11-10slide1Judging A BOOK BY ITS COVER is generally a bad idea, but magazines practically beg would-be readers to do it anyway. Alas, this is why Jane's February issue may well be relegated to litter box detail before a single page is turned.

The cover features 2003 it-gal Paris Hilton and the tag line trumps her "newfound purity." What, was Courtney Love's "newfound sanity" deemed too Rolling Stone? Elsewhere there's a promise that "Gwyneth will want to dress like you" (or is that a threat?), a nonsensical tease about what's "inside Jude's pants," and an out-of-nowhere blurb for free portable home gyms. The overall effect: Huh?

Worse, the mag's mix of frank talk and humor has lost its zip. What was once entertaining and witty now comes across as trite and belabored. Even founding guru Jane Pratt's "Diary" column, which used to boast more zingers per column inch than the combined editorial of every other gal mag, now includes whinging along the lines of "have you noticed that it's the trashiest cars with big dents in them that have the loudest alarms?" Andy Rooney, watch your back. What's next, a Larry King-ish declaration about Don Johnson's prodigious acting ability? Pratt notes that she is merely aping Sassy's astoundingly irritating "Working Our Nerves" column, but does that make it any better?

Similarly disappointing is the "Dish" section. Formerly a repository of wit and whimsy, the section now traffics in stories that have been written hundreds of times before (celebs getting shwag) and pranks that lack the nuance of those featured on goofball morning radio shows (a "concerned mother" calling up a TV station to complain that her 22-year-old daughter is hearing words like "darn" and "shoot" - wow, outrageous!).

Then there's the Q&A with current Mr. Gwen Stefani and former Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, during which Jeff (Jane writers affirm their solidarity with readers by addressing them personally using only first names, you see) asks if the rocker has ever faked an orgasm. When you're recycling bits from 17-year-old Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker movies, in this case "The Naked Gun," you've got serious problems.

Even as the quality of Jane's content has plunged, it should be noted that the mag remains the genre's best from a graphic perspective. Its spreads are uniformly eye-catching, with smartly designed sidebars aplenty. Better still is the photography; a spread on lipstick feels like it was lifted from an elegant art film.

Sure, the mag occasionally adds dopey captions - a striking black-and-white shot of a rainy sidewalk is appended with "sadly, the hopscotch board got washed away" - but that does little to minimize the overall effect.

Maybe I'm the wrong person to judge Jane, what with being a dude and all. Still, it doesn't take someone in the mag's demographic crosshairs to notice that lethargy seems to have set in. This magazine once thrived owing to its cool-older-sister persona, yet the February issue suggests that this cool older sister hasn't found her way out of the bedroom above mom and dad's garage. You don't want somebody like that giving you advice, and you certainly don't want to go out of your way to avail yourself of her company.

Next story loading loading..