Is there anything more obsolete than Miss America? Even the producers of the annual bathing beauty pageant that started back in the Roaring 20s have realized that their sexist parade of female flesh is a little passé, feminism notwithstanding.
TV ratings have plummeted since the days when Bert Parks serenaded the contestants on the Atlantic City boardwalk, so much so, that the big networks won’t touch it. Enter TLC, the home of Trading Spaces, What Not To Wear, and My Shocking Story: My Big Foot who not only broadcast the competition Saturday, they preceded the event with a four-part reality series titled Miss America Reality Check. You can check out back-to-back episode of Check followed by the coronation this Sunday at 5 pm Superbowl? What Superbowl?.
Reality Check follows the standard makeover template. The Miss America organization wants to make their beauty queen a bit more relevant to the times, so they gather the 52 contestents on a ranch where their bullet-proof bouffants, troweled-on makeup, and hand-made gowns are critiqued by a panel of fashion experts including the gay guy from Ugly Betty. Most of the women welcome the advice, but several stick to their guns.
Like all reality competitions, the show's editing has us rooting for the underdogs — Miss Alaska is particularly spunky, but those leg warmers have got to go — and tearing up when we learn Miss Florida wears all that pancake because she was horribly scarred in a fire. Best of the lot is plucky Miss Utah (pictured), an army medic who, despite having no idea how to pose for photographers or walk down a catwalk, blossoms like the proverbial butterfly once the makeover coaches give her an asymmetrical bob. Guess who’s the audience’s favourite?
The pageant itself is a snore. The contestants heavily featured in the reality show all get eliminated — when the obvious winner Miss Utah gets the boot, the Las Vegas audience audibly groans but then cheers when she drops to the floor in an evening gown and gives them 30 push-ups — and the talent segment is especially egregious. Watch for the unintentionally amusing titles that run across the screen like “has performed for around 13 years” and “this song Angels by Robbie Williams.” What writers strike?
And the winner? Miss Michigan, a 19 year-old helmet-haired, baton-twirling carbon copy of every other Miss America who only marginally figured in the reality show. But, guess what? Her grandmother was crowned Miss America in 1944. So much for the makeover
Miss America Reality Check repeats Sunday February 3rd at 5 pm followed by Miss America Live 2008 at 8 pm on TLC (Rogers 34).