The Face: TV Review

The Face Episodic Judges - H 2013
Walter Sassard/Oxygen

The Face Episodic Judges - H 2013

The series combines familiar competition elements, but its supermodel mentors keep things lively.

Naomi Campbell brings superdiva drama as she leads Karolina Kurkova and Coco Rocha in Oxygen's new "Voice"-like model competition.

Oxygen's new supermodel competition series The Face mixes Top Model with The Voice, where twelve hopefuls compete individually and in teams coached by Naomi Campbell, Karolina Kurkova and Coco Rocha. Refreshingly, the series doesn't waste its inaugural episodes with auditions, which tend to drag. The Face immediately hopes into action by having the twelve featured girls ready to compete, and already placed with their model mentors.

Throughout the first series, the girls will be put through competitions similar to those seen on Top Model -- narrative fashion shoots, putting together outfits on the fly -- and will collaborate with fashion industry greats (like photographer Patrick Demarchelier), TV personalities (like talk show host Wendy Williams) and others, hoping ultimately to be awarded a contract with ULTA beauty.

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Photographer Nigel Barker serves as the host, but is removed from the real drama (at least as of the first episode), which takes place within the New York City loft the competitors share. The judges, too, bring their own spice to things -- which is not surprising at all given the inclusion of Naomi Campbell. Campbell's infamously strong personality and sensitivity to any slights against her team puts her in direct confrontation with the other judges, particularly the sweet and earnest  Kurkova, who is probably the most balanced and the best mentor in the group. As for the third mentor, Rocha is, to start, on the fringe. While Kurkova nurtures the talents of her team and Campbell gives tough love, Rocha seems in her own world, wanting to shoehorn her team into following her own brazen style, so far with mixed results.

It's clear the supermodels populated their teams with girls who most mirrored themselves, which means that Campbell's is already primed for drama. The girls come from all over the world and represent a range of backgrounds and ambitions, but Campbell's team established themselves the quickest by having some of the most intense personalities in the competition, though she herself outshines them all. "I'm a little bit afraid of her," Alexandria from Belarus says during the group photo shoot. Her instincts are not wrong.

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There are prizes awarded for every contest -- from a $5,000 shopping spree at Top Shop to a featured photo in W magazine in the first episode -- but on the flip side, at the end of each hour the mentor of the winning team from the group competition is able to eliminate one member from one of the remaining two teams (chosen by their own mentors). While the rest of the episode took place at whirlwind speed, things ground to a halt during the elimination round, which isn't surprising but did make me check the clock (still, it's not as bad as ABC's The Bachelor, which has set the gold standard for lingering camera shots beyond the point of reason during each episode's Rose Ceremony). The twist is the aftermath, wherein the mentor who made the elimination must face her other two supermodel mentors -- and potentially their wrath.

The Face borrows plenty of concepts from other modeling and competition shows, but it manages to throw enough fashion and dramatic interest at viewers to be engaging. Plus, many of the girls have the personalities or backstories that will make their journeys interesting to follow. Besides, if all else fails, the show has bought itself insurance: leave the camera on Naomi Campbell long enough, and something is bound to happen worth watching.