If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what does it mean to beholders from different countries? This is the idea that's explored -- somewhat -- in the show Jessica Simpson: The Price of Beauty.

The premise of this show is pretty simple. Jessica Simpson, along with her friend Cacee Cobb and stylist Ken Paves, travels to different countries, finding out about what is considered beautiful in those countries and taking part in some of their beauty rituals. The first episode had the trip visiting Thailand; future episodes will feature visits to France, Mumbai, Uganda, Morocco, Japan, Brazil, and finally the United States.

Jessica Simpson is an interesting choice to host this show -- and I'm using the word "interesting" in the positive and negative sense of the word. Simpson has been famous for both her great looks and infamous for every deviation from that physical ideal, so she knows the perks and perils that come with an interest in physical beauty. But she's not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, and for a lot of Jessica Simpson: The Price of Beauty she comes across as a gawking tourist instead of explorer.

The show is, from the first episode, fairly superficial. In Thailand, for example, they reduce national beauty to three areas: pale skin (and a woman whose skin was destroyed by toxic makeup), Buddhist beliefs (since the country is mainly Buddhist; I didn't get the connection myself), and a tribe where necks elongated through neck rings are found attractive. There's very little history or discussion of these trends; just Jessica and pals talking to a few people, participating in native dress (they try on the neck rings, briefly) and customs (eating cooked insects), and repeatedly saying how beautiful and lovely everything is.

Jessica Simpson: The Price of Beauty is more reality show than documentary. To its credit, the show does keep an open mind, with Jessica and her companions listening and looking instead of comparing everything to their own standards. (I am curious to see how the show's approach works in the U.S.) In the end, though, this show is a famous and attractive toutist sightseeing.

Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch

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