A reality competition series offering a job at a fashion magazine? Seriously? What, was half-interest in a buggy-whip factory unavailable? Still, if casting is half the battle in the unscripted universe, this mix of “Project Runway” and “The Apprentice: Devil Wears Prada Edition” benefits from its choice of drama-queen contenders, from the spoiled rich girl to the heavy-set gal to the emotional diva with heaving cleavage. Consider them the saving grace to the CW’s latest “America’s Next Top Model” companion whose concept is otherwise, like, so last year.
Eleven wannabes vie for a junior editor spot at Elle magazine, which comes with a clothing allowance and a Manhattan apartment. Thankfully, the key players instantly hate each other, or at least are smart enough to know they’ll get more air time if they behave that way. Tears flow so freely one fears the aspirants are auditioning for a sequel to “The Hills.”
The Elle editors who will determine the contestants’ fate, too, have apparently studied for their roles, playing the “Prada”-esque, look-down-the-nose routine to the hilt. The assignments (or challenges, if you prefer) used to evaluate the players and weed them out cleverly tap into two disciplines — both fashion and journalism, assuming anybody is interested in that old dinosaur.
The candidates, for example, must first design their own appropriate “look,” then figure out a way to present it that would be appropriate to run within the pages of the magazine. Prepare for faint praise and plenty of withering stares that would do Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci proud.
Given that the show comes from the “Top Model” team, the slick accessories and production style shouldn’t be completely surprising; still, this genre is so overcrowded right now (Bravo’s “Runway” knockoffs alone are practically stumbling over each other) that the prospects seem inherently limited.
Throw a bouquet, then, strictly to the casting folks for the assortment of types they’ve assembled. Beyond that, “Stylista” qualifies as fierce, to borrow producer Tyra Banks’ phraseology, only in its steadfast commitment to copying the same old models.