So we haven’t really come such a long way, baby. Not with shows like Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants popping up on network TV.
The newest rhinestone in The CW's tacky tiara airs at 8 p.m. ET Wednesdays (with repeats on subsequent Sundays and Tuesdays). Think of it as a lead-in to Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Orange County. Both shows depict “real” women as little better than bitchy, competitive, backstabbing viragos obsessed with their looks and incapable of conversation topics that run deeper than their own lip gloss.
We have a woman senator running for president and this is how networks present women on nonfiction television in prime time. Nice.
The hook of Crowned is teaming mothers and daughters for a continuing beauty pageant. It’s like Survivor crossed with Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School. Each week the ladies are assigned some ridiculous task—in week one it was to come up with a “team name” and pick out some costumes from racks of sparkly dresses—and each week they parade before judges Shanna Moakler (former Miss USA), Carson Kressley (ex-Queer Eye fashion guy) and Cynthia Garrett (whoever she is). Evaluations by the judges lead to weekly winners and losers. The latter are “de-sashed” and sent back to the suburban mall Lancome counters whence they sprung.
Here’s how the competish shapes up so far among the teams after one episode.
Annette and Alana named themselves “Silent but Deadly,” not realizing that’s a euphemism for soundless flatulence. (And the mom of this duo has a Ph.D. ) Carson and the judges had “issues” with their team name but let them slip through for another week.
Patty and Laura are the perky “Redhead [sic] Bombshells” who annoy their housemates (yes, they all live together in a mansion like the man-hungry wenches of Joe Millionare and The Bachelor) by doing shrill operatic vocal warm-ups at 7 a.m. Chances are, they won’t win the Ms. Congeniality prizes. They made it through for the week, however.
“Diamond Dolls” Melinda and Rachelle came off to the judges as shallow and bling-happy until daughter Melinda played the disease card, revealing to the panel that mom Rachelle had recently had a kidney transplant and they need the $100K prize money to pay off medical bills. Smart move. They’re through to the second round.
“Hot & Not” Ada and Christan were criticized by the judging trio because the mom, who’s only 37, actually is a little hotter lookswise than her 20-year-old daughter (the pair had played it the other way around). Interesting math, those ages. And the mom announced she has six kids. On to the next round for them.
Angela and Tenia called themselves “Skin Deep,” clueless to the connotation. But they survived the first de-sashing.
“Sassy Sisters” Jill and Nicole are a 39-year-old mom with no pageant experience and a 21-year-old daughter who won Miss Delaware and competed in the Miss USA pageant.
“Daredevil Divas” Moya and Jenileigh are fitness nuts who distinguished themselves on episode one with footage showing them running around and around the mansion swimming pool like thoroughbreds warming up at Pimlico.
“Tomboy Queens” (doesn’t that sound like a float in a gay rights day parade?) are Pamela and Felicia. They were deemed “diamonds in the rough” by the three judges and told “you are safe,” thus invoking a reality TV cliché that should only be used on American Idol, where it began.
“Dream Gals” Gina and Hollis were the week one faves, making the best first impression on the judges by being bubbly and self-effacing.
And then there were the “Blonde Bombshells,” Brenda and Heather, who stepped in front of the judges wearing identical sequined sheaths and huge black hats over their cascades of bottle-blond curls. Carson Kressley said they looked like “Amish hookers” and it seemed as if they would be the first to go. But noooo. Adopting that fake-out technique that reality shows so love for teasing viewers, they were called out of the line at the finale and told they had to de-sash the real losers, “Reigning A’s” Andrea, a former Mrs. New Mexico finalist, and 24-year-old daughter Amanda, a pageant veteran.
They were pretty, but the A’s were not allowed to reign a second week. If there had been special bonus points for swoopy black eyeliner, however, they would have wiped the floor with the other, less lavishly lashed contestants.
So their sashes were slashed. Tears flowed. And the progress of women in the Western World stumbled back one high-heeled step.