‘Kim of Queens,’ Southern fried hokum
Lifetime series is tricked out to look like a documentary
December 16, 2013
Many reality shows provide moments that seem intended to persuade us that what we’re watching isn’t as bad as it seems. For example, on “Survivor,” while we’re watching people being starved, worked to exhaustion and forced to eat worms, we’re repeatedly told that they’re on a “journey.”
On Lifetime’s new reality show “Kim of Queens,” its star, an Atlanta beauty-pageant coach named Kim Gravel, tells the camera how she justifies to herself encouraging young teenagers to get dolled up and have their appearance judged: “Beauty is not on the outside,” she says, “but for women, unless you see it physically on the outside, you can’t even begin to believe it on the inside. That’s why we do what we do.”
That, of course, is baloney. So is almost everything else that we see and hear on this show, in which Kim takes unlikely candidates and transforms them into viable beauty-pageant contestants.
But 90 percent baloney is about the average for reality shows, and “Kim of Queens” is, accordingly, about average in terms of entertainment value and tolerability.
In the premiere episode, airing Wednesday, Jan. 1, at 10 p.m. (subsequent episodes will air Tuesdays at 10), Kim begins to work with a tomboyish farm girl named Addison, whose mother, Kelly, says, “I want the girly girl.”
Showing up at Kim’s workplace in boots and denim shorts, Addison is charming. Asked what she wants to do when she grows up, she says, in a strong country accent, that she could be a veterinarian, adding, “I could help farm animals in need.”
“How does a cow get in need?” asks Kim.
“I don’t want to get into details,” Addison replies, “but they fall in love.”
By contrast, one of Kim’s current clients, asked in a practice interview how she’s different from her mother, replies, “I’m just like my mom — a prim and proper princess.”
Kim goes to Addison’s house to work with her one-on-one, probably because the producers wanted a change of scene. Kim is dismayed that Addison says that her talent is clogging. “Does every single little redneck chick gotta clog?” she asks the camera.
Kim suggests Addison try tap dancing instead. Demonstrating how to “sell it” with facial expressions, Kim is truly frightening.
Kim sends her mother, Jo, and sister, Allisyn, to buy camouflage-patterned clothes for the talent portion of Addison’s first pageant. We never hear why only Addison gets this service.
The mother-sister segment is jam-packed with dawdling that is supposed to be comical. They get lost driving downtown and then trash each other’s selections. Allisyn finally admits that the dress Jo finds is better than the army-surplus stuff she chose.
Allisyn says she loves to Beaddazzle everything. In a montage, she repeats the word “Beadazzle” a dozen or so times.
Addison and the other girls are going to compete in the Miss Sweet Onion Blossom pageant, which, like the pageant in the second episode provided for review, is a tiny affair held in a small room with folding chairs for the audience.
Two probably faked crises fail to add suspense: Allisyn “forgets” to pack Jo’s dress, so Kim has to make do with Allisyn’s purchases, and then Allisyn trips and sprains her ankle. At the end of the episode, as Jo and Kim help her walk, Kim points out that Allisyn is limping on the wrong foot.
Most people will be dismayed to see Addison’s transformation into a pageant clone. Nearly all of the personality we saw earlier vanishes onstage.
In the second episode provided for review, which will air on Jan. 21, Kim has her clients rehearse for a rodeo-themed pageant, then tells them that they’re not suited for it. She and Allisyn travel to a real rodeo to try to find the right girl.
Why they do this is never explained, probably because they’re doing it for the TV show. As near as we can tell, the girl they find, a 14-year-old tomboy named Hope who has never worn heels or makeup, is getting Kim’s services free of charge.
Hope’s mother, Robin, is reluctant, inspiring Kim to come up with the baloney quoted above about how being beautiful on the outside will convince women they’re beautiful on the inside. “I still look in the mirror and think I’m the ugliest fattest thing I’ve ever seen,” Kim tells her. Then she completely contradicts herself, saying, “It took me 35 years to realize that I am beautiful.”
Since Kim is a former Miss Georgia, that second statement means that the pageant process takes at least 14 years to work its magic.
Moreover, the process sometimes seems to bring out the inner ugliness in both Kim’s clients and their mothers. A mother named Angie decides to enroll her daughter in the rodeo pageant despite Kim’s advice. Another mother rats Angie out to Kim.
But there’s isn’t enough stage-mother insanity to satisfy fans of shows like “Dance Moms” and “Toddlers & Tiaras.” All of the women seem to be striving to pump up their personalities for the camera. Like many reality-show participants, they have the annoying habit of talking like people in old African-American sitcoms.
Kim just keeps running her mouth with little regard to what’s coming out. In the premiere episode, she says she’s as country as a butterbean; in the other episode she says she’s not country at all.
The show might work better if it dropped the documentary façade and became a straightforward makeover show, with Kim training one novice a week to compete against pageant veterans. As is, “Kim of Queens” is baloney, sliced thick.
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