Picks and Pans Review: America's Next Top Model

updated 02/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

REALITY

UPN (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

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It doesn't seem like reality," said one participant on the season premiere of this modeling competition. "Dramality" is the preferred term in UPN's press releases, so don't be surprised that the conflicts on the show appear to be, shall we say, heightened for television.

The second season began Jan. 13 with 12 aspirants sharing a Manhattan loft and vying for a prize package that includes a cover shot on a beauty-products catalog and a contract with the modeling agency that handles Tyra Banks, the series' chief judge and coexecutive producer. Shedding bitter tears, Jenascia called her housemates "bitches" for failing to wake her for an early photo shoot. Yoanna ripped the self-involved Camille, dubbing her Cruella de Vil. And Anna had a weepy crisis of conscience when asked to pose in nothing but jewels and body paint. "It's not so much [based on] religion," she explained. "I'm just trying to be Christ-like."

It wouldn't be a crime if the contestants were consciously showing their dramatic side, but there ought to be a law against some tricks of the reality trade. A tease at the end of the second episode showed gawky Shandi on the floor, apparently unconscious. She "can't handle the pressure," Banks told us. We heard a cry of "Oh, no!" In the next episode we learned that Shandi had a fainting spell but felt lots better after a quick, sugary snack.

Frankly, I couldn't handle the pressure of a Fear Factor-ish segment in which the lovelies were taken to an abandoned building and forced to pose while suspended from a ledge. The real torture was hearing the photographer's inane instructions: "Hold the intensity!... Talk to me with your eyes!" Shut up, okay?

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