Viewers revel in hopefuls' not-always-pretty behavior
By Lauren Beckham Falcone
Wednesday, March 2, 2005

What makes ``America's Next Top Model'' UPN's top show?
It's not the supersexy models cavorting around half nude in their Los Angeles apartment in scenes out of something like ``Slumber Party Naughtiness.''
Nah.
According to Ken Mok, co-executive producer, the personal stories catapult ``Top Model'' to its top ratings.
``Aside from the superficial reasons, people like to hear personal stories and get involved with people and their lives,'' said Mok, a Boston University alum. ``The audience has a relationship with the cast and relate to the characters. They tell a story and we end up caring.''
Maybe he's right.
Who can forget Shandi Sullivan's cellphone confession to her hometown boyfriend that she slept with some hot male model in Paris? That's storytelling that would make Hemingway proud.
``The characters we feature are multidimensional,'' Mok said. ``Within that, the girls are trying to achieve a dream. The other reality shows out there are about winning the show itself. We're different because our show is a vehicle to achieve a dream, which brings a unique emotional intensity to `Top Model.' ''
Of course, casting has a lot to do with that emotional intensity.
``Of course we need compelling stories and personalities, but the ultimate litmus test for us is this: Do you believe she could really be a top model? Unfortunately, we've had to cut people who would have made amazing TV because the audience will know our motives. We and the audience have to really believe the girl has a shot at making it,'' Mok said.
So which contestants should we be watching out for this season?
``Tiffany is an intriguing person,'' Mok said. ``She's a fish out of water who has gone through some personal growth that plays out in a very fascinating way on the show. In fact, a number of characters turn out in ways never expected. You know, you cast these shows and you think you've got each person down. But invariably, they end up more interesting.''
The show brings the world of fashion front and center, Mok said, and it's an industry dying for more exposure.
``The fashion world is filled with so many characters, so many outsized characters,'' he said. ``And audiences are really entertained by it. But also, they're educated. It's like when I watch `This Old House.' It's not a total waste of time because I've learned something by the end of it. With `Top Model,' it's the same way. There's something to learn about fashion.''
From the Boston Herald, 3/2/05.