CROWNED: THE MOTHER OF ALL PAGEANTS. 9 p.m. tomorrow, Channel 57. Moves to 8 p.m. Wednesdays next week.
WITH THE writers strike in its sixth week, "reality" is about to set in with a vengeance.
And what once might have seemed like a dumb-but-not-diabolical diversion on the CW - a network many people still haven't found on their TVs - now looks instead like the face of things to come.
In the case of the mother-daughter "reality" show "Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants," it's a face that could probably use a bit less makeup.
See what they've made me do?
I'm now being mean just to have something to say.
That would give me something in common with "Crowned" judge Carson Kressley, whose "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" persona gets a workout tomorrow night as the "Crowned" contestants choose team names and introduce themselves to the judges.
It falls to Kressley to explain to a woman with a doctorate why the name she and her daughter have chosen, "Silent But Deadly," might provoke laughter.
But, really, what's a pageant show without fart jokes?
Kressley's joined on the judges' panel by former Miss USA Shanna Moakler, who's doubling as host (yet another reason "reality" TV costs so much less than the scripted kind) and Cynthia Garrett, who apparently can't be described without using the word "personality," as in "TV personality."
In putting Kressley first, I'm probably selling Moakler short, since it can't be easy to say things like, "Welcome, ladies, to your first de-sashing ceremony," with a straight face or to tell a team called "The Reigning A's" that "we're really trying to find out more about what's going on inside you."
(Yes, she gets extra points for not addressing that bit of nonsense to the "Silent But Deadly" team.)
When the women aren't on stage, we get hints of possible storylines - a mother who's had a kidney transplant, a daughter once shipped off to Girls Town because the mother she's now teamed with couldn't control her - but beyond the $100,000 prize, it's not clear what any of these women is doing here.
The CW apparently considers this show to be so laden with suspense that TV critics were not trusted with the secret of which team gets de-sashed this week, so I can't describe this particular humiliation as fully as I might otherwise, though I believe jeweled scissors may be involved.
What I can do is warn you that you watch this, and other supposedly unscripted shows, from NBC's upcoming revival of "American Gladiators" to CBS' winter edition of "Big Brother," at your own risk.
Because the more of this stuff you're willing to see, the more of it we're going to get.
PBS' "Independent Lens" (10 tonight, Channel 12) features "The Paper," a documentary about Penn State's Daily Collegian that's likely to hit home with that small subset of society that fell in love with newspapers young and never really got over it.
Years (I'm not saying how many) after serving my own time on a college daily at another state university, I couldn't help but be struck by how little had changed, from the editors who take themselves way too seriously to the stories, like student rape, that aren't taken nearly seriously enough. *
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