It’s official: The first season of “America’s Next Top Model,” one of television’s most unintentionally hilarious reality gems, has been released on DVD. Now in its fourth season, “ANTM” takes a dozen or so “beautiful” girls, puts them in a loft apartment with cameras rolling 24/7, attempts to shape them into models and shows the process on UPN.

Cycle 1, the nine episodes that started it all, remains the most preciously ridiculous season. Through casting calls and mailed-in videos, producers selected 10 girls to compete to become America’s Next Top Model. One contestant is eliminated each week until the final three face off in a high-fashion runway show. Cycle 1’s judges include hostess/supermodel/Creator of the Universe Tyra Banks and one of the world’s first supermodels and ex-cokehead Janice Dickinson, whose catty comments alone (“This looks like she escaped from a mental institution,” or the classic “It looks like you have a penis.”) make this show a must-see. There’s also Marie Claire fashion editor Beau Quillian and Kimora Lee Simmons, head of Baby Phat. Each week, the girls learn modeling techniques (like strutting on the runway), compete in a challenge (creating the perfect “smoky eye”) and have a photo shoot (posing with a snake, acting in a contact lenses commercial).

The first season of “ANTM” brought some of the program’s most loved and most reviled personalities. There’s Ebony, the obnoxious, outspoken black lesbian whose attempts to improve her skin’s rough texture result in a confrontation over the grease she’s been leaving on all the doorknobs; laid-back Chicagoan rocker Adrienne, whose thick Midwestern accent and a bout with food poisoning don’t stop her from winning the season; and hypocritical ultra-Christian Robin, a former Miss Soybean pageant winner whose bitchy zealousness creates a faction of Bible-thumpers in the house.

And then there’s Elyse — a bastion of real real-world sanity in a house full of ditzy bitches with pretty, empty heads. This rail-thin, pre-med indie chick stumbled upon a casting call and made a tape as a joke — but her couture-perfect body and a real knack for modeling got her to third-to-top on the show. One of the few contestants who’s actually gotten work after being on the show, Elyse has done better than any of Season 1, 2 or 3’s winners and recently completed a stint working in Hong Kong.

After they’ve spent a few weeks stuck in the house, Robin criticizes Elyse’s atheist beliefs — and she snaps. In a confessional booth rant, Elyse verbally rips apart the other girls in what has to be the absolute apex of reality television: “ … The most vapid conversations are going on all around me … Adrienne … Stop quoting “Jay and Silent Bob” next to my ear. Robin, how fucking dare you show me that ‘foolish is the atheist’ Bible verse … Foolish is the woman who believes that goddamn tripe. Giselle, you fucking worthless cunt. You are so wasteful, bitchy, stupid. You’re worthless … Dammit. Let me fucking die. You bitches.” Elyse is totally awesome.

Unfortunately, Paramount skimped a little on the show’s features. There’s a peek into contestant selection that shows boring rejected contestants, a talk with Tyra and producers Ken Mok and Michelle Mock about the show’s inception and a short featurette on two of the show’s fabulous mainstays, makeup artist and utterly useless Jay Manuel and he of unqualified diva status, world-famous runway trainer J. Alexander. More of the judges’ deliberations — or a few of Janice’s stories from her rehab days — would have made this DVD perfect.

So what if none of them (with a few exceptions) are talented, skinny or young enough to actually break into the modeling world? How can you resist watching the unsuspecting hamsters pose with live snakes, condemn each other as heathens and affectionately call each other “slut-hos”? You can’t. Go buy this DVD. Now.



Show: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Picture/Sound: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Features: 3 out of 5 stars


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