Oxygen Network’s competitive reality series “Pretty Wicked,” a so-called social experiment, attempts to instill inner beauty within a group of good-looking beasts. Here, the game pits egotistical and self-described divas against each other until one of them can prove, through a series of challenges and self-help exercises, that they are not entirely awful. Viewers looking for some kind of karmic pay-off or societal redemption in these post-excess, AIG-bloated times, grab your pitchfork and feel the hate. Altruists looking for a meaningful transformation are also out of luck. Redemption, it seems, does have a price tag — 50 grand and, apparently any shred of self-respect.
Pretty, no. Wicked, yes.
A low-rent, low-wattage knock off of ABC’s “True Beauty” with half the cash prize, “Pretty Wicked” is at best intense peer pressure to be nice. Ten women are brought together under the guise of some sort of beauty contest but were chosen because of similar narcissistic streaks. The participants arrive, with Louis Vuitton luggage and major attitudes.
Most seem like heavily made up, standard attractive types, although a few stand out for less than stellar reasons. Reena has a particularly cruel streak and really weird eyebrows. The self-tanning enthusiast Sara R., who talks like Kevin from “The Office,” actually looks as if she’s tinted orange. Ana is also noteworthy, mainly for being a major control freak, while Vanessa counts among her special skills sleeping, shopping, and oral sex.
At first, one contestant, Jillian, seems like a vaguely nice gal — a glimmer of hope in a sea of inhumanity. After discovering the real gist of the game, however, she declares, “What’s going to be the perk of changing your ways? You’re gonna have 50K and you’re not going to be cute anymore?” Ironically, she actually believes that she was picked by mistake.
It goes downhill from there. In their first challenge, the women host a cocktail party for blind men and have to make the best personal impression to receive immunity from elimination. It’s as cruel as it is offensive and doesn’t even seem like a true test. It’s very apparent from the start that these women have fake and plastic personalities to go with their other fake and plastic parts. At the party Vanessa declares, “Maybe that’s what I need is a blind boyfriend. Do you know how much time that will save me?”
One of the many problems here is that once these women realize the catch, none of them really want to be there, so getting voted off doesn’t appear to a big problem. Moreover, Beverly Hills psychotherapist and radio talk show host Dr. Jenn Berman and the celebrity judge panel, including model Mia Tyler and comedian Kyle Cease, don’t have the obvious clout to be throwing stones, even at this bunch.
Host CariDee English, of “America’s Next Top Model” doesn’t exactly convey inner beauty expertise either. If anything, she represents the vapid, carnivorous nature of reality TV, proving that one show’s winner is another’s loser. The show premieres at 11 p.m. but will air in its regular 10 p.m. spot throughout its run.