TV Preview

Someone Please Call Off This 'Search'

Contestants strut their stuff on
Contestants strut their stuff on "The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll," debuting tonight. (By Michael Desmond -- The Cw)
By John Maynard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 6, 2007

It's unlikely that the six oversexed, underdressed pop tarts in the all-girl band the Pussycat Dolls need another member.

Really, how many young women does it take to sing, bop and gyrate to such hit songs as "Hot Stuff," "Buttons" and the ubiquitous "Don't Cha" (as in "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?)"

But when you're the CW network, and you're chasing that elusive young male demographic, you can always help add a wing to the 'Cat house.

From such motives comes "The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll" (debuting tonight), in which 18 nubile contestants shimmy and shake body parts in hopes of joining the pop/burlesque/merchandising machine that is the Dolls.

Although the show offers plenty of eye candy, the opening episode is a painful bore as the women -- ranging in age from late teens to 27 -- converge in Los Angeles to cohabit, bond and test their moves. (The field is immediately cut to nine tonight, and one contestant will be eliminated each subsequent week.)

The band was created by Robin Antin, who serves as the series's mother hen, as well as a judge. Through a suspiciously tight face, she scolds, she encourages -- smiling a too-perfect smile. (The other judges include Ron Fair, chairman of Geffen Records, and singer Lil' Kim, whom we don't see until the second episode.) Halfway through tonight's show, the wannabes get to meet the real Dolls backstage at an L.A. concert. Lead singer Nicole Scherzinger later attends the audition to judge the first round.

As for the cute contestants, their reasons for trying out vary. Brittany, 20, of Virginia Beach, tells us earnestly that the band is "all about female empowerment and I am all about female empowerment."

Female empowerment, evidently, means dancing around in your sequined skivvies and uttering lyrics such as: "Baby, can't you see? How these clothes are fittin' on me? . . . I'm tellin' you to loosen up my buttons, babe."

Melissa, 24, from Auburn Hills, Mich., gives a simpler explanation: "When I first saw the Pussycat Dolls, I was like, 'Damn, these girls are fly.' "

The series follows the trite-and-true reality-show formula, from cattiness to high emotions (the first tears come about 11 minutes into the show) to plenty of sob stories about the contestants. (The teenage mom! The disapproving parents! The hard times spent living out of a car!)

Just when we get used to the crying and the sniping and the attempts at harmonizing, we get a Sudden Plot Twist: The contestants all contract a virus, and we endure rather nasty close-ups of their suffering. Girls Gone Queasy.

It seems unfair to make the women go through the audition while ill, but Antin, still smiling, insists that it's part of the game. "Being sick is not an excuse," she says. "When the Pussycat Dolls are sick, they get onstage and play."

One ailing contestant, Chelsea, 20, of Cooper City, Fla., speaks for all of us when she says at show's end: "I started to cry and I also wanted to throw up."

The Pussycat Dolls Present: Searching for the Next Doll (one hour) premieres tonight at 9 on Channel 50.

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