Tonight was the season finale of Cycle 8 of America's Next Top Model, so I am finally allowing myself to talk about it on this blog. After a slightly disappointing Cycle 7, Cycle 8 has been AMAZING--probably my favorite since Cycle 4. America's Next Top Model is a great show, and a fantastic example of how to entertain people.
America's Next Top Model is also a great example of how not to make a decision.
You see, the big pink elephant in the room with ANTM is that none of the girls who've won it have ever gone on to achieve any real commercial success whatsoever. One of them married Peter Brady, but that's about it. So each season, it gets a little more awkward when Tyra says things like "One of these girls is about to experience a huge. life. change." or "Congratulations--you are still in the running to become America's. Next. Top. Model." (One of the things you learn quickly while watching this show is that the last few words of every one of Tyra's sentences are actually sentences. in. themselves.) The reason these girls really only ever end up becoming America's Next Top Wikipedia Footnotes/CW Series Pilot Guest Stars is because the format of the show (and probably of reality TV in general) is in direct violation of the main principle of good decision making.
The thing we learn in grade school while taking tests is that your first instinct is almost always the correct answer--if you rely on your gut instincts, you'll be right most of the time. In other words, the format for finding America's Next Top Model should really be like this:
That's not really great TV though, so reality TV shows like ANTM completely discard this wisdom in favor of another route, which I have tried to capture via the flowchart below (click to enlarge).
As we've seen time and again, the attempt to stretch what is an essentially a very simple decision (Who looks best in a bathing suit? Her? OK cool, let's call it a day) into a weeks-long show results in a lackluster finale. The winner is just the one who did the best job at not losing--the one who managed, week after week, to not be in last place. When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter how many times she was the best; it's just that she was never flat-out the worst.
ANTM isn't out to show us how to make effective decisions, though--it's out to give us one of the most entertaining hours in television. And it does. That's why when it comes down to it I would never want them to change a damn thing, except maybe the title. America's Next Top Winner of America's Next Top Model seems to encapsulate things a little bit better.