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TELEVISION REVIEW

'Addicted to Beauty'

Revolving around a La Jolla spa, the Oxygen series can seem less a reality show than an infomercial.

August 04, 2009|MARY McNAMARA | TELEVISION CRITIC

If American pop culture had a garage sale, it would look something like Oxygen's "Addicted to Beauty."

A reality show revolving around a La Jolla medical spa that provides every appearance-altering procedure you can imagine, "Addicted to Beauty" celebrates the post-Dorian Gray mentality of those who believe you must trade facial mobility for upward mobility. It also appears to have been cast by Bruce Vilanch.

Dianne York-Goldman, the head of Changes Plastic Surgery and Spa, is a happy slave to scalpel and syringe. Strangely, she seems to have based her copious facial surgery on a desire to look like Karen Black, so the first-time viewer will be excused from waiting for someone to say "Salt Lake, Salt Lake, I'm flying the plane" at least once.

If not York-Goldman then one of her two vampy male assistants -- Ronnie, the "spa concierge," and Gary, the "front desk liaison." Lip-glossed to a fare-thee-well, these two exist to roll their eyes, heave drama-queen sighs and complain about how stressed they are, when they're not dropping catty remarks and fussing about their hair. (If either of these "characters" occurred in a scripted comedy or drama, GLAAD would be on the horn before you could say, "I don't think so, girlfriend.")

The action begins as York-Goldman, in the middle of a divorce that seems to include the dissolution of another spa, has entered a partnership with Dr. Gilbert Lee, a plastic surgeon. Young and handsome, Lee appears sane enough except, of course, that he has agreed to be on this show, and he injects his staff with Botox and "filler" in the same casual way other bosses provide, say, bagels on Fridays or a communal tub of Red Vines.

In Episode 1, York-Goldman brings in Shannyn, who ran the spa York-Goldman owned with her ex-husband. Shannyn has a history with Ronnie and Gary, which can be summed up in Ronnie's sniff-heavy declaration that she shouldn't have had enlarged her breasts before she fixed "those Chiclet teeth." (To be fair, he is absolutely right.)

Acting as sane counterpart to all this drama is York-Goldman's executive assistant Natasha, who, with her long black locks and desire to be taken seriously, is the "High School Musical" Gabriella of the piece, though, mercifully, she does not sing. She has dreams of running her own medical spa someday (did you know that this could be an actual dream?) and does her best to keep the peace, even when Gary weepily reminds her that he is protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act because he has ADD or Shannyn attempts to divide and conquer by lying to everyone.

In the first two episodes, there are very few actual patients involved, presumably because most people visiting a medical spa do not want to appear on a TV show. So the narrative is propelled by things like a last-minute grand-opening party or an open house and augmented by stock shots of people driving expensive cars and sauntering around La Jolla to shop at expensive stores.

The whole point of the venture, as York-Goldman says more than once, is to build up the business, which makes "Addicted to Beauty" less a reality show than an infomercial (with requisite references to Cher provided by Gary) and as inevitable an addition to the genre as a Prada reference.

In its own way, "Addicted to Beauty" is like one of those greatest-hits albums that gets made when the licensing of certain Top 40 hits runs out. York-Goldman seems very much a Real Housewife wannabe while all the interoffice posturing and preening is very "Top Chef" or "Project Runway" without the creative appeal.

Clearly Lee and York-Goldman hope to achieve a certain level of notoriety that will drive customers/patients to their establishment, but one could just as easily imagine the set becoming part of the Universal tram tour, somewhere between the "Back to the Future" car and the set of Whoville.

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mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

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'Addicted to Beauty'

Where: Oxygen

When: 11 tonight

Rating: Not rated

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