First, Bravo dipped its toe into the competitive reality genre with Project Runway, and that turned out to be such a runaway success that the bigwigs said, "Hey! Food is just as chic as clothing ... sometimes ..." and blessed us with Top Chef. Not content with conquering these two crafty empires, Bravo staked their laurels on interior decorating. But Top Design quickly and relentlessly proved that creating is not always entertaining. Yet here Bravo are pushing their luck again in the field of hair styling.
You may be thinking this show is another recipe for disaster, and you’re right, but it’s disaster of the best kind really. Good haircuts have been known to cause euphoria, and more to the point of my own existence, bad haircuts have been known to cause absolute meltdowns. The closest a design show has come to anything so interesting was that one lady who really didn’t like brown. But here the rubbernecking possibilities here are limitless, and that always means a good time, right?
Our host is the perennially lovely Jaclyn Smith, and yes that is her that you’ve seen posing Charlie’s Angel Style with a blow dryer, which means that Ms. Smith is the height of delightful. No, I don’t quite know why she’s hosting a show about hair, but who cares. She’s pretty. And, she has more personality than a box of rocks, so she’s already a walking giant in the field of Bravo hostesses. Ahem. Jaclyn greets everyone in the Shear Genius salon, and we get to know a few of the contestants a bit more. There’s Daisy, who’s thrilled to be in the presence of an honest-to-goodness Angel; Danna, who apparently loves to get the profanity bleep, and then there’s Jim, who’s very fabulous in the way it was very cool to be ten years ago when Jack McFarland was the cat’s meow.
Also here for you to meet is Sally Hershberger, stylist to the stars, who’ll be one of their judges. Tabatha, a white-haired lady with a perma-sourpuss, informs us that Sally is responsible for Meg Ryan’s shag, and to think that I was unaware of that style being some sort of phenomenon. But everyone seems to be thrilled to be in Sally’s presence. She and Jaclyn plunge the stylists right into their first “Short Cut” challenge, which is to demonstrate their signature cuts. This presents a problem for Danna (pronounced like it‘s spelled with an ‘o’), who doesn’t have a signature because she “creates masterpieces which are unique for everyone.” Um, sweetie. It’s not as if you’re painting chapel ceilings or anything. Go with the flow and chop up a bang or something. Theodore, of the flaxen ringlets and peaches and cream complexion, says his look is classic with a creative edge. I feel like he should be wearing a sailor suit. Paul Jean says he has signature everything and I really don’t think that means anything.
Watching Hair Fly > Watching Paint Dry
Jaclyn informs the gang that they’ll be ranked from one to twelve, and the winner of the Short Cut gets first choice of model. That’s important, but not for right now, as at the moment they’ll be working with doll heads that look suspiciously like Geena Davis. The be-rhinestoned Dr. Boogie makes the best of his situation, chatting up his doll as he explains to the camera his technique of using a comb/clipper combo instead of scissors. Which really isn’t that thrilling. It’s cool that you’ve got a niche or a trick or whatever, but I’m not seeing a great big difference in the effect, Dr. B. Although the sculpted waterfall of hair he ends up with is very pretty. Blonde and slightly vapid looking Lacey takes pride in being able to look at trees and clouds and things and turn them into haircuts. Sounds very Anne Shirley, doesn’t it? All that wonderful imagination. Too bad none of it showed up in her boring asymmetrical bob.
Tabatha sees the head and is immediately tempted to cut all the hair off, and that’s another glaring signal of trouble ahead. We’ll have to watch out for this one. I think she may have had a few visits to the Angry Dome. Ben wants you to know that he’s straight. I want Ben to know that the tattoos aren’t selling it. I’m 99.29% sure that Evangelin is wearing a wig, because otherwise how do I make sense of that silly lone blonde tendril poking out of her black hair? But really, it’s hard to make sense of anything concerning Evangelin. She calls herself a crazy Italian wife, and all we get as proof of that is a half-hearted little “woohoo” when she notices the camera, and then for no reason, she breaks down into tears when talking about how awesome it is to cut hair. Really? Evangelin’s relationship with her career is looking a little too OTP for me. Honey, it’s good to love your job, but don’t love your job, all right?
Jaclyn and Sally stroll back in to do the judging. They visit Tabatha first, and she cops to being nervous which is good because the reaction to her cut is quite awkward. She’s got a jagged kind of shag going on with a super long chunk front and center, and Sally doesn’t seem to see the “fun” that Tabatha is getting out of all those uneven sections. Me either, but I’m not a judge, so Tabby at least won’t be scowling at me. Things are asymmetrical all over though; most of the cuts have that going on. Jim’s taken your basic Cool Mom cut and tousled it; he sprays it with water (?) to show the versatility, but then Sally can‘t get a comb through it. Lesson learned: mannequins don‘t take care of their hair. Sally and Jackie seem to like Dr. Boogie’s wavy cut and Paul Jean scores with his long Barbarella-like do. Tyson, despite having an unfortunate white blonde dye job and scraggly mop of his own to work through, impresses the judges with his angular coif, where the bangs taper down to two wispy points, and the layers flare out in various directions.
So, time is up and the ranking begins: Tabatha is in last place and she’s all sour grapes about it and all of a sudden doesn’t care about winning. Lacey is 11th, but that’s cool with her because she’s not 12th. Evangelin, Ben, Jim,
FauntleroyTheodore, someone named Anthony who I’ve never seen, Danna, Dr. Boogie and Paul Jean are called in order, leaving Daisy and Tyson as the top two. Tyson takes it home, I’m guessing just because of the dramatic cross his bangs formed, which does look very cool, but I prefer 4th place Dr. Boogie’s cut overall.
Buy, Buy, My Darlings
So Tyson’s feeling good and thinking he can win now, but then Jaclyn helpfully crushes his spirit and informs them all that rankings can change from day to day. She softens this blow by next introducing “Salon Director” Rene Fris, who is quite white hot, in spite of his short-waisted pants and the silly white trim on his black polo shirt, so you know he‘d be like concentrated plutonium if he ever dressed like a normal man. Rene gets Dr. Boogie all excited, but this leads him to declare he’s not gay, which … if you say so, Dr. B, but I’m wondering if he actually knows what gay means. While they’re all still in awe over the presence of Rene, Jaclyn drops the details for the upcoming elimination challenge: after visiting a run-of-the-mill craft store, they’ll each get two hours to turn in their finest piece of hair art. But they won’t meet the models or know anything about the length or color or texture of the hair or anything, which I guess could be dramatic.
Rene takes them all shopping for props, Dr. Boogie seems excited, Paul Jean not so much. They only get 75 bucks and ten minutes to shop. Danna has lots of fun running around, Tabatha heads straight for the feathers, and Tyson horns in on her to stock up for his Birds of Paradise theme. This definitely does not please old Bitter Britches, so watch your back, Tyson. Those eyes would cut you like Ginsu as soon as look at you. Little Lord Theodore is lost and aimless but then he spies a wooden box…, Paul Jean is very above it all, and he wants us all to know that he would never voluntarily shop at Michael’s. Pffft. Whatever Paul Jean. Or should I say Jean Paul? Or John Paulsen. That’s one’s probably it. Just get your flowers or whatever and go. Lacey observes her competitors’ carts and envisions an explosion of tacky. I agree, and you can’t imagine how excited this prospect makes me.
Knotted, Polka-Dotted, Twisted, Beaded, Braided
The stylist pay for their supplies, and then it’s time for them to see their home. They’re all thrilled with the bright and mod atmosphere; Daisy terms it a “boogie wonderland go-go lounge college dorm.” Aw yeah, that takes me back to my own freshman dorm -- plain white walls, orange doors and blue carpet. For Boogie the loft is so fab he can’t wait to kick everyone out. Jim’s first thought is for beverages. Paul Jean says he was most concerned about closet space, and his deadpan sigh at the lack of it instantly makes me like him. Theo and Lacey toast to being the youngest, and Lacey smart mouths something about being just as good as old people who aren’t doing anything with their lives, but I find myself tuning out whenever I see her lollipop-shaped head, so I didn’t pick up on what all she said.
The next morning, the group treks to the salon to meet the models and get started on the challenge. Tabatha notes the change in mood among them. It’s a competition now, y’all! The models come out and because of his Short Cut win Tyson gets first pick. He sidles through the ranks and touches the girls’ hair, and even though he’s a hairdresser it feels creepy and wrong. Maybe it’s because Tyson feels creepy and wrong. He selects a girl with beautiful brown curls and near-bout proposes to her; Rene even gets a little misty at the romance. Me? For some reason I’m seeing a honeymoon at the Bates Motel. Daisy picks a pretty redhead. Paul Jean insults them all by saying his two first choices were snatched up; he puts on a little show of pointing out the attitude among the models, Rene puts on a show of being exasperated with him, and PJ eventually settles on a gal with long black hair. Dr. Boogie asks Rene if he can pick any of the girls, and when Rene answers yes, Boogie tries to take his hand. I think he‘s coming along quite nicely. Rene rebuffs him, so Boogie asks the girls to shake for him, and one model thinks he wants a sexy shimmy, but he passes her up for the one woman with really textured hair, a cute curly fro, and pats himself on the back for being such a visionary. Evangelin goes off into her soul-bonding place when making her pick, and I see her becoming tiresome really quickly. Jim chooses the model that shook it for Boogie.
Once everyone is matched up, the scissors come out and the work starts. Lacey’s doing something romantic, Theodore is trying to find a way to stick his little box on his model’s head. Anthony is building on hair donuts. Daisy doesn’t want to say to much about her plans, but she whispers something about Marie Antoinette. The crimping iron’s out already at Tabatha’s station! Go ahead and take a drink. Rene saunters over to Paul Jean and gets a frigid reception; I’m not understanding the tension here. Was there some misplaced slap and tickle we didn’t get to see? I’m hurt by that, if so. Paul Jean is doing something crazy-looking with one blonde and one brown ponytail jutting from the sides of his model’s head, and a branch of curls stuck down in the center of it all. Not a good look. But we’ll see the finished product in the show.
Jaclyn and Sally are ready to sit in judgment; also there is Michael Carl, fashion editor for Allure, which I think is a fashion magazine in the way that I am a ballet dancer. (I’m not a ballet dancer, but I sometimes can do a grand plie.) This week’s guest judge is Frederic Fekkai, who turns all the stylists into piles of blubber just by strutting down the runway to his chair. Somehow I don’t think the response will be the same during the inevitable Jonathan Antin week.
But about the hair. Tyson’s model is on first and his bird of paradise idea took flight as a braided, sideswept blonde bang, and a chignon with a white boa wrapped all around. Also there are feathers sticking up; all in all, she’s quite ready to bust out a paso doble or something. It’s that garish.
Daisy’s done what she thinks of as Marie Antoinette’s weddind day, with a lot of braided white yarn, and gauzy white tulle wrapped around her model’s nest of fiery red hair. It’s pretty striking, but a bit busy, especially with the gazillion rhinestones circling the hairline for no real reason.
PJ didn’t even try. Really. He’s got the blonde and brown tails tacked on, and the curlicues sticking up, and that’s it. Even the model looks a tad embarrassed to be walking around like that. But he “stands by his girl” and his “experiment” because risk is success, and he is success. Who wants to bet that he pocketed his $75 and blew it on happy juice before the comp? Because otherwise this is impossible to understand.
Dr. Boogie got inspired by the islands somehow, so he’s straightened his model’s hair and swirled it into a mass of chic little chignons, over which he stuck yooge pink and blue daisies, which kind of spoil the effect. A similar thing happened with Danna and her beach theme; the slicked back hair and cool balls of string weaved into the hair look good at first, but on further inspection it’s all just way too lumpy and bumpy.
Anthony’s donuts are twice the size of his model’s hair, and he has increased the sheer size of the whole thing more by sticking little bobbly orbs on sticks down into the donuts, which he feels offers an east-meets-west aesthetic. I’m not seeing it. But I am seeing a wicked neck cramp for that poor model if she has to hold that contraption up for much longer.
Theodore? It’s a huge honking box. That’s basically it. Some of the hair is gathered into pin curls at the top, but mostly it’s just hanging down in a net. With the huge honking box of sparkly stuff on top. Not impressive.
Jim did his messy teasing thing again, and then in the back he made a row of teeny tiny buns with beads and leaves worked all through. Jim admits to being totally drunk which explains his nothing of a do; his model comes out sporting slightly teased, stick straight locks with red and orange leaves and reeds stuck in every which way. Evangeline’s model struts out looking like she’s been rolling around in the Secret Garden; the hair’s a huge rat’s nest with butterflies and sticks and wildflowers stuck in all over, which Evangelin says represent freedom. Evangelin is sooo Stuart Smalley, and it’s just … you’re not supposed to be that way in real life. That’s why people laugh at it on TV. I hope she’s gone soon.
Lacey gathered her model’s hair into a big messy mass of ringlets and then hung limp pink flowers all through. It’s as bland as you think. And bringing up the rear is Tabatha, who has taken her wealth of feathers and turned them into a rather striking faux-hawk for her model. Not much happened with the hair; it’s just teased and crowned by the feathers but the effect is very pretty, especially as the feathers form a sort of veil over the model’s eyes.
So that’s that, and to quote Michael Kors, I’m underwhelmed. I expected sky high sculptures and colors. Where are the baskets of Jolly Ranchers, and wings, and helicopter blades? Was I wrong to expect that? Did I imbibe one too many Ricki Lake Hair Wars episodes as a child, and that‘s not really how the hair world works? I can’t help but feel a little cheated. But the judges seem satisfied. Everyone likes Tabatha’s do, but Frederic says she didn’t do enough with the hair. Sally praises Boogie’s skills in molding his model’s hair. Michael says he was afraid roaches were going to crawl out of Evangelin’s do, which is crazy. If anything, they’d be hummingbirds and bumblebees. No one’s too impressed with Lacey or Anthony. The latter tried too hard, and the former not enough. Everyone liked the theatrics of Theodore’s big box, and Ben and Paul Jean prove to be the biggest disappointments. But who shall win, and who shall be cut?
Hair Today, Gone Today
Jaclyn orders Tabatha, Theodore, and Daisy to center stage, and quickly informs them that they are the top three stylists this week. The judges liked Theo’s creativity and story; they liked Tabatha’s shape, and Daisy’s ambitious style. But Theo is the one who wins. I bet it was the glitter that put him over the top. Really … cause there wasn’t much else going on with his hair. But anyway, he won, and he seems sweet. Also he trips over his own feet on the way back to the lineup, so yay.
Now for the lowly bottom three: Lacey, Tyson, and Jean Paul. Tyson got his styles all confused and had a stupid boa in the mix for no reason. Lacey played it safe, which is never okay, okay? Really everyone should know this by now. And Paul Jean was just all over a mess, as we well know. In the end, he is the one sent home for unforgivable crimes against follicles. Jaclyn dismisses him saying, “This is your final cut.” I’d have preferred a curt, restrained, “Snip!” But this is good too. PJ presents himself before the panel a humbled man, and talks graciously of his pleasure in getting to know the judges. His reception is not warm. He then exhorts the remaining contestants to “kick some butt.” That cordial departure deserves a fond farewell from me, Paul Jean: don’t let the door hit you in the derriere on your way out.
Next week, the stylists are breaking out the dye and Tabatha’s getting fed up with Evangelin. Will the dark lord pimpsmack on sweetness and light? We’ll find out next week.