Well I suppose you could argue it either way, but to a huge extent I agree that ANTM is going downhill.
If you think about it like this-
Cycle 1 - Modelesque girls, on a budget, realistic, amazing photoshoots (beauty shots with snakes, totally European) and fantastic destination (Paris is actually a fashion capital unlike some places the girls have been).
Cycle 2 - Mostly very good girls, less generalisable to the fashion industry but probably the best bunch of photoshoots ever. Milan, well what can I say really? Probably one of the best winners (imo).
Cycle 3 - A complete joke. Mediocre photoshoots (some were really good, like the first shoot on the rocks and the Japanese phone shoot, but some really sucked like the double persona on a car) and abismal girls. I think Tyra really sums it up by saying in the pinultimate episode that she can't see any of them being america's next top model. Having said that, it was the most entertaining cycle ("I'M ON THE PHONNNENEEEEEEEEE!!!" and "Don't ever touch my brownies!", not forgetting the little shoving match next to the ironing board), but I'm of the mind that top model should actually be about modeling and not america's next top comedian.
Cycle 4 - Alright, some very, very good girls and some pretty poor ones too. However, some of the most amazing shots ever (Zodiac signs = genius and seven deadly sins = fabulous). However, almost biggest robbery ever (second only to Jenah by Saleisha) of winner - Kahlen stood out as far, far superior. Not nearly as poor as Cycle 3 though.
Cycle 5 - Well, I never really know what to make of cycle 5. It was just... weird. With all the lesbianism and red bull I can barely remember the actual modeling, all I know is that Nicole was increadibly high fashion, it's a shame we never heard of her again, after the show was through. The whole thing was cringey though, from start to finish with all the meltdowns.
Cycle 6 - A glimmer of actual top model potential again. Contestants like Mollie-Sue, Joannie, Nnenna and even Danielle, proved that there was still model potential out there. The photoshoots were average with some good ones in there (like the mermaid episode). However, the order of elimination sucked completely with Nnenna and Mollie-Sue being eliminated way before their time and contestants like Jade being kept around for the entertainment factor. A markable improvement on 3, 4 and 5 though.
Cycle 7 - Cycle 7 was alright, probably not as good as cycle 6 but still much better than the previous three. Caridee was probably not the best winner, with the twins and Melrose consistantly out performing her, but there was some strong potential and some pretty amazing shoots (water shoot in Spain).
Cycle 8 - I really don't understand everyone's beef with this cycle. I admit the order of elimination was absurd but some of the best girls came about because of it (Natasha, Jaslene, Brittany and Renee). Also there were some phonomenal shoots here aswell (bikini shoot in Aus and death photoshoot) with some catastrophic ones (four sides of one girl shoot). On par with cycle 7, but no were near the standard of cycle 2.
Cycle 9 - Cycle 9 had the potential to be the best cycle yet, if the final three had been Jenah, Lisa and Heather. But because of rediculous eliminations and shocking reasons behind them, this cycle goes down in my estimation.
So it really depends on how you look at it, in my mind the flow of cycles goes something like this:
__/ \ /\___/
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
showing that top model isn't deteriortating, it's just reached its peak and is trying hard to get back up there.
Who knows how cycle 10 will turn out? So far, so good though.