Image Credit: Barbara Nitke/The CWBarbara Nitke/The CWOmigod you guys! ANTM is back for its 14th (!) cycle, and despite my inherent skepticism about the whole enterprise, if the premiere is anything to go on, we’re in for a pretty decent ride. You know, if you like your rides bony, marginally unstable, and full of outrageous platitudes. And I think you do! The 90-minute episode included two rounds of casting, plus makeovers, fights, and a teaser about next week’s challenge. Ye gods, producers: Pace yourselves. Grab your heels, and hang on to yer drama, cause here…we…go…

The opening retrospective tragically included scenes from the first majestic season, which reigns as one of the all-time greats — Robin moaning prayers as a snake is wrapped around her neck? This show has never come close to how good that first cycle was, and having it shoved in our faces felt unfair.

Various girls introduced themselves, and it seemed that this season’s contestants are largely from the south; Texas, Georgia, and Arkansas were all well represented…y’all. We met Alasia, who has never said a phrase she wouldn’t rather shout. The gaggle of would-be Cover Girls collectively loses its shizz (or would, if they ever ate enough to digest anything and thus trigger their excretory organs) when Tyra appeared. “I was not expecting that!” confessionalized one. Really? You weren’t expecting Tyra, the universe’s most self-congratulatory and personal-branded human, to show up at the very moment she always shows up on this show? Sweetcheeks, you are in for a crazy few weeks.

Tyra introduced a truly barftastic conceit of “MyFiercePage.Com,” which would be obnoxious enough were it an actual site. But it’s just a redirect to The CW’s homepage! Either ride the social-networking wave or don’t, but jeeze Louise, a whole fake “I’m friending you, la la la” shtick that some poor production person had to design, only to be funneled to the CW’s gratingly Flash-heavy website? For shame, Ty Ty. For shame. Extra shame for saying “see you in the chat room!” Oh man, let me get that free 25 hours of AOL floppy disk I have laying around here somewhere! This show is so contemporary!

The heavily-pierced and tatted out Danielle bravely claimed that models “don’t have to look cookie-cutter,” without realizing that while that may be true, they also don’t have to dangle actual cookie cutters from the flesh of the their faces, either. Between Danielle and America’s Best Dance Crew, I am on lip-ring overload. Easy does it, kids.

Then we started in on the meet-the-panel portion of the excitement. There was Jessica, an extremely naive 18-year-old, who’s also married with a 1-year-old child. She told the judges — or apparently wrote on her pre-interview index card (good grief) — that she conceived her son the very first time she had sex. There was Eyebrows, who calls herself Raina, and Brenda, another young mom who got pregnant on the first go-round. I’m not sure I’d make the specific circumstances of conception this kind of public knowledge, but I guess it takes all kinds. Annoying Alasia weakly quoted scripture. In something that I’m sure will be a refrain for this season, Ugh, Shut Up, Alasia.

Return contestant Angelea told the judges that she went into therapy after her outburst in the preliminary rounds of cycle 12, and the three nodded knowingly, as if any of them had benefited from meaningful self-examination at any time.

The very tall, very thin Krista, basically the grandma of the group at 24, told the judges that while she’s open to dating all kinds of guys, she can’t see herself getting together with a white dude because she’d be “nervous to see a pink penis” because it would just “remind [her] of raw meat.” Mr. and Ms. Jay both died laughing, as did I, because…fair enough.

A very perky Aimee boldly stated that she “believes [she] only has one chance to live,” and was so whimsical and ditsy it was obvious she could never make it in a house of nutjobs. Did the almost-blind Amanda teach us nothing? ANTM is no place for the dreamy types. We met Tatianna, who’s a volunteer mortician (though I think David Fischer would want me to say “funeral director”) because of her love of science. Sure, those are the same. There was Jeanna, who was so drag queeny that Tyra straddled Mr. Jay. What? Why did that happen, and was anyone else super bothered by it? No one wants to be straddled like that! Tickled, maybe, but bosses shouldn’t make their employees lay down on the floor and then straddle them, “jokingly” asking for their ejaculate. It’s just not appropriate. God, I am such a prude.

The bald, beautiful Naduah told the other contestants and then the judges that she was raised in a religious cult. She told the contestant she traveled a lot as a kid, but told the judges she grew up in Cancun. Also, her ambiguous accent sure does come and go. One wonders what her deal is!

And then there was Gabrielle. She told the judges that sometimes she struggles with being biracial, but I was kind of distracted by how freaking adorable and awesome she was. She already seemed like a model, with the right kind of “oh, this old thing?” outfit and spindly limbs and distinctive look. Ding ding ding, we have an early favorite. There were other snoozers, but none of them mattered.

An impromptu photoshoot sent some girls a-packing, and then Tyra(nt) settled on a top 12. What what wha-haaat? Apparently they had wanted to pick 14, but the cadre was just not packed enough with lovely ladies. Well, true enough. Sorry, oldface girl who wouldn’t shut up about how rich she is. Naduah! Jessica! Sorority girl Simone! Eyebrows! Mortician! Plus size girl who seems nice I guess! Krista! Red-head young mom! Alasia! Grumpyface other young mom! The awesome Gabrielle! And Angelea! Welcome, welcome.

The top 12 headed to New York, concrete jungle where dreams are maaaade of, etc., where noted Big Apple resident Perez Hilton took them to the authentic New York experience of the wax museum. Gaaaah. This might actually be my living nightmare. Tyra introduced Ren, the sleepy-voiced alt-chick who’d be rounding out the group. Why this couldn’t have been sad piercing girl from the casting, I’ll never understand.

Then it was time for makeovers. I swear this used to be its own episode later in the season, but okiedoke: Everyone headed to the salon for suckdiculously expensive hairdos. Alterna-Ren got a punky Shane-from-The-L-Word look, and then Ms. Jay shaved her pits. Giggity! Gabrielle got poufy blonder locks, Krista got a weird removable ponytail, Alexandra looked the same, Simone got a faux Rihanna cut, Brenda cried and got a spiky short ‘do, Naduah got her brows bleached (noooo! Erin flashbacks!), Angelea got a fugly blondish weave, Eyebrows got darker hair, Alasia got bouncy curls, grouchy Anslee got a fun cropped cut, Tatianna got a blond weave, and Jessica got boring brown hair. The end! Boringest make-overs ever!

Back at the house, Angelea and Brenda got in a fight about looking at each other, and then Krista and Alasia got in a fight about “being fake.” “Are you in high school?!” moaned Jessica, who is 18 years old and might actually be in high school. I really wish Angelea would stop saying “bitch.” She said bitch constantly in this episode, calling herself a bitch, saying that’s just the kind of bitch she is, etc. It’s not funny or tough, and it doesn’t really qualify as fair warning when she then acted like a total bitch. Worst.

The models headed off to a photo shoot, at which point I was convinced my TiVo screwed up. But no, it was just a tease. The ladies will each be given a single item of clothing to wear for an otherwise nude photo. Scandal! Except not because this happens every season.

Early impressions? Gabrielle, Naduah, and Krista are the front-runners — they’re all gorgeous, plus they didn’t do the awkward squatting pose so many of the other contestants did at the panel. Jessica looks a lot like Autumn Reaser. Anslee’s permanent scowl might hold her back, and the fact that Ms. Jay could do such a spot-on Angelea impression does not bode well. Ren needs to shake the Meg-Tilly-in-The Big Chill vibe immediately (the leotard photo is not helping, nor is listing her occupation as “living”), and Alexandra needs to be more than the In Your Face Curvy Girl. Simone, Raina, Tatianna, Alasia and Brenda may all be fine, but they’ve yet to distinguish themselves.

Model behaviorists, what did you think? Who’s you’re early favorite? Whose make-over underwhelmed you, and do you wish like I do that they’d done something with Raina’s brows? How ratty are these weaves going to look come episode 9? Ah, suspense!

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