We’ve been through a slew of modeling reality shows, few of which have the staying power of Tyra Banks’ American’s Next Top Model. So, what’s the fate of reality TV’s latest modeling venture, E!’s Scouted? I’m betting against it, but this is reality television we’re talking about; there’s always a shot.
The first of eight one-hour episodes kicks off by introducing the folks in charge – creative director Michael Flutie, model mentor Beri Smither, image and style consultant Dani Stahl and director of scouting Julia Samersova. As we’re whisked away rather quickly and thrown into the subject of the show, the scouting process, the foursome never solidify individually as industry professionals, rather blend into one judging panel sans definition.
However, we do get to spend quite a bit of time with Houston, Texas scout, Page Parkes, and San Francisco, California scout, Kristen Kotik, and both manage to convey an impressive degree of depth as individuals and help paint a fascinating picture of life as a scout. The focus continues to narrow when we meet Parkes and Kotik’s clients, Gillian and Jennifer, respectively. Now these girls are characters. Gillian’s just 15-years-old and while Parkes maintains that she’s an all-around natural, there is a risk of Gillian being held back by family issues, as her father is a cancer patient. Meanwhile, over in San Francisco, Jennifer’s only hurdles are her own lack of professionalism and her overbearing “momager.”
Now that the introductions have been taken care of, we try to figure out the structure of the show and while the steps of getting from home base to One Management are quite clear, the relationship between the two contending models is never defined, leaving you unsure of whether or not this is a one-on-one contest or if both ladies could possibly be signed. The problem is, even after just taking a wild guess and assuming only one will get One Management President’s Scott Lipps’ blessing, the winner is obvious from the moment the show begins.
On the technical side, Scouted most certainly abuses the reality format. There are countless pan-down location reveals, some of which aren’t even done with a smooth movement. Then there are the obligatory zooms in and out, which are ill-timed, jerky and rather distracting. The editing department seems a little off kilter too, as there are a number of simply thoughtless shot choices like the decision to advertise the New York City restaurant Stake Frites both before and after a meal.
Sounds like an all-around terrible review, right? Well, maybe, but that’s the beauty of reality TV; the inherent realism can overpower poor storytelling and production work. The first episode of Scouted is entirely predictable, but that doesn’t mean you’re not engaged in both Gillian and Jennifer’s efforts. The relationship with her ailing father is appropriately put in the forefront of Gillian’s segment and, thanks to the young girl’s genuinely kind and loving nature, the situation will absolutely break your heart. Then again, the incredible amount of support Gillian receives from both parents eases the pain and lifts your spirits. As for Jennifer, the conflict between her familial and working relationships with her mother makes for an excellent juxtaposition for Gillian’s scenario and, therefore, enhances both.
It’s shows like Scouted that prove how manipulative reality television can be. Sure, there are some well-produced productions in the genre, but then there’s absolute trash TV that still manages to suck you in. No, Scouted should not be classified as the latter, but it’s certainly on the lower end of the spectrum. Then again, I can’t lie; the conclusion of episode one brought a tear to my eye.