Real folks go under the knife
'Extreme Makeover' returns tonight for a 7-episode run.
By MELANIE MCFARLAND Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Forget the house with a white picket fence, kids. The new American Dream is obviously rebirth through beauty. Like property, good looks don't come cheap.
That's where TV steps in. From television's glossy perspective, the world is awash in dull Dicks and plain Janes with little in the way of taste or natural beauty. Maybe you don't think that applies to you. Maybe, in your estimation, you think you can work a pair of plaid pants like no one else - even if you've never set foot on a golf course.
That makes you special.
The rest of us aren't so fortunate, if you believe what you're seeing on TLC, BBC or ABC. According to the experts on "What Not To Wear," both the TLC and the BBC America versions, we're all lousy dressers with inordinately large rear ends and bad hair. As if watching the lucky fashion unfortunates endure torture on those shows isn't enough to make you hide your mirrors, ABC tosses in the additional reminder that no matter how much you improve your wardrobe, hair and makeup, it's probably a good idea to also go under the knife. You know, just in case.
This may be assigning a little too much depth to "Extreme Makeover," which started out as a special in December that followed the transformation of three flabby ugly ducklings into svelte, happy swans among men and women. Raking in 13.2 million viewers led ABC to bring it back as a series of seven one-hour episodes, the first of which premieres tonight.
This is a show that turns normal-looking workaday folk into divinely gorgeous beings, or at the very least makes them easier on the eyes through the wonders of surgery and fashion.
Kine and Tammy, both subjects of tonight's episode, don't want to be crowned Fairest of Them All by the likes of Lorenzo Lamas. They just want a little more confidence, and their teary explanations as to why they applied to win a makeover are surprisingly touching. Especially after seeing clips of the show's gelatinous rejects, most of whom need treadmills more than surgery.
No matter what surgery they elect to have, one thing "Extreme Makeover" subjects have in common is that they appear to be very nice people, hiding behind faces and body parts that disappoint them. They are more like us than most of the "real" people on reality shows. These folks probably don't have Screen Actors Guild memberships.
And their requests are understandable. Hair stylist Kine desires normal lips in place of the split, overgrown pair she sports now. (She also puts in for liposuction, a breast lift and laser eye surgery. God bless America.) Tammy, an overworked hausfrau from Florida, asks for a basic Hollywood refresher: face and eye lifts, rhinoplasty and laser resurfacing.
To achieve their wishes, "Extreme Makeover" enlists a cabal of experts to transform them from woeful to wowza in a matter of weeks. When all is healed and done, the show makes the process of chopping skin look almost as pleasant as chopping hair.
Given what TV has offered in the way of plastic surgery documentaries and specials before "Extreme Makeover," I'd wager viewers tuned in for the surgical aspect and to witness the ugly aftermath more than anything else.
Tonight's "Extreme Makeover" doesn't show much in the way of surgical nastiness, although the scenes from Tammy's recovery may stop you in your tracks, and Kine probably will wince at the thought of millions watching her drool into a tray.
Shallow as the notion of a show that rewards lucky winners with plastic surgery may be, the benevolent personal touch within "Extreme Makeover's" skin-deep concept may connect with viewers in a way ABC's previous reality shows didn't. Even if it doesn't, there's only six more episodes of the thing.