The CW swears that Crowned — its reality show debuting Dec. 12 at 9 p.m. (future episodes air at 8 p.m.) — is an updated mother-daughter version of the beauty contest, celebrating ”spirit, intelligence, and heart.” These qualities might have been easier to honor if more of the competing ladies weren’t bratty, shallow pains in the ass. They aren’t even interesting villains. They’re dismissably rotten, which makes watching them a chore: peppy type A’s who confuse bragging with confidence, sultry meanies who believe being loud is the same thing as being powerful.
The Crowned hopefuls (mom-daughter teams compete in talent and style competitions, with one pair voted off each week) are packed into the usual reality TV mansion, where they snipe at one another in the usual reality TV way, with predictable shots of rolled eyes and dropped jaws. Occasionally there are moments of chilling insight into the parent-offspring dynamic, as when one flustered mother botches her introduction, and her belligerent daughter leaves her hanging — a frozen, angry smile on her face. Too often, though, Crowned is as buffed and packaged as a Miss USA contestant: You get the feeling the show would rather be safely standard than risk being too different. From the judging panel, Carson Kressley (Queer Eye) inserts some wit, but not enough — and even the nice girls look foolish, like the demure mother and daughter who haplessly decide to name their team Silent But Deadly…accidentally invoking a potent fart joke. I’d hate to witness the talent competition. D