Ever since ANTM started, I've never been as uninterested in an upcoming cycle as this the 13th, and when I finally got around to watching, Amber (and her looked to be the craziest contestant on the show since Cycle 6's Jade, which would at least make a guiltily entertaining cycle, if not one I'd actually enjoy. Then of course she drops out of the competition before it even starts, and I was about ready to throw the whole cycle over. Yet, at some point over the course of the second episode, I realized that ANTM isn't cut out for longform narrative anymore (such as it ever was), and that for me to best appreciate the show nowadays, I'd have to learn to stop worrying about who ought to win and instead focus on each individual episode as its own discrete spectacle with its own explosions of inanity or cattiness.
Perhaps these early episodes emphasize the girls themselves as we're slowly introduced to them, while the later episodes focus on the politics of who's going to be the winner or who's going to make it to the overseas portion of the show. Meeting the girls for the first time retains its novelty each cycle -- they might not be memorable, but at least they're willing to cry or get in fights -- but then the girls' tics and biases start to wear thin, plus the show sheds its more whimsical impulses as it gradually marches towards the politicized half of the cycle when it turns its attention to who'll win even though, clearly, ANTM is not about winning/successful modeling.
Nevertheless, the show's moral element rears its head during its politicized segments. Although the drama on most reality programs are driven by morality, ANTM has gotten especially formulaic with it; instead of drama (when was the last time the designated villain really destabilized the moral framework of a cycle?), it only provides ritual debasement. Some forgettably disagreeable girl steps on everyone's toes, but we all expect Tyra to get her righteous on to remove the offending contestant from competition. Hardly the hottest stuff on the reality circuit.
So that said, I'm going to keep it simple this cycle and let the stupid wash over me.
Indie rating: Glass Candy - "Rolling Down The Hills"