I don’t have much patience for the women of The Swan, the new Fox surreality series. The women are not scary ugly in a Wicked Witch of the West way, plus they have all their limbs and senses intact, and most have managed to snag husbands or boyfriends (or hairless cats) and have roofs over their heads. What does need to be corrected about them, though, is their whiny poor-me-I’m-not-beautiful attitude. If they’ve hated the way they look so much, why for God’s sake didn’t they lay off the doughnuts and visit a salon once in a while. I’ve heard that lipstick and eye shadow can do wonders for a girl. At least, that’s what James St. James tells me.
Here’s how the show works. Sixteen “ugly ducklings,” two per episode, vie to enter a beauty pageant at series end. In the premiere episode, one woman has grown up with a father who told people not to expect anything of her; the other has a husband who can barely stand to talk to her on the phone (Rachel, left, before-and-after). It’s bad, yes, but beauty will fix that. Each duckling spends three months with a panel of ghoulish plastic surgeons, body modifiers, and personality adjusters (right out of some Vincent Price costume horror flick), emerging at the end of the show looking like hooker drag queens who’ve had too much plastic surgery. “You’re beautiful,” the host Amanda Byram tells one contestant but, at a seeming loss for words, tells the other that she looks, um, “unbelievable.” The girls have been mirror-deprived during the morphing process and see the results only at the final, melodramatically drawn-out “reveal,” at which time they both convulsively confess, “I’m beautiful!” in front of the team of Victor Frankensteins who created them. Husband’s are brought in, families huddle in tears. The less beautiful one is sent home, which can only start the self-hatred all over again. “In the end, both women do look better, but in a completely freakish, ‘Boy, she’s had a lot of work” way,” says Brill Bundy on zap2it.com.
Rachel’s chin puckers oddly when she smiles, which is still an improvement over Kelly, who appears to be unable to turn up the corners of her mouth. Still, no woman is a vision of loveliness when she’s crying, and the sight of overly made-up “after” pictures blubbering “I’m beautiful” as their mascara runs is nothing short of macabre. Rachel makes the cut and will stick around to be judged further, while Kelly’s surgeon expresses disappointment that Kelly didn’t show the necessary amount of commitment needed to shed the requisite 39 pounds. Not that it matters since her boyfriend and family come rushing in to spew cliches about caterpillars and butterflies.