NEAR MISS: It’s not characteristic of Atoosa Rubenstein to fly under the radar, but that’s what the Seventeen editor in chief has been doing since her MTV reality show, “Miss Seventeen,” ended its two-month run in December. Why the low profile? Perhaps because MTV has no plans to air a second season of the show, which featured a contest to crown the perfect, well-rounded teen beauty. But Rubenstein, who played an on-air role and served as executive producer, and Hearst are in early talks with another network to continue the series in somewhat revamped form. “We have new, exciting ideas for ‘Miss Seventeen,’” said a Hearst spokeswoman. “We wouldn’t want to do the same exact thing twice, and we’re currently in talks with other networks about that.”
In retrospect, MTV, for all its cachet in the teen market, appears to have been a poor fit for “Miss Seventeen.” Whereas a number of shows have succeeded in the broadcast universe by appealing overwhelmingly to females (think “Dawson’s Creek” or “Gilmore Girls”), to become a hit on MTV, a program has to attract young men as well. That usually means providing large doses of profanity, physical humor and/or sexy girls behaving badly. “Miss Seventeen” contained episodes of backbiting and other naughtiness, but it also rewarded contestants for displays of decency, not hot-tub hookups. As a result, it drew fewer than half as many viewers as “Laguna Beach,” which served as the lead-in for “Miss Seventeen” for the first half of its run.
That’s not to say the show was a complete wash for Hearst. The February issue, which featured winning contestant Jennifer Steele on the cover, is on track to be Seventeen’s best-selling issue since September. The show also drove a lot of traffic to Seventeen’s Web site, according to the spokeswoman. And researcher Michael Wood, vice president of Teenage Research Unlimited, said the program generated substantial buzz among girls who were already Seventeen readers and wanted to see more of Atoosa. “From a teen’s perspective, she’s a big celebrity,” he said.
Lucky for them, the magazine’s April issue contains a new feature, “Ask Atoosa,” offering personalized advice in the form of an “Atoosa Intervention.” This, apparently, is Rubenstein’s version of flying under the radar. And given the all-baring nature of her editor’s letters, one can only imagine the type of advice she’ll be dishing out to the hapless teens.
— Jeff Bercovici