Are new makeover reality shows going too far? - MTV's ''I Want a Famous Face'' and ''The Swan'' reveal the ugly side of plastic surgery

By Amy Feitelberg
April 09, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Hoping to capitalize on the success of ABC’s plastic-surgery-chronicling hit Extreme Makeover, shows like MTV’s I Want a Famous Face and Fox’s The Swan (debuting next week) have taken OR rubbernecking to new, uh, depths. The Swan features women who go under the knife to compete in a pageant; Face documents young adults who submit to surgery to resemble celebrities like Brad Pitt.

But are these shows cutting it too close? Not only do the women on Swan endure painful operations, they have to emerge from their bandages ready to compete. (Each week, producers boot the girl they feel least wants the tiara.) ”This is a life plan. It’s not a quick fix,” says Swan creator Nely Galan, who adds that contestants receive counseling throughout the process. And while Face doesn’t pay for its subjects’ surgical procedures (as Swan does), part of MTV’s core demo of 12-to 34-year-olds may not understand the gravity of such drastic measures. ”We don’t preach to the audience,” says Face supervising producer Marshall Eisen. ”We want people to see what [surgery] is really like and make informed decisions.”

In the meantime, other nets are augmenting their slates of plastic-surgery-themed reality programming. E! just announced Dr. 90210, which tracks an L.A. plastic surgeon, while Bravo has greenlit Miami Slice, a series about Floridians’ quests for physical perfection. What’s next, Hawaii Lip-O?