Tag Archives: Season 3

Canada’s Next Top Model, Cycle 3: Ticket to nowhere?

Been feeling out of sorts lately but unable to work out why? Well, I might just have the answer! It’s been over a fortnight since I did a Top Model post!

Cycle 3 of Canada’s Next Top Model was the best Canada had seen yet. Given that Season 1 was fronted by Long John Silver’s wooden stump (I’ve heard she goes by the name of Tricia Helfer), populated with a cast of ugmos and won by an anorexic who gave up modelling before she’d even begun, you can see this isn’t exactly the most glowing of endorsements. Thankfully, Tyra freed Mister Jay in time for Season 2 and by Season 3, he had rounded up a vaguely attractive cast, half-decent panel and enough budget to ensure that shoots no longer looked like they had been done by that dodgy bloke who hangs round your mall.

Although it was the most recent cycle of CNTM, the series still felt like it was occurring in the medieval ages of Top Model-dom – a too-short run, a dated look and a distinct lack of drama. But it was good to see an unshackled Jay Manuel declaring he hated the word ‘fierce’ – take that, Tyra!

What drama there was started off pretty low-key. One girl walked before anyone had even learnt her name. Another girl didn’t really fit in. There was the obligatory meltdown at makeover – ‘I look like a muffin!’ – and the most un-dramatic outing of a lesbian I think I’ve ever seen on reality television. And then there was Maryam.

Maryam was originally from Iran, meaning she was the one who would make incessant references to her culture every time she had to reveal so much as an ankle on tv. So far, so standard. But as the girls screamed, whooped and jumped up and down on discovering they’d be Bahamas-bound for a bridal-themed photoshoot, it transpired Maryam didn’t have a passport. Poor girl probably thought she wouldn’t need it, given CNTM had thus far been so low-rent that the furthest the girls got from Canada was probably being made to flick through American Vogue. Everyone thought Maryam was a goner and Barbadian-born Ebonie thought she had her best shoot yet but the show stumped up a special shoot for Maryam, using better green-screen effects than Clash of the Titans, and girlfriend absolutely rocked it.

Come panel and Ebonie’s photo (above) was truly horrible and looked like she was having the worst period OF ALL TIME (judge Yasmin Warsame: ‘I’d buy that, I’m sold!’ *on seeing close-up* ‘Oh dear, I change my mind!’). Ebonie still thought she’d done brilliantly and was promptly sent packing, still protesting her brilliance. Surely I’m not the only one who gleefully cackles when stuff like that happens?!

I absolutely loved this shoot because I’m a sucker for bridal. A childhood spent collecting Barbie stickers and swooning over Disney movies has meant that seeing a bridal gown triggers some primal urge that sets me off squealing and clapping my hands like a seal. Contrast tropical setting and pretty dress with looks of intense pain and sorrow and I adore it even more, regardless if it’s an idea as old as (certain parts of) Janice Dickinson. My favourite photo of the entire cycle was Heather’s (the banner photo), the perfect balance between serene beauty and utter wretchedness. I also love how true Rebeccah’s feels – a quiet moment of sadness captured on film. [Her story about how she achieved it, by thinking about when her dog died, would have made even the most Botoxed-up fashionitas shed a tear… if their ducts hadn’t been frozen solid, of course.] And as for Maryam? Can you tell her signature look was ‘fierce’? She was the only girl to show some attitude and look pissed and I think it pays off. [Below, left to right: Rebeccah, Maryam]

Just when you thought the passport dramz was over, cue more screaming, whooping and jumping up and down because the girls were headed to New York! And guess what? Maryam still didn’t have a passport!

Having blown the budget on two international trips and green-screen technology, there was no special treatment for Maryam this time. So whilst the rest of the girls did some fancy shoot portraying two different characters in one photo, Maryam called upon a photographer mate (quite likely that dodgy bloke who hangs round your mall) to make her own picture. As she was shown posing in what appeared to be someone’s cloakroom, rattling on in her thick Iranian-accent about being pictured with a gecko, this was hide behind your pillow viewing. Clutching her brown envelope at panel, containing what you imagined was some amateur snapshot of her gallivanting with a lizard she probably found in the streets (very common in HK), I could barely watch for fear of this sweet little Iranian flower being brutally stamped out by the judges. And yet, it somehow turned out awesome, better than the stupid New York shoot and she even escaped the bottom two! Only to be given the boot a week later…

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the standard of the shoots, although after a bit of digging on forums, it appears that’s because most of the ideas were nicked from other (better!) fashion editorials anyway! Photographed in Week 1 by Nigel Barker (*groan*), I initially thought the concept of being shot at random with a wild animal was a bit of a stunt. But, combined with glam 80s styling, big hair and a liberal dose of fierce eyes, it worked (in fact, something pretty similar was done this current season of AusNTM). [Below: Maryam, Nikita, Rebeccah, Heather]

Meanwhile, I simply loved the styling in Week 2. It looked, as good old Alex Perry would say, ‘expensive’. These lushly opulent designer frocks are works of art and were shot and styled accordingly. I could do without the random flashes of bright light but Nikita (the ‘muffin’ makeover girl, who was a great contestant – quick, witty, bitchy but still likeable) looks regal and exquisitely untouchable – bow down! I also really liked Rebeccah doing something a bit different and channelling Twiggy, which really works with her outfit and haircut. [Below: Rebeccah, Tara – purely because I love her outfit, Nikita, Heather]

Finally, beauty shots avec duct-taped mouths. It’s such a great concept for a beauty shot that I refuse to believe it hasn’t been used before, but the CNTM girls do it justice. It would be easy to fall into an oppressed woman trap so I love how defiantly Nikita eyes the camera, but still in an aloof sexy way. And those are some quality cheekbones (and nails)! Heather’s ethereal, almost resigned look heavenwards manages to transcend both the duct-tape and the huge hair whilst Rebeccah channels Twiggy… again! And I’m still going to love her for it… again! Her make-up is more cutesy than the other girls, so the big eyes look great with it and the composition of the shot, with her peeking out from one side of the photo just like she’s peeking out from one side of her hair, is kookily clever. [Below: Nikita, Rebeccah, Heather]

So, a solid season with solid photos, a solid cast and enough drama to keep things ticking along for eight episodes that can be wrapped up in a weekend. Basically, just enough reason to forgive and forget for a few weeks that Canada is responsible for both Justin Bieber and Avril Lavigne. Oh, ok, nothing can make up for that!

Dust to dust… Ashes To Ashes finale review (no spoilers!)

Believe it or not, I do watch things other than Top Model.

The last time I wrote about British TV was when I got all excited for the new season of Doctor Who. I never really followed it up on here because, in truth, I was a little disappointed with the final results, with the quality varying wildly with each different writer and an oddly underwhelming finale. The hiring of Stephen ‘Blink’ Moffat to take over the helm from Russell T. Davies, the return of the Stone Angels, the mystery of Alex Kingston’s River Song and the arrival of a brand new doctor and a spunky new companion had all boded so well… alas, it turned out to be a series not only bursting with potential, but also with the inability to live up to it.

Contrast with Ashes To Ashes, a show I’d all but given up on. Right from the beginning, it was an audition for Stars In The Eyes, saying ‘Tonight Matthew, I want to be Life On Mars.’ The right bits were all there but, like a Madame Tussaud’s waxwork, there was something about it that wasn’t quite right. Philip Glenister’s DCI Gene Hunt was as watchable as ever, churning out one-liners with the speed and ease of a machine-gun, but the character, the performance and the writing made him so inherently watchable that you’d probably sit through Hunt attempting to do Hamlet. Keeley Hawes softly psycho-babbling away could never compete with the mastery of John Simm, and she verged on annoying the viewer as much as she did Gene. And the change of era to the glib, superficial, flashy 80s seemed to set the tone for a series that appeared happy to rest on its laurels by providing a few good laughs, a few good car chases and a few good punch-ups each week. The website even has Gene Hunt’s Quattro listed as a character! Whilst the first season showed some promise, with the brilliant climax of a final big reveal, I found Season 2 near unwatchable. Dull, slow and ponderous, I only found the energy to struggle through (albeit usually with something else going on in another tab on my PC) once I’d learnt that Season 3 would be the definitive ending and provide some answers to the whole saga as begun by Simm’s Sam Tyler. And by ‘eck, it did.

Right from the first episode of the third season, I sensed a gear change, with the whole thing really accelerating around Episode 6. The plots were tighter, the pace was faster, characters were evolving and clues were being dropped at an appetite-whetting rate. A new character, DCI Jim Keats (Daniel May), was introduced and was just the kind of series-driving antagonist Season 2 so desperately needed to give it a greater sense of purpose. But I don’t want this review to include spoilers and become my thesis on the finale, because frankly, the Internet has enough playgrounds for fanboys. Instead, I just hope that this finds its way to someone who hasn’t watched and decides to give it a go. [And for my money, the much-maligned Season 2 isn’t essential to watching the last season anyway.]

The finale was simply a beautiful piece of television. It made everything slot together, made everything before it slot together even better and dovetailed perfectly into Life On Mars. The series creators always stated that they had wanted to do three seasons of Life On Mars, but John Simm wanting out put the cabosh on that. Despite Simm still being a no-show, the last Ashes To Ashes felt like a worthy ending to the whole affair. The door was closed gently and tenderly on five years of remarkable primetime telly, but with just enough loose ends and thought-provoking threads to inspire debate and discussion on the wastelands of the Interwebz for years to come.

It was moving, it was clever and it was startling. Other critics seem to have pieced things together well before time, but not me. It was enough of a surprise to be gripping viewing, but not so much of a left-field bolt from the blue that I was left thinking ‘WTF’ throughout. At times, the acting was hair-on-end heart-wrenching, taking you to places that you weren’t sure a retro bad haircut, a bird with an annoying voice and the chubby buffoon from Plus One were capable of. And that final realisation when everything clicked? Did I mention that it was just a rather beautiful piece of television?

Ultimately, Ashes To Ashes managed to transcend its roots from a high-concept tongue-in-cheek sci-fi time-warp cop-drama nostalgia-trip into something much much more. Sad but loving, profound but amusing, daring but populist, complex but essentially simple – and all with a much-loved misogynistic ball-breaking, tough-talking, hard-drinking, one-liner-spinning iconic anti-hero at its heart. And all this at 9pm on a Friday night on the Beeb? Quite an achievement indeed.

nterview with Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham