IN the strange, primitive world of reality TV, a land rife with "reality stars," for whom no chance to appear on TV is too degrading, it's a wonder to watch a show with low-key, beautiful women with -- get this -- dignity.
And that's just one reason I love "She's Got the Look," TV Land's wonderful modeling competition show for women over 35 -- most of whom have never modeled before and are, in the world of high fashion, old enough for the trash heap.
With a page ripped from the "American Idol" playbook, the show begins with tryouts in three cities -- NYC, Dallas and Chicago -- in front of judges Beverly Johnson, the first African-American "Vogue" cover girl; Sean Patterson, president of Wilhelmina International Inc.; and Robert Verdi, a celebrity stylist who appears in the Lord & Taylor ads. The host is former supermodel Kim Alexis. And the chemistry between them is friendly, respectful, fun and terrific to see.
Tonight, we see many of the cattle calls with wannabes who range in age from 35 to -- yes -- 72! Included, of course, are the lunatics and misguideds, but, for the most part, the women chosen are spectacular. Well, except for the looney who is so out there that she takes her top off and starts screaming.
There is also the shy woman whose never been told she's pretty before; a "carny" who grew up working in a traveling carnival; an over-confident bitch who needs to get the boot; the aforementioned 72-year-old who used to model for "Ebony" and Jet" in the 1950s; a gorgeous, elegant woman who used to be a homeless mother; and assorted soccer moms and single women who figured, "what the hell?"
On tonight's show, the top 20 challengers must immediately walk the runway to the theme, "Sexiest Self," after being told they were going to the gym. They can only model in the clothes they're wearing or what's in their gym bags and add from accessories provided.
The winners get makeovers. In many cases, that means losing their life-long locks in favor of tiny blunt cuts. The catch? They can't see themselves until the makeovers are done.
What separates this show from all the others that are born of the same genes (or jeans), are the women finalists themselves. Being knocked around by life can either bang you up pretty good or give you a gorgeous patina. Again, it's all about the genes in those jeans.
At some point, things will undoubtedly get a little catty on "She's Got the Look," a competition for models over 35.
But in Thursday night's season opener, the 20 models competing for 10 spots in the finals act like they came out of finishing school, not the snake pit that other shows keep telling us the modeling world must be.
In case you're wondering, that works out surprisingly okay.