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New season: CW's The Beautiful Life: TBL hits the runway strutting

Ready for takeoff: Raina on a runway in CW's The Beautiful Life: TBL

Premiering: Wednesday, Sept. 16th at 8 p.m. (central) on The CW
Starring: Sara Paxton, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Mischa Barton, Elle Macpherson, Ashley Madekwe, Corbin Bleu, Nico Tortorella, Dusan Dukic
Produced by: Ashton Kutcher, Jason Goldberg

A hard Raina's gonna fall.

Sorry, couldn't resist the pun, although it doesn't quite fit yet. Twig-thin model Raina Marinelli (Sara Paxton), an up-and-coming star with a secret past, is still a decent, caring, although highly ambitious human being in Wednesday's premiere of CW's The Beautiful Life: TBL. But the fading, drug-addicted Sonja Stone (Mischa Barton from The O.C.) thinks she knows where Raina's headed.

"Don't you dare feel sorry for me," she tells the kid. "This'll be you in a few years. Just wait."

TBL, compatibly paired with America's Next Top Model, gives CW a full night of strutting, posing and conniving in pursuit of magazine covers and unchecked self-adulation. It has the look and feel of the industry -- or at least what we imagine it to be. Petty jealousies and insecurities abound in a world with nary an ounce of body fat.

"Get used to it," Raina is told by model pal Marissa Delfina (Ashley Madekwe).

"Used to what?"

"Every model in New York hating you. You're having your moment."

It's all enough to put visiting Iowa farm kid Chris Andrews (Benjamin Hollingsworth) off his feed. Impossibly handsome and suitably naive, he's scooped up by toxic agent Simon Lockridge (Dusan Dukic) while dining with his family at an over-priced Manhattan eatery. Chris then magically bumps into Raina, who takes him under her emaciated wing and later gets him through a photo shoot by instructing, "Just relax. Listen to the music. Imagine you're in the shower."

Otherwise there's a lot of snootiness, snottiness and self-entitlement, particularly among the male models. They resent hayseed Chris from the moment they lay eyes on him. He can't even get a bunkmate in the models' co-ed walkup, which Raina warns is "not exactly The W."

"What's The W?" asks Chris, still a Wrangler jeans guy in a Josef Six Pacque world.

TBL is from producers Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg, who previously have dabbled mostly in reality fare ranging from Punk'd to Beauty and the Geek. Lately they've hit a wall, though, flopping with the likes of Opportunity Knocks, Game Show In My Head and The Real Wedding Crashers. So it's time for a change of pace, and TBL indeed may have legs on a network where just a few million viewers makes you a blockbuster.

There's also the added attraction of the aforementioned Barton, who's reportedly had some serious issues in real life. In TBL, her supermodel character just so happens to be a mess, arriving late to a big Fashion Week event after mysteriously disappearing for six months. She steels herself by popping pills and putting on airs, but later cops to gaining two pounds. In this world that's a capital crime.

Barton won't be carrying this show, though. Those responsibilities go to Paxton and Hollingsworth as TBL's still blossoming Raina and Chris.

"I'm not cut out for this," he tells her.

"Is anyone?" she asks.


GRADE: B-minus