America's Next Top Model Controversy: Five Possible Reasons Behind the Cast Shakeup

Are J. Alexander, Nigel Barker and Jay Manuel victims of TV ratings, a fashionable reality-competition trend—or Tyra Banks!?

By Joal Ryan Apr 20, 2012 8:01 PMTags
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Was it TV ratings? Was it Tyra Banks? Was it just the fashionable thing to do?

As confirmed Friday, America's Next Top Model is cleaning house, and sweeping out J. Alexander, Nigel Barker and Jay Manuel.

Some possible reasons behind the mass firings:

1. It's Always About the TV Ratings: Barker himself told E! News as much. And if he hadn't, then this stat would have told you what you needed to know: In non-direct competition on Wednesday night, an all-new Next Top Model drew fewer young adults, fewer young women and fewer teen girls than the prank show hosted by 90-year-old Betty White.

2. It's What the Show Does: Outside of Banks, ANTM is always ushering somebody out, and ushering somebody else in. André Leon Talley for Paulina Porizkova…Porizkova for Twiggy… Before the show's 18th and current season, it was Talley heading through the exit, and PR maven Kelly Cutrone taking his seat. Best not to look for consistency from a show about the fickle world of fashion.

3. It's All Banks' Doing—Except When It's Not: Certainly, Banks has taken flack before from ousted Next Top Model talent. (Porzikova, especially, was a one-woman, sound-bite machine.) But this time out, Barker said flatly, "This isn't a Tyra thing." Manuel, another longtime Banks associate, likewise wasn't grousing on his blog.

4. It's the Arms Race, Baby: America's Got Talent traded up for Howard Stern. American Idol went for Jennifer Lopez and Steven TylerThe X Factor fired everybody so Simon Cowell could get just about the biggest "get" there is: Britney Spears. (That long-rumored deal isn't sealed yet.) In other words, reality-competition TV is no longer about keeping it real; it's about landing names. Can the budget-conscious, Nielsen-challenged ANTM afford A-list fashionistas (who aren't already employed by all the other fashion shows)? A better question: Can it afford not to? 

5. It Has Your Attention Now, Doesn't It? Yup. Nothing like a headline-making shakeup to make a long-running show seem new again—even if the trick (a headline-making shakeup) is as old as it gets.