When it comes to fashion modeling and television, reality rules and drama – well, not so much. But NBC is banking on the queen of the supermodels, Cindy Crawford, and her ability to help produce the first successful television drama series about the modeling industry. Earlier this week, Variety revealed an exclusive story about Crawford’s television producing debut.
Set in the 1980’s and tentatively entitled Icon, the show will revolve around mega-agencies Ford and Elite and the modeling wars they created. According to Variety, the show is completely fictionalized with no real names of models or fashion figures being used. It is also confirmed that Crawford will not appear in the series, as her role will remain strictly as a producer. But will that be enough to get fans interested?
While reality shows about modeling and fashion like America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway have achieved great success, this has not been the case with television dramas about models. If history is any indication, Crawford will have to overcome some pretty big ratings hurdles to achieve success on the small screen. This is clearly evidenced by examining the past life of modeling on nighttime television.
In 1982, the world of fashion modeling was first introduced to television viewers with the made-for-tv movie Paper Dolls featuring Daryl Hannah (Splash, Kill Bill) and Alexandra Paul (Baywatch) as teen models in New York City. Joan Collins (Dynasty) played their agent, and Eric Stoltz (Mask, Pulp Fiction) was Alexandra Paul’s boyfriend back home. The production marked Paul’s acting debut and had some ratings success due to Collins’ popular role on Dynasty and Daryl Hannah appearing in the feature film Blade Runner the same year.
Two years later, in an attempt to capitalize on the success of nighttime soaps Dallas and Dynasty, ABC released a tv series of the same name, Paper Dolls, reprising the characters from the movie but with different actors. This time around the models would be portrayed by Terry Farrell (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and a young Nicollette Sheridan (Desperate Housewives), with Morgan Fairchild (Dallas, Falcon Crest) helming the New York modeling agency. However, despite rave reviews, pop star guest roles, and even People Magazine urging viewers to give it a chance, poor ratings left the show cancelled in less than a year with unresolved storylines.
About a decade later, in 1994, Aaron Spelling and Fox Television took a chance on a modeling spinoff of a spinoff named Models, Inc. The series was an attempt to ride the wave of success attained by Gen-X super hits Beverly Hills 90210 and its successor Melrose Place. To make the connection, Amanda Woodward, played by Heather Locklear (Dynasty, TJ Hooker), was visited by her modeling agent mother Hillary Michaels, played by Linda Gray (Dallas) in a couple Melrose episodes before taking her spot as the head of a Los Angeles-based model agency on Model’s Inc.
Gray was joined by a well-constructed cast of fashion models and actors, including Carrie-Anne Moss, best known as Trinity (The Matrix), Stephanie Romanov (Spy Hard, Angel), Teresa Hill (Hercules, Pacific Blue), Cassidy Rae (My Family and Me, Hyperion Bay). But despite the introduction of Emma Samms (General Hospital, Dynasty) mid-season and a plan to bring in Heather Locklear for Season 2, low ratings sent Models, Inc. to the chopping block with its first season ending in a cliffhanger. Years later the E! Network would air the entire series along with an alternate ending to tie up many loose ends.
And then came The Beautiful Life. This time 15 years had passed before models made it back to the airwaves, when in 2009 Ashton Kutcher executive produced a drama series about models for the CW Network. This time the premise involved a group of male and female models sharing a residence in New York City. Cast members of The Beautiful Life included Mischa Barton (The OC, The Sixth Sense), Sara Paxton (Summerland, Darcy’s Wild Life), singer Corbin Bleu (High School Musical), Nick Tortorella (Make It or Break It, Scream 4), and Ashley Madekwe (Revenge).
Sitting at the helm of the agency, Covet Models, was supermodel Elle “The Body” Macpherson (Friends, Batman and Robin). The show also featured appearances by designer Zac Posen, Project Runway’s Nina Garcia, and past winners of So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Next Top Model. However, once again, big name guest stars, a strong cast, and a good storyline were not enough. While six of the 13 ordered episodes had been produced, the modeling drama got axed after only two episodes had aired, marking one of the most famous television flops in recent times.
Just six years have gone by since the abrupt cancellation of The Beautiful Life. Which begs the question: Will the ‘iconic’ supermodel Cindy Crawford turn out the first successful television drama series about fashion models? Post your comments below.
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