'The Beautiful Life:TBL' Premiere: Can Mischa Barton save it?

sarapaxton_beautifullife_ep1_290.jpgEver wonder what the inner circle of high fashion modeling is like? " The Beautiful Life:TBL" is trying to give you a glimpse.

Was it successful?  Well that's hard to say.  What is certain is that I am not sure how well it worked as a pilot. The jerky camera movements, flashing lights, loud music and shouting actors was supposed to create the ambiance of backstage at a fashion show. But with stilted dialog and obvious set ups, it seemed like a wasted effort. We meet Marissa, an over confident model out for herself, Raina ( Sara Paxton), the new girl, and Sonja (Mischa Barton), the supermodel who went AWOL for unknown reasons 6 months ago and is looking for a comeback. When the show stopping final dress of the runway doesn't fit her and can't be let out, Marissa volunteers to take the spot. But it's given to Raina.

And a show stopper it is, rocketing Raina to instant fame and the immediate enemy of all  other models in New York. At least, that's how Marissa explains it to poor naive Raina while at the agency of Claudia Foster (Elle Macpherson). Which is where another naive newbie bumps into her. Chris Andrews is a farm hand working for his dad most days, but he happens to be on a family vacation at a 4 star restaurant in Manhattan just in time to bump into Simon - one of Claudia's agents. She has him strip in the lobby and seems unimpressed, but Simon passes him off to a photographer anyway.

Helpful Raina goes with him and is there with the perfect words to help him relax in front of the camera. Despite his father's objections, he decides to stay in New York an extra few days and see what comes of it all. But it seems there's no room for him at the model house. Which makes little sense, since Isaac is a child model who hasn't been able to book a job in years - so why is he there? Anyway, while the other male models smirk, he heads to Simon's house to change for a big party that night.

At the party, Claudia takes fruity cocktails from the female models, telling them there will be no drinking at one of her parties. Yet, nothing is done about the male model who is selling cocaine to just about everyone's knowledge. Everyone also seems to know that Chris is Simon's "date", though Chris doesn't clue in until Simon calls him "baby". Chris ends up punching him in the face (does homophobia have any place in the modeling world?) which catches the eye of fancy pantsed agent who immediately wants to hire him. Too bad he's already stormed out.

Meanwhile, there's a lot of fuss over a big Versace job. Sonja wants it bad and somehow breaks into the photographer's (Franco) hotel room to steal the dress for the campaign and shows up wearing it at the party. Psycho much? Instead, he hits on her and she runs to the bathroom to cry and call her babysitter. Raina goes to comfort her and Sonja snides back that she doesn't want pity and that Raina will be in her position in a few more years.

Raina marches up to Franco and tells him she wants the job. He asks her to prove how much she wants it and there is some couch groping - which she videos with her phone. Which Franco is into...until she moves aside and tells him that she's 16. Well, OK, that doesn't actually have much effect on him - as he says she isn't stupid enough to take it to the police (why is that?). She says she'll show her dad and then proceeds to blackmail the job out of him with the threat of her convict father coming after her.  She's supposed to be the naive new girl, right?

Sonja gets back home to see some roses why got - the cliched sentiment on the card signed "-R". She sobs and smashes them against the wall, so I guess "R" is a bad person. Marissa had been dancing with the drug dealing model and talks him into taking her to bed, but on the way out he is busted by the under cop he sold to earlier in the night. Right in front of the paparazzi, who all snap away. If that were real, pictures like this would be all over the place each and every day. Instead, we see Lindsay carried out of a club by her bodyguards.

Raina returns to the house to see Chris trying to sleep on a bench. He tells her he's going home because he isn't made for this world. We learn she's not naive at all, but is actually an abnormally confident world weary 16 year old who asks him "Who is?"  Who put the emo in my fluff? He congratulates her on the rumor that she booked a big job, but she tells him Sonja got it because she needed it more. So she's also ridiculously self sacrificing. She talks him into sleeping on her floor as he ignores the fourth call from Simon.

There's a concurrent story with Isaac getting propositioned by Vivienne to be her boy toy in exchange for her using her connections to help him land some jobs so he can get his music career off and running. At first he refuses, but when the DJ at the party refuses to play his home made track, he finds her and kisses her to prove his dedication to...well, whatever it is they are doing.
 
I am certain there are aspects that are right. The drugs, the competition, the fact that there's is a skinnier model just waiting to take your spot are all cliches of the industry. But there are some that are clearly wrong and those are just as glaring. However, it's fictionalized drama, right? And for all the hype about Mischa Barton being the Supermodel of the show...she was around very little. After an hour, I saw maybe 15 minutes of her character and I don't feel invested. Instead, I felt like they threw too many characters and not enough solid story into the pilot. Do you agree?