Eye of the Beholder—Americans love beauty pageants. Not. The Learning Channel has purchased the rights to televise the Miss America pageant for the next three years. Given the history of the annual parade of bikini-wearing and patriotic song-singing, one has to wonder why TLC bothered. Back in 1960, when there were significantly fewer television sets in this country, the Miss America Pageant drew 85 million viewers. Forty-seven years later, broadcast television gave up on the event after the 2004 show drew a record-low 9.8 million viewers. Cable TV has made an effort to sell the show in the years since, with continually diminishing returns. Country Music Television was the last network to try, pulling in fewer than 3 million viewers last year.
Mars is a Hero—Kristen Bell, former star of the well-regarded but ratings-challenged series “Veronica Mars,” will be joining the cast of NBC’s “Heroes” next season. Bell will appear in several episodes of the hit superhero series, playing a woman with “shadowy ties to several characters.” The actress has been fielding multiple TV offers since “Veronica” was canceled at the end of last season and she reportedly turned down a role on ABC’s “Lost.” Bell’s character will be introduced in October.
Massive Musical—Surprising no one with children under the age of 12, last Friday’s premiere of High School Musical 2 on the Disney Channel broke viewership records across the board. The movie’s 17.2 million total viewers made it the most-watched basic-cable telecast ever. The previous record was held by a Sept. 23, 2006, broadcast of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” HM2 also claimed the records for most-watched TV telecast with kids 6-11, most-watched entertainment telecast with tweens 9-14, most-watched Friday telecast in five years and basic cable’s most-watched TV-movie ever in total viewers. The final record was captured by a margin of 38 percent (besting the record held since January ’01 by TNT’s Crossfire Trail). ... So, expect this phenomenon to go on ad nauseam.
Fake Court, Real Commentators—The season finale of TNT’s hit detective series “The Closer” will strive for an unusually high degree of veracity in its choice of guest stars. Set to hit airwaves on Monday, Sept. 10, the second-season finale finds Kyra Sedgwick’s Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson called to testify in a high-profile court case. CNN yakker Larry King is scheduled to play himself in the episode, as is Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, author Dominick Dunne and Court TV legal analyst Rikki Klieman. ... What, no Fred Thompson?
Seacrest In!—Ryan Seacrest of “American Idol” fame will host next month’s prime time Emmy Awards. The 59th Primetime Emmy Awards will air Sept. 16 on FOX, and it is hoped that Seacrest’s “appeal” (I use that word loosely) will draw a younger audience. Last year’s Emmys, hosted on NBC by Conan O’Brien, drew about 16.1 million viewers, the second least-watched Emmy telecast since 1991.