Miss America Pageant: 10 things to watch for

Miss Pennsylvania, Annie Rosellini (center), and others at Caesars. Miss America remains a contradiction: It preaches scholarship and ambition, but parades contestants in swimsuits and assigns them scores.
Miss Pennsylvania, Annie Rosellini (center), and others at Caesars. Miss America remains a contradiction: It preaches scholarship and ambition, but parades contestants in swimsuits and assigns them scores. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 16, 2013

ATLANTIC CITY - So anyway, Miss America is ours again, back from her Vegas exile, which means you might have to pay attention.

After two weeks of Boardwalk encampment, three nights of preliminaries, a breakout tattoo in a red swimsuit, a one-armed Miss overlooked in the land of one-armed bandits, Here She Is.

At 9 p.m. Sunday on ABC. Prime time for the retro Miss A brand of scantily clad, wholesome beauties trying to transcend that scantily clad beauty.

Here then, sports fans, are 10 things to watch for:

1. Talent? Um, not particularly. Three nights of preliminaries will weed out the worst of it, but with any luck, judges will usher to the finalists the epic Miss Arkansas, Amy Crain, who contemporary-clogged to the theme from Monday Night Football.

The talent portion was painful but riveting. Look for ringers like Miss Minnesota, Rebecca Yeh, on violin. Miss Florida staged a thriller Thursday when, having torn her ACL earlier in the day, she utterly slew a twirling routine even with a huge knee brace. If she gets to perform Sunday, no one will ever again mock a baton.

2. The intros. This is A.C.'s moment, as contestants taped "I'm Miss X" intros around town. CEO Sam Haskell says A.C. will look like the French Riviera in the eight-minute spot, embedded to avoid a huge TV-viewer potty exodus. White House Sub Shop, Gardner's Basin, Revel Volleyball Courts, show America what you got.

 3. Relevant or Ridiculous? This is the key question, apart from ratings, Twitter trends, room nights, and whether Miss A entourages spent enough to justify the $7.3 million subsidy.

Will the show find traction in a time slot where Miley Cyrus was twerking just days before? Against shows that long ago cannibalized the concept?

Miss A remains a contradiction. It preaches scholarship and ambition but parades contestants in swimsuits and assigns them scores. Its pop-culture role is train wreck. You can't look away.

Still, in a culture where teens in bikinis snapchat photos of themselves and tally Instagram "likes" of prom gowns, the pageant may not be so out of sync. The culture of vanity and selfies has met Miss America in the dubious middle.

4. Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail. She sucked up publicity with a big tattoo reveal. She picked her Army National Guard boots for the parade and turned to opera when the Miss Kansas Pageant nixed bow and arrow. By Thursday, she was on Today.

Enough already, or the runaway winner? On Thursday night, she was congratulating herself for her "courageousness" in showing ink. Let's not get carried away, Sgt. Vail. Is a Serenity Prayer tattoo a fast track to a tiara? (Others hid theirs with "rough tattoo makeup," noted @PageantChris.)

Does tatted Miss Kansas get to redefine beauty, let alone courage? What about Miss Connecticut, Kaitlyn Tarpey, repping redheads? And what about Miss Iowa, Nicole Kelly, born with no left forearm? She said no to Today after winning Miss Iowa. Now that's saying something.

5. Stepford touches? During the evening-gown preliminaries, the music was Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive." The contestants did a standstill along the runway, their glittery gowns glowing, their faces blank. A bit postapocalyptic. Two have the same name - the Crystal Lees, Misses California and Hawaii. But they are not replicas.

6. Humor? The contestants try. Take Miss South Carolina. Brooke Mosteller's Day One intro cited trailer parks. Then, perhaps after an intervention, she cited Hootie and the Blowfish. What will it be on TV: home of Stephen Colbert?

7. Platform wisdom. Another potential groaner. Give blood, study science, end violence, don't animal-test, never forget, CPR, don't bully, end cancer, grieve. Miss Delaware wants music for foster kids, causing some to conclude that all the other platforms had been taken. Only Miss Alaska, Michelle Taylor, mentioned Syria. Miss New Jersey ignored the raging Seaside Park/Seaside Heights fire Thursday as she declared the Jersey Shore back.

8. The South will rise again? Even when Northerners win, they are Southerners, like Miss A Mallory Hagan, Miss New York, from Alabama. Miss N.J. is from Arkansas.

9. Boardwalk Hall. The maligned but magnificent Boardwalk Hall does not hold a grudge. The world's largest pipe organ, the barrel ceiling, and the Runway filled the Miss A Class of 2014 with gratitude. Will the hall look glamorous? Or just cavernous?

10. Predictions. In Vegas, the bookies put out Miss A odds. Bet on Mississippi, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, Georgia, California, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois, and Alaska.

Or just pick a jitney. The contestants have been transported via the iconic vehicles, and the drivers are getting proprietary. Frank Becktel is standing by his #TeamJitneyGuy for Top Five, and, you know, it's not a bad lineup: Texas, South Carolina, Massachusetts, D.C., and our hero, Miss Arkansas, who learned how A.C. natives pronounce her state/their avenue (Ar-KAN-sas) and who might just run/clog away with the whole thing. Cue the MNF theme song: Da-da-dum-da-da-DAAAAA.

Contact Amy S. Rosenberg at 609-576-1973 or arosenberg@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @amysrosenberg.

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