ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – The road to Miss America will go through Hollywood this year. Whether it leads to Las Vegas again remains to be seen.
The series, which is to air on Country Music Television for a week preceding the televised pageant finals in January (the exact date still to be determined), will show the 52 women in preliminary competition and give viewers a chance to choose which ones advance to the top 15 for a shot at becoming Miss America 2007.
But pageant officials still aren't saying where or when the next crowning will be held. Other cities have expressed an interest in hosting Miss America, said pageant CEO Art McMaster. He is awaiting, he added, a final proposal from Las Vegas, which hosted the last one. He wouldn't identify the other cities.
"There's no question, there's a couple of other cities that are aggressively coming after us right now. We were happy with the success of Miss America last year there. We're just waiting on Las Vegas' proposal," he said.
The changes mark the newest wrinkles for an institution still trying to find its way in a post-network TV life.
Jettisoned by ABC after record-low ratings for the 2004 pageant, Miss America broke with 85 years of tradition last year in moving out of Atlantic City, where it was founded in 1921 as a bathing-beauty revue.
Picked up by the Nashville, Tenn.-based cable outlet, the Jan. 21 crowning of Miss Oklahoma Jennifer Berry drew 3.1 million viewers — paltry numbers by network standards but huge for CMT, which never drew more than 2.9 million for a program before Miss America. The channel reaches 82.5 million households, about one-third less than the networks reach.
The documentary series is considered a means of drumming up interest in Miss America, which existed as a once-a-year TV special since 1954 but has struggled to keep viewers who are bored with its swimsuits-and-sashes formula.
In "Finding Miss America," film crews will follow the women as they prepare and participate in swimsuit, talent and evening-wear competitions held in different places on different days. Viewers will get to vote by telephone or online.
McMaster expressed confident that ratings "are going to go through the roof" because of the interest he expects the documentary to attract.