If you ask me and if you didn't, I wish you would the best thing about the fall TV season isn't placing wagers on which freshman series will be canceled first, it's laying odds on which of the new batch of America's Next Top Model wannabes will get eliminated last. And this year, thanks to a screener of the two-hour premiere (airing tonight at 8 pm/ET on the CW), I am for the first time able to handicap the contestants for you. Just bear in mind when voting in your office pools that my educated guesses are based on all but the last five minutes of the opener; I didn't want to spoil all the fun. Herewith, my picks for the cream of Cycle 7's crop.
For her: Right from the start, she gets Miss Tyra in her back pocket by tearfully revealing that as a youngster, because she is darker-skinned than her sisters, they called her Blacula.
Against her: Her fellow posers and viewers alike will have no trouble coming up with nastier names to call her after she pulls a truly vile stunt to make another girl's bed her own.
For her: She calls herself "free-spirited," then proves it by winding up with Miss J Alexander's drool on her leg within minutes of meeting him. So, no doubt about it, she'll be catnip to the producers.
Against her: Miss Tyra immediately pegs her as a Rebecca Romijn look-alike, which means she's bound to be criticized for being too commercial and not high-fashion enough.
For her: Apparently forgetting that she browbeat last year's winner, Danielle, into closing the signature gap between her two front teeth, Miss Tyra nails Anchal for being an Indian woman masking her natural beauty behind blue contacts. So all she needs to do to impress the panel is lose the lenses and announce that she's embraced her heritage. (They're suckers for a "journey.")
Against her: She may be too wishy-washy to pull it off.
For her: An uninhibited rock-'n'-roller, she definitely and noisily makes an impression when she walks into a room.
Against her: That impression may be that she just got sprung from a psych ward. Plus, she more closely resembles Mayim Bialik than Madeleine Berrevoets.
For her: Her affinity for cruelty-as-candor recalls the reign of terror of "Eva the Diva."
Against her: Miss Tyra's patience may be wearing thin with mean girls. "Do you think you're likable?" she asks the self-proclaimed bitch at one point. "'Cause I don't think so." Can't say I disagree.
For her: Anchal aside, she's the most exotic-looking of the lookers. And she isn't lacking in confidence, that's for sure. "I rule the runway," she declares before a competition.
Against her: After telling recent retiree Miss Tyra, "I'm ready to take your spot," she backs up her assertion by aping her predecessor's poses, which raises the question of, "When is imitation the sincerest form of flattery, and when is it just plain old imitation?"
For them: Plain Janes Michelle and Amanda fall into the so-wrong-they're-right category. Moreover, they're so skinny, they make the adorable Twiggy look stumpy.
Against them: Miss J probably puts it best when he says, "I love one of the twins, I just can't remember which one it is."