Victoria’s Secret TV fashion show spotlights bosoms, bellies, Seal and Spice Girls



By Sandy Cohen

LOS ANGELES – It might be too much to devote an hour of prime-time television to long legs, taut tummies and half-bare bottoms and bosoms. So the Victoria’s Secret fashion show incorporates elaborate staging and musical performances.

The annual hourlong flesh fest, featuring songs by, Seal and the Spice Girls, airs 10 p.m.. EST Tuesday on CBS.

“This is really an event that’s anchored in a fashion show,” said CBS executive Jack Sussman.

But isn’t it essentially an hourlong commercial?

“To a degree,” he said.

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Still, with top talent and a $10 million budget, the Victoria’s Secret fashion show is more interesting than most everyday advertisements. This year’s show spotlights 61 skimpy outfits worn by more than two dozen of the world’s most beautiful women.

Sixteen cameras stationed throughout the Kodak Theater capture the catwalk action from every angle.

“A normal fashion show has two,” said executive producer Ed Razek. “We have almost as many as the Super Bowl.”

That means each fetching curve is filmed multiple times. The fashion show is performed and taped twice, with the best moments blended into the special.

Despite the assets on display, the show is designed for women, Razek said.

“The notion that we pander to men or advertise to men is ridiculous, ludicrous,” he said backstage before the show, pausing midsentence to greet models on their way to hair and makeup. “Maybe 2 percent of our customers are men. Women shop us every day. … Guys come in twice a year: Dec. 24 and Feb. 14.”

Women make up slightly more than half of the show’s viewers, according to ratings information provided by CBS. But overall viewership has declined each year, from more than 9 million in 2002 to just more than 6.5 million last year.

Razek isn’t daunted.

“The shows we’re doing today are by far the most ambitious, most entertaining, most watched fashion shows in the world – and the most expensive,” he said. “It’s very important to the brand because it is a symbol of the best that we can do.”

That means the company shows more than its typical underwear offerings. Each lingerie ensemble is embellished with one-of-a-kind couture creations such as flowing feather skirts and crystal-encrusted accessories.

The pieces that turn underwear into outfits aren’t for sale, said spokeswoman Monica Mitro, but the basic items upon which they’re added are. It’s all about creating a “lingerie fantasy,” she said.

“When you’re doing a show, especially a TV show that millions of people see, it’s important to take the items a little big further. With a lingerie show, you’re starting out with minimal to begin with,” she said. “You have to make it with style and outfits, otherwise it becomes extremely monotonous: bra, panty, bra, panty.”

The show’s fantasy element – which this year includes scantily clad beauties ornamenting an oversized Christmas tree and an inspirational choir marching through the crowd – is what makes the show a must for models, said 10-time Victoria’s Secret catwalk queen, Heidi Klum.

“That’s what makes it special,” she said as attendants prettied her hair, face and fingernails. “It’s dreamland fantasy: sex-goddesses wearing amazing lingerie. … You can’t wear it on the street, you can’t wear it underneath your clothes, but it’s fantasy and it’s so special.”

Seven-time show model Karolina Kurkova concurs.

“I love that we have people performing on stage while we’re working. There isn’t any other show like that,” she said. “Other fashion shows are a little more quiet, a little more controlled, smaller. This is totally Hollywood.”

Past shows have had issues with overexposure, prompting the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the program in 2001. But these days, the network collaborates with the lingerie company to avoid “a post-production situation of having to edit around a lot of things,” said Sussman of CBS.

“It’s still the sexiest night on television,” he said, “but within the realm of standards.”