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April 11, 2007
Running with scissors

From left, Sally Hershberger, Michael Carl, Jaclyn Smith and Rene Fris.
Bravo/Mitch Haaseth

I don't know how Bravo does it, but the network launches another reality show at 11 tonight (TiVo if you're too tired!). It's called "Shear Genius," and it airs right after the season finale of "Top Design."

So basically we're shifting our TV focus from interior design to exterior looks - more specifically, hairstyling. Makes sense to me. I like coifs a lot more than countertops.

The premise? To follow 12 hairstylists as they "cut their way to the finish." In other words, there better not be any "bad hair days," or you turn in your blow-dryer and your mousse. The big prize? The ultimate title of "Shear Genius," $100,000 in cash from Nexxus, and the chance to style hair for an Allure magazine feature.

Starring in the eight-episode series: Actress/designer Jaclyn Smith as the host, plus celebrity stylist Sally Hershberger and Michael Carl, fashion director of Allure, as lead judge and judge, respectively. Some of the guest judges will include Frederic Fekkai, Ken Paves and a reinvented Jose Eber.

Stylist Rene Fris serves as the "salon manager" to the stylists, sort of like the way Tim Gunn is the fashion mentor on "Project Runway" (which is gearing up for its fourth season on Bravo. Keep an eye on this space to see some highlights of my interview with Mr. Smooth.)

The 12 contestants come from all over the world: Hertfordshire, England, to Surfers Paradise, Australia, and from Canton, Ohio, to Oakland (a guy named "Dr. Boogie.") There are seven men and five women, ranging in age from 22 to 49.

The stylists will face two challenges per episode: the short-cut challenge, which tests technical styling skills, and the elimination challenge, which tests creativity and advanced skills. And, unlike some of Bravo's other reality shows, the contestants also have to deal with "real" clients, manage a salon staff and work as a team.

When I heard about this show, my first thought was, "What if they muck up someone's hair?" It's not like "Project Runway," where the models can just take off the really lousy fashions. But Bravo cleared that up for me. Initially, the contestants will be working on the heads of mannequins. Then, it's on to live models who are willing to have their long locks cropped.

After the first episode tonight, the show moves to its regular time slot of 10 p.m. Wednesdays beginning next week (April 18).

Here's to more hair-raising reality TV!

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