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The Return Of The Eternal, Unassuming ‘What Not To Wear’

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
August 16, 2011

When I saw earlier this week that tonight would mark the return of TLC’s What Not To Wear, I happened to look at the show’s episode guides, and I quickly counted up the total number of episodes that have aired since the show (which is an adaptation of a British show of the same name) premiered in 2003.

The answer, according to my calculations: Tonight’s 9th-season premiere will be the 270th episode. That’s roughly equivalent to 12 full prime-time seasons of a normal show. That’s more episodes than there are of M*A*S*H.

It’s one of those workaday shows that has contributed enormously to the growth of basic cable in the last ten years or so — TLC, before it became obsessed with people who have a zillion babies or weird compulsions, went through a phase where it was this show and Trading Spaces running what felt like all the time. Upbeat makeovers, smiles at the end.

You won’t find too many folks who remember, but the hosts weren’t always Stacy “Shut The Front Door” London and Clinton Kelly. At first, Stacy co-hosted with Wayne Scot Lukas, who brought a much more aggressively snarky tone to the proceedings — as he undoubtedly was told to do. But they didn’t quite have the tone right; the truth-telling but ultimately supportive way the show was done in the UK by hosts Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine. (If you ever get a chance to see the BBC original, it’s a delight.)

So they swapped out Wayne for Clinton, and they had it knocked. And the rest — the next 200-something episodes — tinkered with format here and there and eventually changed hairstylists, but other than that? You basically know what you’re getting.

They are against sweatpants (except for working out), club clothes, clothes too big, clothes too small, frumpy shoes, most sparkly things, clothes with cartoons on them, ill-considered prints, things with holes, things that are stretched out, and anything that you inherited from someone who wears a completely different size than you do.

They like wide-leg pants, colorful but carefully applied prints, the empire waist, the pointy shoe, the pop of color, the tailored jacket, the properly fitted foundation garment, the properly located dart, the chunky necklace, the shorter haircut, the peach lip gloss, and the colors that you think don’t go together that actually do.

It’s a formula, and while it’s not one that lands the show in the news as often as scandal or being about compulsive behaviors or million-pound tumors might, they’ve made it work for going on 300 episodes. And that’s nothing to shake your potato sack dress at. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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