Friday, January 18, 2013

Is What not to Wear "Real" Any More?

What am I these days, a critic or something?

Last night I watched Tristen's episode of What not to Wear, and although she was wearing "duck" nails, something smelled fishy.

Was it me, or did Tristen's anger toward Stacy and Clinton seem a little *too* disrespectful?  After all, S&C are characterized by their frank yet warm manner.  They don't make gratutious fun of their subjects and don't deserve to be dismissed as if they are fools.

Did Tristen's wailing pre-manicure and haircolour seem overdone?  I totally understand how someone feels vulnerable before a new haircolour, but to go from snubbing silence to histronics seemed unexpected.

And then, Tristen's rudeness shifted abruptly, with her new hair and then, even more, with her new, softer makeup.  Suddenly she was smiling and loving everything and everyone, hugging Stacy and Clinton as if they were best pals.

This episode began with a dramatic staged squabble between Stacy and Clinton, culminating in Stacy tossing her salad as she threw down the duo's lunch table. Was she hinting at the acting to come?

Then we moved to the set of a "new" reality show, during which the host ominously stated something to the effect of how the contestants would be left wondering how real reality is. Or something Real World-empty/profound like that.

This episode is, I believe, the third of the new season, the first being another tables-turning encounter as the mall-singer Tiffany nominates herself and foots her own $5000 spree. It was painful to see Stacy and Clinton oohing and ahhing over Tiffany's unflattering clothes makeover (her leather dress and tweed jacket wer bursting at the seams--far too tight!), and they lost a bit of credibility at that moment. They must have been doing some Jon Lovitz Acting! to try and convince us that Tiffany's new clothes were an improvement.

The second episode, also dressing a ghost of celebrity past, involved former Baywatch lifeguard Nicole Eggert.  I didn't see it, alas. But is this show becoming a vanity vehicle for vintage celebrities (I could have written "vixens," but that would be too Tarantino-esque [see previous post])?

But it's not a stretch to suggest that Tristen's episode is the third to involve theatrics at the conceptual level.  Is TLC trying to add drama to the show?  Had it become too predictable? I would say "No," and just as the spinoff Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta disrespects the original by having the consultants spout catty bon mots into the camera, by having an endless parade of singular bridesmaids who WILL NOT WEAR THE DRESS that the bride likes, this version of What not to Wear appears in danger of exploiting (what I would call) the genuine situations and tension from its earlier seasons.

WNTW is a non-guilty TV pleasure of mine, and I do hope that it does not become a parody of itself.

So here's a plea to WNTW: Please leave the manufacturing to the professionals who construct the clothing, and don't manufacture plot.  It doesn't look good on you.


Belle de Ville said...

I just can't watch any of these shows. They are all scripted for conflict to make them dramatic.

We have turned down 3 serious offers for reality shows based on our business. We don't need the drama.

Anonymous said...

Duck nails - that's a new monstrosity to me.

Elizabeth said...

I didn't realize it had gone this far. I stopped watching it about two seasons ago, because I felt it had become very predictable and formulaic. I realize a show like this has to have a formula, but it was sort of the same thing over and over. And now, most reality shows center around arguments and disputes to keep things lively. I don't know about you, but I'd be happy with reality shows that were just about people. The minute people start shouting, I turn the show off. There's already enough conflict in the world.

Maybe I'll look at this show again, and see how "real" I think it is now, now that you've made these comments.

I was watching "How Do I Look" with my stepdaughter, and we liked that at first, because the guests were so out there, but then that became too predictable and formulaic, too.

I guess these shows have a limited scope.

Anonymous said...

My friend Julie is the manicurist on this episode and Tristen really was upset about the change! Julie is an NYC based celebrity manicurist. Please check out her website at

Academic Writer (a.k.a. A-Dubs) said...

Hmmmm. This is an intriguing critique. I sort of can't believe WNTW is still on the air, given its (seeming?) dedication to "real" realism. . .

SickOfAl said...

I'm pretty sure the lunch table toss was a spoof on Real Housewives of New Jersey, when one of those ladies did the same thing. The description of this episode calls Tristen a Jersey Shore Wannabe, so the RHNJ reference fits.