TV Preview

CW's 'Crowned,' Missing Congeniality

Patty and mom Laura are one of 11 two-generation teams to face off in CW's lame reality series.
Patty and mom Laura are one of 11 two-generation teams to face off in CW's lame reality series. (By Michael Desmond -- The Cw)
By John Maynard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A new reality descends upon prime-time television tonight -- and folks, it isn't pretty.

The CW's "Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants," a competition show about snippy, sniping mother-daughter beauty queens, is the first in an onslaught of nonscripted programs to hit the networks' schedule since the Hollywood writers' strike began.

The real impact of the strike, now in its second month and with no end in sight, will be felt early next year when such scripted shows as "Heroes," "Grey's Anatomy" and "30 Rock" do not return after the holidays. In their place will be such reality fare as "American Gladiators," "The Baby Borrowers" and "When Women Rule the World."

If "Crowned" is any indicator of what to expect, viewers are in for a thoroughly depressing 2008.

"Crowned" features 11 mother-daughter teams that each week sing, dance and prance pageant-style in front of a three-panel judge in hopes of outlasting the competition and taking home a $100,000 prize. Each week, a losing duo is kicked off the show, or "de-sashed."

Following a reality show cliche, the ladies all live in the same mansion, dubbed the "Pageant Palace," where they live uncomfortably with one another, shooting nasty looks and whispering put-downs. "I don't think they are very pretty," Laura tells daughter Patty about another team.

The duos each fill a stereotype that producers likely planned before choosing the cast. Amanda & Andrea are the sexy snobs ("I don't need to make friends," Amanda sniffs), Gina & Hollis are the all-American sweet girls (they make dinner for everyone the first night), and Brenda & Heather are the blond bombshells (Brenda: "Two's better than one, we're double the fun").

There's something a little creepy about these family units. These mothers, in their 40s and 50s, admire their offspring to the point of worship yet also seem envious of them, doing everything medically possible to look like their daughters.

The producers also throw in a couple of sob stories in an attempt to lend poignancy to this tawdry affair: Melinda, who teams with daughter Rachelle, received a kidney transplant last year, and more tragic, Moya from California lost her husband in a helicopter crash when daughter/teammate Jenileigh was just a child. Their stories are presented in such an exploitative manner, though, that you're more likely to feel anger than sympathy.

Former Miss USA Shanna Moakler, no stranger to reality TV as the co-star of MTV's "Meet the Barkers," is the bland, blond host who reminds us more than once about her beauty pageant past.

The judges are obscure TV personality Cynthia Garrett and former "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" star Carson Kressley, who continues to milk the snarky persona he developed on that popular Bravo show.

At least he adds a little fun to the proceedings, appropriately mocking the truly awful opening performances tonight.

But there's no other reason to tune in to this pointless, mean-spirited and just plain dull show. The good news is that it lasts only eight weeks. The bad news is it will be replaced by another strike-induced reality show: "Farmer Wants a Wife."

Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants (one hour) premieres tonight at 9 on Channel 50. It moves into its regular time slot next Wednesday night at 8.

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