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Miss America 2010: Why we prayed for it to end (and for world peace, obviously)

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Oh, Miss America pageant, why must you force us to watch the human body being grotesquely twisted this way and that, like some electrified lump of meat? But, hey, that’s enough about judge Rush Limbaugh strutting his stuff to “Poker Face” earlier in the week. What about the TLC broadcast of last night’s Las Vegas-held contest?

Well, the first thing to say is that Clinton Kelly from What Not To Wear — who co-hosted the event with Mario Lopez — ought not to have worn that beard. It somehow made him look a lot like Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund, which is unfortunate when you’re saying things like, “Okay, you’ve got to rip off that dress,” to young women. And the second thing to say is, the whole shebang was hellaciously boring.

Most competitive reality shows have learned the lesson that you need to give viewers enough of the contestants’ trials and tribulations — and, if possible, heart-rending back stories — to snag their interest. But, Miss America contestants, we hardly knew ye! True, the show had to move fast, eliminating 52 people before finally crowning a winner. However, it was pretty hard to root for, say, Miss Utah when the sole thing I discovered about her was that she hailed from “the only state that starts with a ‘U,'” which, to be honest, I could have told her.  (She could have gone with “Home of the Sundance Film Festival” or even “The state where Big Love is set!”, though I guess its possible she wanted to play down the polygamy thing).

“But Clark,” I hear you say, “You’re a red-blooded, vaguely heterosexual, male. You must have enjoyed the swimsuit round!” Well, okay, there are sorer sights for the eyes than athletic, bikini-clad, women.  But as EW’s recent piece about the pageant pointed out, it isn’t exactly difficult at this point in history to find footage of scantily clad females. Why, just the other day an acquaintance of mine was talking about something called “online porn,” which apparently offers material even raunchier than that served up by Messrs. Kelly, and Lopez. Moreover, as the dozen or so ladies who made it to the swimsuit “competition” stalked about in their high heels, it was hard not to recall the pre-show show Miss America: Behind The Curtain in which contestants revealed the assorted indignities they have to endure to present themselves as such allegedly perfect visions of womanhood. I won’t go into all the gruesome details. Suffice to say, a big deal was made about the bust-enhancing qualities of what are apparently known as “chicken cutlets,” a pair of words guaranteed to raise the pulse of the famished, but few else.

Meanwhile, in the 17th, sorry, second, hour of the show, everyone showed us their special talents. Miss Virginia — Caressa Cameron, who ultimately won — did a creditable rendition of “Listen” from Dreamgirls. Miss Louisiana played the hell out of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” on the piano. And Mario Lopez perfected his impression of someone being paid a substantial sum of money to essentially wear a nice suit. After that, the contestants answered questions put to them by members of the public from the Vegas strip. These included “What can be done about teen obesity?,” “Should athletes who use drugs be banned from sport for life?,” and “Could you call my children and explain why I’ve just squandered their college tuition on champagne room lap dances?”

Of course, it’s easy to sneer (and here’s my dirty secret: it’s fun, too!). I should point out — as the show itself did on numerous occasions — that the Miss America organization engages in noble charitable work other than brightening the day of lonely dudes without an Internet connection or much imagination. Alas, this was thin, predictable, gruel entertainment-wise. Where is Carrie Prejean when you need her? Nah, I’m kidding. We never need her.

Did you watch the show? Am I right to be so harsh? Or, like the great Nigel Tufnel, are you wondering, “What’s wrong with being sexy?”

More Miss America:

Who killed Miss America?

Miss America 2010: Already loving Miss Kentucky

Miss America: Does anyone care? (2009)