TV Review: Beauty is a Beast

It’s hard to be a supermodel. The sex! The vanity! The backstabbing! The crime! The tabloids! Everyone is jealous of you, and sometimes, you need to just snort a few lines of cocaine. Is that the sad sound of the world’s smallest violin? “The Beautiful Life”—or “TBL,” as it likes to call itself, as in, “OMG! Did you see ‘TBL’ last night?!”—was the CW’s newest excuse to showcase hot young people doing scandalous sexy cute things in scandalous sexy cute places. The tale of a troop of models trying to make it in the big city, whether their daddies, illegitimate children, or so-called friends liked it or not, “The Beautiful Life” was predictable, irritating, and genuinely nauseating. After only two episodes, the CW cancelled the program. It will not be missed.

Having followed the teen drama formula, “The Beautiful Life” execs (who include Ashton Kutcher), may be asking themselves what went wrong.

Their protagonist was Raina Mayer, a mature 16-year-old and the modeling industry’s next “It” girl. Raina was unlike her vacuous model friends: she was strong-willed and good-hearted. Her family didn’t approve of her running off to New York City to live in model squalor, as her domineering brother frequently popped by to remind her. Raina’s father was in prison, though we didn’t yet know why. He was getting out soon, which promised a CW-style smackdown. (I had money on Daddy seriously roughing up at least one of the men loitering in Raina’s vicinity and the dramatic revelation of Raina’s deep, dark past.)

Despite orders by Raina’s pimp/agent, Claudia, to stay focused on her career, Raina’s heart and hormones wandered toward Chris, the hunky newbie plucked straight from an Iowa farm. The two young models gravitated toward each other in an endearing, albeit one-zillion percent unrealistic way. Raina volunteered to help the nave Chris, because, well, it’s hard out there for a model. With a seductive quasi-lap-dance, she eased him into his first photo shoot. She took him shopping for model attire. Let him sleep on her floor. A moment from the morning after:

Scene: Raina wakes Chris as she tries to tiptoe out for a photo shoot.

Raina: “Sorry, I was trying not to wake you.”

Chris: “It’s okay. These last few days have felt like some sort of a weird dream anyway.”

Mutual flirty laugh.

Such gems “The Beautiful Life” gave us!

Surrounding the wholesome, budding romance of Raina and Chris was a whirlwind of unrestrained narcissism and immorality. The dense, uncoordinated Mischa Barton starred as Sonja “don’t feel sorry for me” Stone, the supermodel phenom who had just returned from a mysterious six month hiatus. She was busy giving birth to an illegitimate child, but everyone was betting on rehab. Six months is an eternity in model land—would she be able to make a comeback and all the while protect her secret baby, “the only thing that matters (wail, exclamation point, sob, exclamation point)?”

Except for Sonja, who had her own swanky pad, the models all lived together in the “Models’ Residence,” a “dingy” (i.e. no penthouse) apartment. Among them: Isaac (played by the delicious Corbin Bleu), who, despite being hottt, couldn’t seem to land a gig. Broke, Issac pursued the advances of a high up industry exec/cougar. How trendy.

The CW followed the formula with “The Beautiful Life”: the cute boy and girl relationship (bound to churn out melodrama), the sort-of-bad-sort-of-good boy (a sociopath? Stay tuned!), the villains (it’s hard out there for a model), the tortured girl (nobody understands her!), and lots of impending scandal (models have lots of secrets). But two episodes of the poorly acted, predictable affair—sex and beauty and Mischa Barton and all—the CW couldn’t convince a few million teenage girls that this trash was trendy. Gossip Girl episode it is.

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