Game of Clowns-- Oh, I mean CRowns

I have now officially caught up on my TV watching; I was sick for a day this week and ended up binge watching Bravo's Mrs. Pageant series Game of Crowns. But, really, a more accurate title would have been Game of CLOWNS. It's like they took the worst elements of so many reality shows (Toddlers & Tiaras, Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, etc.), mixed it up with a bunch of "fame whores" (as one of the contestants calls another on the show), and put it on Bravo.

Unlike Toddlers & Tiaras, Dance Moms, or Kim of Queens, each episode is not devoted to a competition. In fact only a few pageants are shown as the drama is really between the women in other aspects of their lives (clothing, husbands, legal action, etc.). In this respect this is like a knock-off Real Housewives show-- I suppose it would be The Real Housewives of New England given everyone is from CT and RI (and since our family is moving to Rhode Island sometime in 2015 I guess I learned a bit about towns like Cranston and Johnston).

IMG_0888Yes, I just snuck some big news in there. Starting in January 2015 I will be part of the Department of America Studies at Brown University and my husband will be in the Economics Department at Brown!

Like so many reality shows there is much we don't know. For instance, why did we never see the husband of the too-classy/beautiful-for-this-show Shelly Carbone? What's the back story on these women's previous pageant experiences, before they were married? Are their current husbands the fathers of their children? How do Mrs. Pageants work in terms of categories about age, children, talent, etc.?

It should be obvious, but just in case it's not, Mrs. America has absolutely nothing to do with Miss America and Mrs. United States has absolutely nothing to do with Miss USA. In fact, in case you missed it, these women all compete in the same NE pageant systems run by the same family-- a married husband and wife and their daughter who emcees and sings looking to get her 15 minutes. Unclear if this is because there aren't other options or these are the only people who would agree to be on camera.

Needless to say, talent isn't included at these events and I had to laugh when everyone said how important INTERVIEW is and then it was revealed these interviews last THREE MINUTES. At Miss America pageants interview is 10 minutes and it's not even close to enough time. But three minutes? Very funny.

The women all tan, use Botox, fake hair, nails, etc. Some even have blue hair. Yet they all look different given that some are moms and some aren't. Lori-Ann Marchese was the only one without kids, and she comes from the world of "fitness competitions." I really saw a strong resemblance between her and the reigning Miss America, Kira Kazantsev.

The season is filled with typical female reality show fights about jump suits, bets, breast cancer walks vs. vow renewals, and rogue stylists. And then things take a darker turn when death threats are made followed by alleged private investigators, and then a restraining order. Things actually got physical a year after filming ended at the premiere party at Foxwoods (one of the women, half Native American, is married to a part owner of the resort-- and given the history of Foxwoods and the Mashantucket there is some backstory there I am sure [I read Without Reservation many years ago, which I found interesting]).

I can't imagine a second season, but I expect to see more from a few of them, like Shelly Carbone who is Bravo material, and Susanna Paliotta who has now been on TLC (through Toddlers & Tiaras, and who I wrote about at The Huffington Post when she called herself "Susanna Barrett" and linked up with the Eden Wood fame train) and Bravo, so I'm guessing Lifetime is next. I expect more clowning around, with crowns.

You Gotta Have a Gimmick: Miss America 2015

Last night Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev was crowned Miss America 2015, making history in particular for being part of a never-before three-peat for a state at Miss America. The reigning Miss America and past two Miss Americas all represented New York (though all grew up in states other than NY, they went there for college). She is also making quite a splash due to her talent.

Now some are saying she has no talent and only played a cup. While I find it ridiculous that a Miss America sat cross-legged on the stage in Boardwalk Hall BAREFOOT, in her defense she did sing. And for the record, she can carry a tune much better than many of the other contestants (I'm looking at you, Miss Tennessee). Also, no joke, my mother, who is Miss America 1970, picked her after her talent saying her voice is "pleasant." Likeable has become the new buzz word for Miss America. I'm guessing my mom, like other pageant lovers, hasn't seen Pitch Perfect, so the truth is that this act was semi-pop culture current and besides the barefoot element (Again, what and why?!) is recreated down to the criss-cross applesauce posture.

Nonetheless, after a pageant season filled with scandal, gaffes, and drama, this is certainly NOT what the Miss America program needed.

Also, this year's Miss America Pageant proves, more than anything, the old Showbiz adage (from the legendary Gypsy) that you gotta get a gimmick...

Indeed, those with "gimmicks," or stories, this year got attention and airtime on prime time network TV.

* Miss Idaho was People's Choice after making headlines for her "Show me your pump" statement

* Miss Kentucky's story of overcoming MS earned her headlines and a spot in the Top 12 (and a prelim talent win)

* Miss New York wasn't the only one with a gimmick in her talent, Miss Ohio (also a prelim talent winner) is getting national attention for her ventriloquist routine


(Silly me, I originally thought the gimmick here was going to be the "Joan Rivers" doll commenting on the inanity of a "mullet" dress with *sequined* pants!)

In the end, it wasn't a bad pageant overall. I think the winner had many pageant watchers (as opposed to the general public) taking a drink from a red solo cup because no one EVER expected a three-peat. I admit I didn't pay much attention to Kira in the lead-up to the Pageant for precisely this reason. Going into last night (as I shared on social media), I predicted 11 of the Top 16 correctly. But after that I went off the rails as my pick in each subsequent event was eliminated. Interestingly enough, 3 of the Top 5 were part of my missed group of 5 (the winner, NY, 1st-runner-up VA, and AR). I have told people for months FL and MA would be Top 5, so at least I can keep my Pageant PhD for that I suppose.

The bigger issue here is that if Miss America keeps three hours on the network (and it's possible with the new dick clark production deal) they absolutely must consider showing more of the interview process. I, like many others, believe much of the Pageant is determined in the interview room, not only because it's such a big part of the score but also because judges "like" contestants from then on. The viewing audience, who only tune in once per year, must see more in the room-- even more than was shown last night.

Or, at least in the case of one contestant, perhaps a bit less.

Seems Miss Nebraska (along with Jane "Austin," oy) got the memo that you gotta get a gimmick and took it a bit too literally in the Gypsy Rose Lee sense...