Television review

Model behavior? It’s not pretty.

Raina (Sara Paxton) and Chris (Ben Hollingsworth) are young models in the CW soap “The Beautiful Life: TBL.’’ Raina (Sara Paxton) and Chris (Ben Hollingsworth) are young models in the CW soap “The Beautiful Life: TBL.’’ (Takashi Seida/The Cw)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / September 16, 2009

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Hoping to encourage familiarity, the CW has slipped a handy nickname into the title of its new modeling-world soap, “The Beautiful Life: TBL.’’ We’re meant to use “TBL’’ as a pet name, so that we can write texts and tweets such as “OMG! TBL is so GR8!’’ as effortlessly as possible.

But the acronym “TBL’’ makes me think of two words: Troubled and terrible. In the case of “The Beautiful Life: TBL,’’ I’m going to go with “troubled’’ for now, and reserve the right to use “terrible’’ later. The creation of the Mischa Barton series, which premieres tonight at 9 on Channel 56, has been notoriously problematic, as documented in the tabloids. Barton reportedly spent time this summer in a psych ward, possibly related to drug use. Her stay complicated the filming of the Ashton Kutcher-produced series, and the pilot is clearly half-baked. Whether that’s due to Barton or deeper creative problems is unclear.

In fact, the pilot sent in advance to the Globe is unfinished - it’s only about 30 minutes long, which makes a final judgment impossible. What I saw was the beginnings of a shamelessly sordid melodrama about the New York fashion world and models trying to claw - and starve, and snort, and sleep - their way to the top. In this “Valley of the No-Carb Dolls,’’ Barton plays a drug-addled model, hoping to hold on to her throne while younger wannabes scramble to usurp her. The material is built on familiar runway cat-fighting, and the show seems solely contrived simply to fit on the CW’s lineup after “America’s Next Top Model.’’ Still, it could provide cheap thrills if handled with the proper camp flourishes.

Young hotties Sara Paxton and Ben Hollingsworth play Raina and Chris, a pair of innocent young models who stumble their way into the nasty, cynical business. They live with a gang of models in a dorm run by a talent agent played by Elle Macpherson. Chris gets hit on by a high-powered male fashion exec, and he is appalled. Meanwhile, as Raina becomes a hot property, she is rubbing Barton’s Sonja the wrong way and destined for a takedown. Go Chris! Go Raina! Let’s see if the writers can make these sweet kids into more than cardboard cutouts. We need to root for them, as they head into such an ugly, destructive life.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at For more on TV, visit

THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE: TBL Starring: Corbin Bleu, Mischa Barton, Elle Macpherson, Ben Hollingsworth, Sara Paxton

On: the CW

Time: Tonight, 9-10

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