NEW YORK – Contestants in this year's Miss America pageant will find themselves facing a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire-style quiz, thanks to changes designed to add a dose of "reality TV" flash to the venerable 81-year-old beauty and talent contest.
The changes will also include a Survivor-style panel of non-finalists who will vote for the contestant they think should win.
The proposed changes were posted on the Miss America Web site last month, but all references to them were deleted from the site shortly after reporters started asking about them.
But late yesterday, pageant organizers confirmed the changes, promising a "new era in high-stakes reality TV" for ABC's live broadcast on Sept. 22.
"Reality television is the buzzword describing a variety of new TV shows," said the pageant's president and CEO, Robert Renneisen. "But, in fact, the Miss America telecast has been providing viewers with high-stakes reality television since its broadcast debut in 1954. [It] culminates with one previously unknown woman who overnight becomes an internationally renowned celebrity. That's real reality TV."
When the field is winnowed to just 10 finalists, the 41 losers will convene their Survivor-esque panel in full view of the cameras, functioning as a so-called "eighth judge" by adding a collective vote toward trimming the finalists down to just five.
After the "tribe" of judges has spoken, the five finalists will compete in the new "Knowledge and Understanding" segment, which will feature multiple-choice questions on history and current events.
A wrong answer won't eliminate a would-be winner, but it would count against her final score.
In other attempts to spice up the race, contestants will arrive at Atlantic City's Convention Hall in Hollywood-premiere style, emerging from limousines and strolling on a red carpet.