Adding a dash of 21st-century pop culture to its 85-year-old tradition, the Miss America competition is turning into a reality show.
Excuse us -- make that a "documentary series."
CMT, which owns the rights to air the pageant, and the Miss America Organization have announced plans to turn the preliminary competitions into a seven-part show called "Finding Miss America" that will allow viewers to see what goes into the judging of Miss America contestants -- and lets them vote for their own favorites.
"One of our goals with last year's pageant was to give viewers the opportunity to really get to know these contestants and root for their favorites," says CMT's head of programming, Paul Villadolid. "With the creation of this documentary series, viewers are now introduced to these contestants like never before, and are able to vote for seven of their favorites to make the finals."
In the fall, each of the Miss America contestants will gather in the pageant's host city (yet to be announced) and be randomly placed into seven groups. Each episode of the show will focus on one group as the women go through preliminary talent, evening-wear and swimwear competitions, as well as interviews with the judges that have never been televised before.
The series will air in the days leading up to the January 2007 pageant. Following each episode, viewers will be able to vote online or by phone for their favorite contestant. The seven fan favorites and eight judges' picks will be revealed during the pageant; judging of the 15 finalists will then continue as it has in the past.
Julie Pizzi and Patty Ivins (NBC's "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search") will produce "Finding Miss America."
The 2006 Miss America pageant drew about 3.1 million viewers. That's a far cry from even its worst showing on broadcast television, but it set records for CMT.