Screen Savors: A crowning achievement

Crowned isn't TV royalty, but never really tries to be.

crowned 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
crowned 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Reality is the kids are stuck at home for two more f&%*ing weeks of school vacation. Reality is clothes sticking to your body by 9 a.m. Reality is wondering what the heck your across-the-way neighbors are still up to in their garden at two in the morning. Yes, summer realities are a big enough challenge as they are, but just in case you need more, YES Stars Reality is an entire channel-full, if not a mixed bag. From trailer park types worth avoiding to those more endearing people willing to expose themselves for a chance at some big bucks. Fortunately, we landed on one of the latter with Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants. Truth be told, we were prepared for way worse than this eight-part program that features eight mother-daughter teams vying for $100,000 and a tiara each. The early-on hype put us off. "Every mother-daughter relationship will be put to the test!" said the announcer, making us wonder if that meant having to share one bathroom. While other such programs have guests arrive at whatever villa or mansion they will be sharing via limo, here it was by bus. Perhaps a harbinger of the down-home approach the judges take in determining the winning duo. "We're celebrating what it means to be a modern beauty, in which spirit, intelligence and heart are as important as good looks," explained hostess, judge and former Miss New York State and Playboy Playmate Shanna Moakler. It's a little hard to take considering one contestant's bragging about having been something called Little Missy Prescott. Then it was time to meet the competitors, including mom Melinda and daughter Rochelle, with mom blubbering about how they deserve to win because she had a kidney transplant! But wait! Moya's dad was killed in a plane crash! Hold on! Mom Christiane sent Ada to Girls Town! Just when I thought someone was about to unscrew an artificial limb, it was time for the competition to start, though not before the ladies got to know each other by way of a cheese fight in the kitchen of their new digs. The show is cheesy at times and bitchy almost always. When daughter Laura interrupts mom mid-sentence with, "Mama, just let me talk…" and with the couples' first challenge being to think of a team name and outfit, we checked how much time was left. Then something strange happened. Crowned got…sweeter. Sure, it was hard to ignore the total idiocy of Andrea and Amanda, who named themselves, "The Reigning 'A's" because "both our names start with an 'A'." Annette and Alana, one of two black duos, were far smarter than that. Co-judges Carson Kressley, so irrepressibly gay as to be hysterical, and Cynthia Garrett actually offered some intelligent critique of the women. So, when Laura shared that she has to "eat throughout the day or I get real bitchy" it was entertaining. As was Kressley's comment that the Blonde Bombshells' outfits reminded him of the Gay Pride Parade in West Hollywood. When one pair called itself, "The Diamond Dolls," the judges noted they were being "a little superficial," a critique I never thought I'd ever hear in a beauty pageant. In fact, it seemed like the show's producers actually were interested in promoting their stated values, which may explain why the program was cancelled after just one season. The elimination round, in which one of the pairs was 'desashed' - the pageant-style sash bearing the name of their team cut off with a bejeweled scissors by the pair that almost got sent home was a bit hokey. But, the crying and hugs as violins played made it all so darn real - it was hard not to like it on some level. OK, Miss America it ain't, but Crowned has some simple charm and simple values to offer, along with a few minutes of mother-daughter magic that might lead some moms out there to resist strangling the child who just swiped their best nylons. Crowned isn't TV royalty, but never really tries to be. If that's what got it kicked out of the reality TV kingdom, it's all the more reason to give this show a little support. Crowned airs on YES Stars Real Mondays at 9:45 p.m.