What a day or two it's been in the world of global pop culture. The sun has set sadly and suddenly on a British icon. RIP, Davy Jones And today America's own Justin Bieber celebrates his 18th birthday. Something else is turning 18 too... America's Next Top Model celebrated the debut of its impressive 18th season last evening on the CW. Or, I'm sorry, its 18th cycle as its being referred to in the rags and the blogs. Isn't it odd that the CW is using such transparent networkspeak in the public sphere? It's ok, C-dub. We know you're a real television network on real American teevees. You don't have to prove it to us with language that should be reserved for internal emails. But if nothing else, it functions to remind us of the ever-present cycle of birth(days), death, and of course, reality television. 

The curtain rose last night on an episode titled "Kelly Osbourne," presumably named for only one of the new Kellys serving on Tyra's panel of jolly judges. This season's theme is British invasion. 7 real, grade A, American models will be squaring off against 7 Brits, who have already been through a round of Britain's Next Top Model in an effort to claim the prize that consists of: a modeling contract with both an L.A. and NYC-based agency, a myriad of ANTM-related endorsement deals, and a single (what?) to be produced and released by CBS. Because if Real Housewives can produce amazing talk-techno singles, why shouldn't models get their chance too? There's no such thing as too much bad music on iTunes. That what I always say (no, I don't). Let's meet the contenders, shall we?

For Team Union Jack, we have: Annaliese, who I will be referring to as Downtown Julie Brown for the duration of the season. Not only does she look and talk just like her, but she also is the British equivalent of a VJ. There's Ashley who is Scottish, and therefore unintelligible to our American ears and eternally subtitled. She's also a mom: a story line that will be driven home throughout the course of the episode through interview bytes and non-sequitor scenes. Sophie is from the place where dictionaries were invented. No, not Merriam Webster (that's probably not even a town), nope not Cambridge either, the other one. Oxford, yes, the other one that's both a dictionary and a University. Alisha is perpetually annoyed by everyone and from "what we would refer to as a ghetto." Catherine is the "plus-sized" which in model means like a size 6 or 8. Y'know, huge. And Jasmia and Louise are around too, but we don't know much about them yet. 

Team Stars and Stripes is comprised of the following: AzMarie, a striking and androgynous lesbian. Laura, a wrist band-rocking, attention-craving tornado of krimped hair and overt bisexuality. The producers are leaving the door open to a little somethin' somethin' to develop between her and AzMarie. Though, if they both last long enough, I'm going to call shenanigans; I don't see AzMarie being into it. Mariah is the first token Native American, and will be playing the role of Pocahontas later (yes, seriously). Kyle is the requisite southern girl-next-door, and hasn't given us much yet, aside from the dream in her heart and the song on her lips. Eboni's claim to fame here is that she's tried out for ANTM 8 times. Now if I were her, I might keep that little failure factoid in my back pocket, but I've always been a glass mostly empty type of girl. Oh, also, she's from Brooklyn, and since this is reality television, you probably shouldn't mess with her. And Seymone is the other "plus-sized" girl. So there you have it. 

After we got to get a sense for the contestants and this year's theme, we have to have that filler event that has absolutely no stakes, and just serves to demonstrate to us who everyone is and what team they're on. This time it was a "Pose-Off" in a parade in Universal City where each contestant was paired up with an opponent and ordered to strut as fiercely and model-y as possible down their red,white and blue parade float. Extra points for the most awkward attempt at trash talking. I seem to remember that going to one of the Brits, perhaps misunderstood the point, and accused the crowd of speaking English. Well, it is true. Apropos of nothing, but true. I'll give her that. And in the off chance you dozed off (a distinct possibility) and forgot you were watching a reality television competition show, there were those bytes that the editors are contractually bound to insert. You know what I'm talking about, the "I didn't come here to lose"s and the "go big or go home"s. Boom, done. OUt of the way. Tensions and teams established. Let's get onto the meat of the competition.