"America's Next Top Model" returned to TV after an extended hiatus, debuting a new host in Rita Ora, new judges in Ashley Graham, Drew Elliott and Law Roach and a new channel in VH1 -- plus Tyra Banks was there to kick everything off, thank goodness.
We give the Cycle 23 premiere a big thumbs up for several reasons, but there are two mistakes we think the show made right out of the gate.
But first, the good news.
1. Sounds like Tyra will be back
When Tyra Banks, who is still credited as executive producer, welcomed the semi-finalists to New York City, she told them, "I won't be here, but I will be watching you." Hopefully that means this is not the last we've seen of the smize queen. It just wouldn't be "ANTM" without some more Tyra rants. "Tyrants," if you will.
2. Rita & Co. hold their own
An entirely new host and judging panel is a gamble, but so far we like what we've seen of the newbies. Rita has some big shoes to fill, but she feels very natural as host. The judges, meanwhile, are critical without being mean and have some good insight to offer.
3. The cast
One thing you can always count on "ANTM" to do is find a cast that is diverse in a lot of different ways and Cycle 23 is no different. There are experienced models, complete newbies, all different races and ethnicities, a variety of socio-economic backgrounds -- you name it. That kind of casting always makes for the most interesting show, so we're glad the VH1 version didn't have any trouble in that department.
Trans contestant Quei did not make the Top 14, which is a real shame. Now, she did not have the best go-sees or the best comp card (headshot) as the girls who did advance, so we understand why Quei was sent home. But she was throwing some expert-level shade at the other girls, so it's a bummer we're going to miss out on that -- because let's be real: half the fun of "ANTM" is the drama between the contestants.
2. A Starr is not born
Another unfortunate cut before the Top 14 was Starr being sent home. She and Kyle (right), who did make the Top 14, were starting what would probably have been a great showmance. They were super cute together and the way Starr collapsed into a puddle of tears upon being eliminated tells us there would have been drama-rama with that girl.
This feels like more of a misstep than cutting Quei. Starr actually had one really good go-see and she's a striking woman, so you'd think the show would have given her a chance over, say, someone like Krislian in order to foster said showmance with Kyle. There has only been one real showmance in "ANTM" history, and it seems like storyline gold to have another one fall into your lap. Bad form for not letting this one through, show.
"America's Next Top Model" airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on VH1.