Pussycat Dolls

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Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll
The CW 9 p.m. March 6


I can recall that, when this new Pussycat Dolls reality series was announced last year, an executive with the CW used the phrase "female empowerment" to describe its essence. Yeah, I think that when you see scantily clad young women singing and gyrating together on a stage, the feminist ideal is what first springs to mind. I'm pretty sure Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan would concur.

Actually, this traditional elimination reality series that is designed to select the next member of the Pussycat Dolls song-and-dance troupe is more about selling sex than self-reliance, doing so with all the depth of a toddler wading pool. It incorporates the full array of unscripted devices we've come to expect: manufactured conflict, driving music, faux drama and the illusion of personality, all in service to a plastic eight-week overview seemingly targeted to the 12-year-old mind-set.

Mark McGrath hosts and McG serves as an executive producer of what is described at the outset as a "grueling" journey (they got that right) in which women with impossibly lithe bodies move in together to endure auditions, challenges and superficial bonding galore. It's all run by Pussycat Dolls founder and chief choreographer Robin Antin, who judges along with Lil' Kim and Geffen Records chairman Ron Fair.

In the opener, we see 18 contestants weeded down to nine amid much gnashing of teeth and shedding of tears. While presenting routines, these ladies must overcome a stomach virus epidemic and their own nagging self-doubt to persevere. It's utterly featherweight and obtuse, in part because the principals behave as if they're scaling the empowerment equivalent of Mount Everest. Yes, if they can make America open its eyes and accept them for their resolute Pussycat Doll-ness, equal pay for equal work can't help but follow.

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