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October 22, 2014

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For ‘Model Employee’ octet, Mandalay Bay is the first, last and only resort

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Michael Kelley

VH1’s “Model Employee.”

VH1's 'Model Employee' at Mandalay Bay

VH1's Launch slideshow »

Not since the discovery of petroglyphs in Red Rock Canyon have stick figures caused such a stir in Las Vegas.

Now, I joke — out of love! — about the new VH1 show “Model Employee,” which supplants the 99-cent Deep Fried Oreos served at Mermaids as the city’s greatest guilty pleasure.

The show featuring eight professional models vying to be chosen as the spokeswoman for Mandalay Bay debuted last Wednesday. The hotel hosted a viewing party to celebrate the premiere episode that night. The season lasts eight episodes, with the winner winning $100,000 and a position as the face of Mandalay Bay.

The runner-up gets to be the face of the Stardust. Not really, but it would be fun to see if the person finishing second is even aware that hotel has been imploded.

As the title implies, “Model Employee” stars an octet of lithe ladies who lack discernible service-industry skills competing in various odd jobs presented as “challenges." To some, cleaning off a banquet table is a simple task. To this crew, it is a real challenge. As one model remarked, “I don’t even eat food, let alone clean it.” Just when you think, “I wonder if anyone’s going to drop a tray,” it’s CRASH!

This all unfolded as the models were treated to a lavish welcome dinner in a Mandalay Bay ballroom — then asked to pick up after themselves. This was an unnerving turn of events, replete with whimpering and complaining. I imagine this group had the same distressed response when “Sex and the City” went off the air.

A production crew from Studio Lambert (the same company that produced “Undercover Boss” on CBS and spent time tailing MGM Grand President Scott Sibella as a common MGM staffer) spent July and August taping the show at the hotel. One of the judges is former Mandalay Bay exec Patrick Miller, who moved to Monte Carlo shortly after the series was shot.

Hotel President Chuck Bowling and a few staffer also are featured in the show. These officials are treated to such gems as the comment by Johanna, she of the wild mane, who cut down fellow contestant Britany during Wednesday’s banquet-cleaning challenge by describing Britney as “yellow bus slow” (apparently a derivative of “short bus slow”) and a prospect for “the Special Olympics.”

How a person who says something insulting about the Special Olympics can rise to be the face of a major Strip resort is something to be sorted out over the next seven episodes. But already, the hotel is getting some flattering publicity out of the show, and viewers across the country watched as Miller reminded Johanna that making derisive comments about ... well, anybody, was a great way to lose this competition.

Miller also chuckled when he asked contestant Aspen what she liked about the hotel, and she slipped and responded, "Nobu," effectively plugging not only a restaurant but an entire tower at Caesars Palace. (On Twitter, Aspen said that the most important exchange in that conversation had been edited out, reinforcing the very real concert among cast members of these types of shows that they cede editing authority when signing onto the project.)

Nonetheless, Mandalay Bay is a model setting for a show like "Model Employee." The hotel has always been comparatively unpretentious, especially among such elegant resorts as Bellagio, Wynn and The Venetian. The footage recorded certainly makes Mandalay Bay seem like a great place to be, gleaming in gold and filled with fun things to do.

In the premiere, the models rappelled up the wine wall at Aureole and are expected to be featured at such havens as Shark Reef Aquarium and House of Blues. Hopefully the production crew trained the cameras on the classic-rock band Phoenix in the Mizuya Lounge. Those guys blow the roof off the joint.

Unfortunately, the timing of the show’s shooting schedule didn’t work out to stage a challenge at “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay Theater, but the contestants did head over to MGM Grand to compete in a challenge at “Ka.” We can only hope that they weren’t asked to slide down the slanted stage while grabbing the protruding metal pegs. That’s a good way to scuff a manicure.

“Model Employee” airs at 10 p.m. Wednesdays. As Bowling says, “This is going to be a great experience for Las Vegas, and for Mandalay Bay. It’s just another way for us to tell our story.”

Of course it is. Just make sure the person telling it doesn’t start talking about anyone being “yellow bus slow,” and we’ll be fine as whine. I mean, wine.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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