We sat down to watch last night’s premiere of the Tyra Banks–created Stylista with great trepidation. When we weren’t scrutinizing preview clips for clues to the deal with Anne Slowey’s awkward gait — in all seriousness, Anne, if you have a peg leg, then just say so; there’s no shame in that — we couldn’t help but notice that the rest of it looked … well, like an epically wretched hour of contrived shenanigans designed solely to move issues of Elle. But we have to admit, after the first hour, we were pleasantly surprised — not because the show isn’t as terrible as we thought, but because it was simultaneously a lot more awesome. Miss Tyra, you win again.
Don’t misunderstand: There are major problems, starting with Slowey herself. She and the producers strain to create a Devil Wears Prada air without a real devil and, possibly, without any real Prada; if they thought an airy vocal affectation would make Slowey look like an imperious but brilliant Wintour-in-training, they were sorely mistaken. For one thing, Anna’s accent does not originate somewhere around the outer reaches of Upper Fakeola, and for another, she runs the world’s most influential fashion magazine. Slowey is merely installed in a custom-built office set at a place where her title doesn’t even involve the word “creative” or “in-chief.” She suffers in comparison to actual bigwig Joe Zee, who projects an easy credibility when he appears while still being amusing (telling one contestant, and rightly, “Your scarf gives me anxiety”).
Unfortunately, we see too little of Zee. In fact, when it comes to insights into Elle itself, so far we’ve learned nothing except that Joe doesn’t approve of boobs and that one should NEVER mix melon with other fruit. Oh, and that sometimes, when you are slaving away in your cubicle trying to string together 300 positive words on sweater robes, your bosses will herd you into some random studio to watch them ogle a bunch of reality-show contestants standing on a dais wearing stuff from H&M. You know at least one of those staffers was like, “This is bullshit. I HAVE ACTUAL WORK.” Unlike the cast’s first task, an idiotic, meaningless challenge where the interns had to pull together a healthy breakfast for Slowey — idiotic because they got shot down for not knowing she takes her iced latte with a teeny straw, and meaningless because we all know Anne Slowey doesn’t eat.
But the show’s contrived awfulness and total lack of self-awareness make it endlessly amusing, like when Tyra goes undercover on her talk show in a fat suit or as a dude, and then invites people to the studio to explain how fantastic she was. We should have figured anything La Banks touched would have brilliant camp potential, and certainly the casting gods smiled upon her here the same way they do on America’s Next Top Model. The mark of a good reality show is when you’re invested enough to want to slap at least one contestant and hug another, and Stylista nailed that in the first ten minutes. We are aching to fling megabitch “store owner” Megan out the nearest window, wipe the excess mascara from under the hilariously named Cologne’s spiderlike lower lashes, and embrace the aptly nicknamed but unfairly maligned Boobs. We have no idea what her real name is, but neither do her castmates; they just hate her for having cleavage. Clearly they have never met Miss Tyra.
But despite our cautious optimism that this train wreck will be an entertaining one, we do have one major beef: the use of the term “stylista” like it’s a real word. It’s not, fools. “Stylista” is the “fetch” of the CW network, and like Regina George to Gretchen Wieners, we’re here to tell them it’s NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. So cut it out and get back to more scenes about how Anne Slowey “doesn’t do almonds unless they’re soaked overnight.” That idiocy is your gold mine, people. Work it.