True Beauty -- TV Review

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The Ashton Kutcher-ing of television continues with this pandering hour that finds the "That '70s Show" star, who once gave the world "Punk'd" and "Beauty and the Geek," serving as one of seven executive producers via his very busy Katalyst Prods., which is successfully doing to primetime what Hitler once tried to do to Europe. (OK, that's a slight exaggeration.)

This show, which in fairness also spreads the blame to Tyra Banks and her Bankable Prods. gang, feels very much like a reality show parody until you come to the stunning realization that everybody is -- against all reason -- entirely serious.

In "True Beauty," six gratingly earnest gorgeous babes and four cloyingly narcissistic hunky dudes get to live together in an L.A. mansion, where they attempt to successfully duplicate nuclear fission. As if! Actually, what they do is closer to bidding farewell to their remaining brain cells.

The threadbare gimmick involves attempting to push beyond the shallow cosmetic sheen that drives these unscripted doltfests to uncover the "inner beauty" of the contestants, which host/judge Vanessa Minnillo repeatedly assures is what's really important. Oh yeah, that must be why everyone here is stunningly hot. It's all about their heart and concern for others.

Along with co-judges Cheryl Tiegs (looking quite well-preserved at 61) and Nole Marin, Minnillo works to clandestinely judge everyone's character based on capturing selfish, boorish or insecure acts on hidden camera. If they fail to open a door for a guy carrying coffee, they're deemed pond scum.

The woman sent packing at the end of the first episode, Hadiyyah-lah, is less than pleased to be labeled a hopeless bitch with an imperfect jawline. But as those who might return to watch all seven weeks of "True Beauty" will understand only too well, the facial imperfection is the far bigger TV sin.

Whoever survives this grueling assessment of body and soul receives an undisclosed cash prize and a spot in People magazine's 100 Most Beautiful People issue. That's the one where they honor those with ravishing, uh, inner goodness. What's utterly disingenuous about this show is its banal insistence on being a measure of spirit, merit and decency when that's so clearly a joke. I'd have much more respect for "True Beauty" if it were to accept its limitations as a vainglorious orgy of inconsequence.

Airdate: 10-11 p.m. Monday, Jan. 5 (ABC)
Production: Bankable Prods., Katalyst Prods. and Warner Horizon Television
Executive producers: Denise Cramsey, Tyra Banks, Laura Armstrong, Ashton Kutcher, Jason Goldberg, Karey Burke, Rod Aissa, Laura Armstrong
Co-executive producers: Arthur Borman, Paul Osborne
Supervising producers: Melissa Stokes Christensen, Dean Ollins, Derek Wan
Senior producers: Herb Ankrom, Todd Hurvitz
Senior story producer: Jeffrey J. Hyman
Producers: Noah Mark, Brian Krinsky
Director of photography: Biff Bracht
Production designer: Jeff Hall
Costume designer: Kara Saun
Editors: Roger Bartlett, Kevin Benson, Joe Cauley, Taylor Greathead, Shawn Gutierrez, Marcelo Lopes, Robert Paramor, Jamie Rosenberg, Clay J. Zimmerman.
Music supervisor: Rick Livingstone
Casting: Sheila Conlin
Host: Vanessa Minnillo. Judges: Vanessa Minnillo, Cheryl Tiegs, Nole Marin
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