Stylista comes to the end of its run tonight, with one of the terrible trio above to become a Junior Editor at Elle at the conclusion of tonight’s broadcast (7.30pm Friday 31 July, TV3). It’s proved an adequate soldier to step into the appalling vacuum in our lives created by the end of cycle one of New Zealand’s Next Top Model, characterised by truly breathtaking bitchiness and lack of anything resembling self-awareness, particularly from Dyshaun (left) and Megan (centre), who have made reducing your housemates to tears look like a crippling lack of ambition.
They managed to hospitalise poor Jason, who suffered a truly monumental anxiety attack after one prolonged argument, and his throat closed to the extent that his breathing pretty much stopped. Was kinda horrid to watch, but these bitches don’t play. I can’t tell who’s worse – Dyshaun, who called the diminutive, feisty Kate ‘Chlymydia’, for no good reason; or Megan, always floating round in Chanel and refering to her own experience with a high end store she somehow found the (trust fund?) cash to open at 22. Each is unspeakably horrible, but I think I’m going to give it to Dyshaun, for the moment when he asked poor Kate whether she liked a pair of denim shorts, and she quickly deduced that he was only going to use them if she didn’t go for them ‘because you’re so trashy’, then had the temerity to call her team underhanded for mooching all of the swimwear.
It’s been that kind of a season, lurching madly from one skin-crawlingly unpleasant exchange to another. This would have worked fine if there was someone you were rooting for, but Stylista‘s most prominent failing is the lack of any truly likeable characters. Cologne came closest (plus was ridiculously pretty), but set against the mad savages around her she kinda seemed a little too nice. I ended up barracking for Kate (because the whole show lined up against her), but in truth she was as delusionally convinced of her own genius as the rest, just an army of one rather than part of the pack.
Ashlie was gorgeous, but too easily baited down to the bullies’ level – her elimnation last week did help spice up the finale, though, because she seemed the only remaining candidate who could possibly win the whole thing. And that’s what’ll make tonight’s episode so worthwhile. Elle has to employ one of these reptiles for a whole year, and each is manifestly unsuited to the job.
It’s funny, because Running In Heels, which finished a short run on E! a few weeks back, and was pretty much the same show less the elimination format (switch Marie-Claire for Elle, and that horrendous Anne Slowey for a very reasonable Englishwoman and you’ve got it), had three perfectly reasonable candidates for the job. I mean, Ashley was a mean, conniving bitch, Samantha too unserious and Talita a Victoria NZNTM-scale cloest exhibitionist (with no follow through), but they could all do the work.
The Stylista crew seem to have been cast principally based on Rorschach tests which prove they will work single-mindedly to break one another’s spirit. Even those who initially seemed fairly innocuous, like cockney shoe shine William or young NYU wannabe Devin, took their first opportunity to twist the knife. As a result the show mostly felt like some kind of bizare, unpleasant flashback to the worst points of high school majority rules politics, sucking any element of good grace out of proceedings and rendering it a game of moral limbo, to see who could stoop the lowest fastest.
Even the guests got in on the act. The model whose room they had to prep for one challenge, in addition to having a viciously plain face, had an appalling personality, snooty and acid without any perceivable talent to justify it. Even more outrageous was the niece of Slowey, who might be one the great televisual creations of ’09. She made the Gossip Girl mini-mes of mid-season two who harrass Dan Humphrey seem Anna from The OC. The whole of life had been sucked out of them til all that remained was an entitled scowl. It was very entertaining, and extremely scary.
Judge-wise there wasn’t much, no CMJ or Nigel Barker to liven things up. Even Joe Zee, who has a name which makes you think he pals around with Squidward Tentacles and the less-famous Wiggles on weekends was mostly just a sour old disappointment factory. Slowey just gazed haughtily from her impassive botox bank of a face and uttered vaguely dispeptic inanities, while the guests singularly failed to animate proceedings. Plus as a departing sign off goes ‘you’re not the right fit’ is no ‘pack your knives and go’ or ‘you’re fired’.
Yet… I’m counting down the minutes til 7.30, and it’s not (entirely) because I’m no longer a socially functional human being. The way they’ve completely excised all joy and laughter from the contraption, steadily eliminating those who display even the slightest pleasure in anything other than the suffering of other humans… Something about this dark, vicious world is very compelling. And it’s this very perverse reasoning which makes me hope Dyshaun wins. I hate him as much as I’ve ever hated a reality TV contestant* (though Megan might be a worse human being, for being so sly about it), but it feels like Stylista deserves such a malignant winner.
It might well mean that Elle disappears from the magazine ranks within six months, unable to withstand the combined powers of a once-in-a-century recession and Dyshaun’s cancerous presence, but that might be the price they pay for assembling such a bizarrely unpleasant group of people in one strange, yet undeniably watchable show.
* Spencer obviously excluded, because he’s kinda transcended the genre and the universe as we know it. His response to being told exactly what the whole world thought of him by Al Roker proved he is operating on another level from what we previously thought were the rest of his species.