Well, it's here: the long-awaited premiere of the Tyra Banks-produced reality series, Stylista. The premise is a simple (if not recycled) one: a group of young adults compete for the coveted position of "junior editor" at Elle magazine (a job once held by former Jezebel Jennifer Gerson), which includes a year of rent-free living and a wardrobe allowance. The show revolves around Elle Fashion News Director Anne Slowey, who is, by most accounts, not as icy as the Anne Slowey that she plays on TV. The critics agree that the show is good for its niche, but if a combination of The Devil Wears Prada, Ugly Betty and Project Runway doesn't appeal to you, you might want to skip this one. The reviews, after the jump.Slate:
The show feels approachably lo-fi (wardrobe by H&M, cinematography by no one interested in the beguiling gold of them thar Hills), and the references to aesthetics are just arch enough to convey that it's in the know as a work of trash about mechanical reproduction. The contestants, being somewhat more literate than your usual reality-TV cretins, say dumb things in an interesting way. (Poor, poor, unfortunate Arnaldo: "I think in the box, out of the box, and sometimes take the box and turn it into a triangle.") Stylista is not a guilty pleasure; the guilt is the pleasure, and never more so than when Kate, freshly savaged by Megan, whimpers with terror at her newfound capacity for contempt: "I've learned what it feels like to hate other people." Chin up, honey. You are only on the precipice of adulthood. With practice, hating people is as fun and easy as an afternoon of backgammon or an hour of bad TV.
Given that the show comes from the "Top Model" team, the slick accessories and production style shouldn't be completely surprising; still, this genre is so overcrowded right now (Bravo's "Runway" knockoffs alone are practically stumbling over each other) that the prospects seem inherently limited. Throw a bouquet, then, strictly to the casting folks for the assortment of types they've assembled. Beyond that, "Stylista" qualifies as fierce, to borrow producer Tyra Banks' phraseology, only in its steadfast commitment to copying the same old models.
At times Slowey comes off like a Mean Girl writ large, but some of this at least appears to be put on — a put-on. (She barely resembles the Slowey who appears on the Elle website, leading a video tour of her own closet.) At other times, with Creative Director Joe Zee by her side, judging the contestants' self-makeovers or their mock magazine pages, she can seem like a reasonable person.
Are there any bosses anywhere as demanding as Ms. Slowey pretends to be? Not really, and maybe on some level we miss them. Part of the appeal of a show like “Stylista” is that it resurrects a long-vanished way of office life, one filled with rules and regulations, distinct hierarchies and dress codes and nothing as fuzzy as flex time. As Ms. Slowey succinctly explains to the contestants at the outset: “To be in my world you either get it or you don’t.” No one has to spend a lot of time figuring out a manager like this.
Resemblances to the movie "The Devil Wears Prada" are obvious; the job that the competitors are vying for is essentially the position that Anne Hathaway had in the movie, and "Stylista" has a very bossy boss in Anne Slowey, Elle magazine's fashion news director. She's not the fire-breathing shrew played so merrily by Meryl Streep, but she's obviously a toughie. She reviews the appearances of the contestants soon after they arrive, telling one of them: "Your cleavage is busting out. It's in my face." The wisdom imparted by Slowey and by Joe Zee, Elle's creative director, hardly sounds like hot insider poop, however: "First impressions are important" is among the priceless gems. "If you're going to live in my world, you either get it or you don't," lectures Slowey before reviewing the contestants' first assignment: buying her a takeout breakfast from a local deli.
Imagine Slowey's horror to think that someone with my style sense is judging her show. Why, if I were to accidentally drift into her rarefied orbit, she'd faint dead away - then call the fashion police, who'd faint dead away, too. But I do know something about TV shows, and this one works best when she is on camera (which is not nearly enough) and the program focuses on clothing - that great, exasperating, endlessly complicated art form known as "fashion." Really, does anyone care that Anne only eats almonds that have been soaked overnight (amusing, but ...) or how to lay out a page? Of course not. Fashion queens like Slowey promise the keys to the kingdom; landing a gofer gig at Elle would hardly seem to be that.
'Stylista' premieres tonight on CW at 9 p.m.