
mental and physical makeover, the obvious climax comes when the
women are revealed in their entire post-surgery splendor. The
entire team of makeover experts assembles and gasps over how
attractive the women have become. Without seeing a similar sort of
praise for an emotional makeover, FOX’s priorities are
clear.

“The Swan” presents the dangerous message that
plastic surgery will make you a better person. The show takes women
with gaping holes in their self-esteem, puts them through extensive
surgery and gives them a 50-50 shot of being told that they are
still not good enough. It’s a horrible premise that results
in a show that isn’t any better.

TV Review: 0 out of 5 stars

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