Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants -- An early look
In the latest twist on reality competitions, The CW presents Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants, in which mothers and daughters compete as pairs for a top prize of $100,000. The show premieres Wednesday, December 12, 9/8c. Let me preface by saying that I have enjoyed such twisted programming as Joe Millionaire and The Swan, so was hopeful that I could find something to appreciate here. While it has potential, and I do have favorite contestants already, this first episode has some serious problems.
I can only hope that more editing will be done before the final cut makes it to air as there was a likely unintentional but glaringly racial imbalance in the introduction of the teams. Not to mention painfully obvious attempts to fake tension and drama where there really isn't any. Things might grow more intense as egos clash, but for now things are fairly bland. Even the first challenge was boring. They really needed to step it up to try and encourage viewers to stick around for the entire eight week run, and I don't think they did. More and minor spoilers after the jump.
Don't get me wrong. I love the high concept that there could be a program showing America that a woman in her forties or fifties is still relevant, can still be considered beautiful and is worthy of recognition and awards. For too long television and the modern media have relegated women past forty to obscurity and the unemployment line, though admittedly many inroads have been made of late. What's disturbing is that some of the mothers and daughters of Crowned seem to have bought into this stereotype. One team named themselves "Hot & Not" because the daughter is "hot" and the mother "not." Of course, the daughter came up with this name, but what does it say about the mother that she went along with it? And she's actually one of the better looking mothers.
Of the eleven teams, a few are pageant veterans, and some act like spoiled diva wannabes, and at least one pair are very down-to-earth and nice, though not anything like you'd usually expect to see in a pageant. These are nice variations and it could be fun to see how they stack up against one another. One thing I did like was that even though the host explained that this pageant would be different from any other pageant, saying modern beauty is as much about spirit, intelligence and heart as a pretty face, the so-called "pretty" ones still assumed they were going to dominate and easily dispatch of the "ugly" ones. Could be a glaring lack of that intelligence thing. And it looks like they'll be in for a fun surprise as they learn that maybe sometimes it does take more than a pretty face to get ahead.
As for the racially conspicuous thing, let me start by reiterating that I don't think it's intentional, but rather a matter of poor editing. As I said, there are eleven teams of two, two which consist of African-American mothers and daughters. I can buy that you don't want to just open the show going one-by-one through the pairs and having them introduce themselves, though some shows have done that successfully for years. Instead, they went with a more organic approach with cutaways to the various pairs showing us their names throughout the episode where they can tell us a bit about themselves. Okay, fair enough. Not a bad idea.
But why, when we're more than halfway through the show have we met every pair except for the African-American pairs? We do finally get to meet one of them (Annette & Alana), but we never do get that cutaway with their names on the screen for Angela & Tia. We don't find out who they are until the final judging. Like I said, I'm not accusing anyone of anything, but I think it a little too noticeable when the only two African-American teams are not only saved for last for introductions but one is skipped altogether. Hopefully, what I saw was an early cut and this has been rectified in the final edit.
Shanna Moakler (Dancing with the Stars), a former Miss USA, acts as both host and one of the judges. Joining her on the judging panel are Carson Kressley (Queer Eye) and Cynthia Garrett (Later with Cynthia Garrett). Carson is in rare form, funny and insightful at the same time. He's very much in his element on this one and is both harsh when appropriate and constructive when needed. The other judges bring good insight at times, but Carson clearly steals the show at this point. Unfortunately, there wasn't much worth judging as of yet. Still, Carson alone is almost enough to keep me coming.
The painfully unimaginative and boring first competition consisted of picking a team name, creating a complementary outfit and coming up with a memorable introduction to present themselves to the judges. After all, first impressions are extremely important. All of this is fine and well, but man is it a snoozer! And as I stated, the sadly transparent attempts to drum up some conflict between the teams at this stage, with quick camera cuts and hokey "reality drama" music, begin to wear thin quickly.
As for the challenge itself, some teams did better than others. And either I'm brilliant, I've watched too much TV, or it's just way too predictable, but I correctly guessed both the highest scoring team and the two teams with the lowest scores. I don't know if I got the eliminated team right, because someone at The CW forgot to send me the whole show. I'm sure it was intentional that it cut to black just before the final result so I couldn't call my bookie in Vegas and put a hundred large on who gets ousted first. I guess I'll have to wait until Wednesday night to find out, with the rest of you.
Some highlights of the show:
- Pageant director Linnea Maloney looks incredibly uncomfortable on camera. It's both painful and entertaining to watch. I think by the end of the run she may just break out into hives and either run off screaming or pass out.
- Gina and Hollis are my favorite team. They're real, down to earth and not your classic beauties, but all those other qualities Shanna said made up a modern beauty they have in spades. They're my favorites to win! It's not really a highlight, but for me they are highlights of an otherwise pretty bland show.
- At one point, one of the daughter contestants is singing at 7:15am in the house. This wakes up many of the other girls, but it is Hollis who asks if she could possibly stop singing. Laura, a 23 year old who was dissing on Gina and Hollis in the opening scenes says "Well, we're gonna rehears. Sorry." And then proceeds to hit a very high and loud note, giggling when she is done at what a bitch she can be. Her mother, thankfully, looks both mortified and disgusted at this point.
- Annette & Alana chose 'Silent But Deadly' as their team name, apparently oblivious to the common meaning of the phrase. They took it to mean they're quiet and may fly beneath the radar, but watch out. The look on their faces when Carson told them it actually means really stinky farts is priceless!
- Rachelle (2nd runner up for Miss Arizona USA) and her mother Melinda (who had a kidney transplant 2 years ago) name their team Diamond Dolls and then are stunned when the judges say this makes them sound materialistic. Bonus points for Rachelle coaching her mom into crying and even why she is doing so.
- The introduction of The Reigning A's, complete with Disney's Queen of Hearts outfits, and the fact that the introduction went on and on and on. No less than three times, Carson started to respond and then they kept talking. Incredibly boring but hilarious in how serious they were about it.
- Hot & Not (Ada and Christan from Texas) try to justify their name as saying the "Not" just means that Mom's dressing style is out of fashion. Then in the middle of the skit, Mom blows her lines and while she is fumbling, Christan offers no encouragement nor any assistance but instead smiles and stares at the judges. It is painful to watch and made me want to punch her as her mother kept apologize for blowing it and she finally says "Mom, stop" but never stops look at the judges. All of this in front of the judges. I think everyone was uncomfortable. The judges told her to stop telling her mom she wasn't hot, because she is. You go, "girls!" I can say that because Carson as much as said he was a queen...
I won't give away any results here, but as I said, it went pretty much as I expected. If this show wants to make it, I hope the future challenges are a lot more interesting than this one was. On the official website for the show, The CW says "they will have to brand a "style" for their mother/daughter team via clothing and swimwear, create ways of expressing a point of view about issues in the world, and practice for the big pageant dance number. Not only do good looks, talent and a penchant for world peace have to run in the family, each team must also have patience, teamwork and a healthy sense of humor."
How many teams will be left for the big dance number? And how far will they go with the swimsuit portion? In real pageants, it's all young contestants who maintain either a good shape or an emaciated one, not so with all of these contestants. So far, I like the angle the competition is taking as far as what the judges are looking for being the last things most beauty competitions are looking for. Hopefully they can keep it up.