Wednesday, May 4

Turn that crown upside down.

Do you know this man?

Odds are, you don't, but you probably agree with him about one thing:

"Imitation is the sincerest form of television."

The man is Fred Allen, and he was a huge force in entertainment back in the 1940s. you probably know some of his work. Or at least a reasonable facsimile.

How about this guy, over here? That's Foghorn Leghorn. "Now wha, I say what's the big idea!"

Foghorn Leghorn was a direct ripoff of a Fred Allen's recurring character, Senator Claghorn. "Now, who's responsible for this attack on my person?"

The point here is that even Fred Allen, at the top of his game, knew that television was two things: cyclical and cynical. "Any of this getting through to ya son?"

Most of the time, television has stayed true to its disposable nature, to the extent that when a show lasts longer than 100 episodes it's considered a raging success. We know that all good things, in order to be good, are temporary... and will end.

This is the dilemma facing the Miss America pageant. It's been a staple for so long, it's a part of the culture. Few television relics survived multiple generations: Bob Hope, the Tonight Show, and Miss America.

Ratings have been steadily declining, and since ABC has dropped the television rights, the producers are scrambling to find a better way to pitch (and promise) profitability. And it sounds like they are about to prove Fred Allen right:
"The Miss America Organization has hired the William Morris Agency to shop a pageant telecast reworked as a reality show, with competition stretched over several episodes, backstage access, and possibly even an open vote for the winner."
In a business where your image is everything, what do you do when your image no longer sells? Products are reworked all the time, but Miss America isn't a widget in need of better wrapping. It "is" the wrapping.

Let's see what the brain trust comes up with here. Maybe it'll go all "Survivor" on us. Maybe more "Fear Factor." Or maybe they just need to listen to Foghorn Leghorn, and spice up the evening gown competition with a strip show: "Show 'em what ya got but dooon't let 'em have it. Ya gotta teeeze 'em a little. Make 'em chase ya."

(Big credit to Neal Abrams for hosting a bunch of great sound clips.)