A lot of little girls dream of being a princess. But unless you are this guy who bought a country for his child to be princess of, the closest your daughter will come to wearing a crown is by entering the little darling in a beauty pageant. She’ll get to wear sparkly clothes, a ton of makeup, and if she is the lucky winner, a crown.
Pretty is Steve Silverman‘s brilliant mockumentary send-up of toddler pageant culture. Pageant father Michael Champagne (Sam Pancake) devotes his life to seeing his precious Annette win the crown in the Miss Star Eyes Pageant. Five year old Annette has had a big growth spurt and Michael worries this might ruin Annette’s chances at the pageant. Mom Ribina’s (Dee Freeman) profession as cigarette smoker and occasional insurance litigant keeps her too busy to help out sewing spangles, but not too busy to pay an inordinate amount of attention to brother-in-law Ethan (Troy Conrad).
Once she is onscreen, it only takes a moment to buy into Annette’s portrayal by the fabulous 30-something Stace McQueen. She IS a five year old. A five year old who just wants to be a pretty, pretty princess with a unicorn named Gumdrop. Annette isn’t as fond of pageants as her father is, demonstrated by her running away prior to each event.
The Miss Star Eyes Pageant is ruled over by director Parker Kensington-Parker (Terri Simmons), whose stare will burn a hole through anyone whose entrance fee check bounces. Royce Adams (the hysterical Michael Taylor Gray) is the assistant director intent on doing everything in his means to usurp Kensington-Parker’s power. The behind-the-scenes cutthroat machinations of these two develop through the course of the series.
With a mere five episodes in the first season, the focus was primarily on the pageant. The show’s second season introduces us to Michael and Ethan’s sister Meredith (Kirsten Vangsness, who also co-produced), a “reformed atheist” who turns Ribina on to the Bible. The Bible study scenes with Ribina’s former co-workers are a hoot. We also meet someone from Michael’s past who may thwart his plans for Annette to become the next Miss Star Eyes. An old friend shows up to settle scores as Michael’s past is explored even more in the third season.
Pretty is a delight for any soap fan. Mr. Silverberg has enlisted veteran soap stars such as Denise Alexander, Joan Van Ark and Martha Byrne to pile on the makeup and have a grand old time playing dress-up. After so many years of dramatic roles in General Hospital and other soaps, it’s a pleasure to see Genie Francis do a comedic turn as Dr. Kate, “Pageant Psychologist”. Keep a watch out for Emma Caulfield and SNL veteran Melanie Hutsell, too. Anacostia’s Anthony Anderson appears as another pageant dad. There are so many familiar faces playing against type, you’ll just have to watch and see how many you spot.
This is such a fun show with unexpected plot twists, that I regret being deliberately vague so as not to give away spoilers. The combination of Mr. Silverman’s spot-on dialogue and Ms. McQueen’s delivery has captured the essence of a five year old. The wacky adults surrounding her are played to perfection by the talented cast. Also playing an essential role in the story, the makeup and costuming are flawless. Kudos to costume designer Katie Banuelos for creating such imaginative pageant costumes.
We haven’t seen the last of the Champagne family. The third season hinted at a slight change of focus in Pretty’s narrative. Whatever direction Steve Silverman takes us next, you can be sure I’ll be along for the ride – probably on a unicorn named Gumdrop!
If you loved Steve Silverman’s take on toddler beauty pageants in the first three seasons, just wait until you see how he skewers dance moms in the long-awaited fourth season of Pretty!
It’s 40 years later. Annette Champagne now runs a studio for her competitive dance team “Annette’s Cadettes”. Running a rival studio is Annette’s lifelong nemesis, Lily Devonshire (Adrienne Wilkinson). The two prepare their teams to face off in the fiercely competitive “Dance Off” featuring Annette’s none too talented daughter Mykala (Ava Bergman). This time around Silverman adds just a touch of mystery to his outrageous sense of humor in continuing his tale of the competitive Champagnes.
Reprising their roles as Annette and Ribena Champagne, Stace McQueen and Dee Freeman are even funnier this time around. Juliette Jeffers joins the cast as Annette’s exasperated little sister and dance mom, Caviar. Diane Delano is absolutely hysterical as Gladys, another dance parent. Devanity fans will get a hoot seeing Michael Caruso garbed in platinum blonde wig and spray tan worthy of John Boehner as Annette’s ex-husband, Shay. The always amazing Denise Alexander also puts in an appearance in a surprising role.
After you watch all 4 seasons of Pretty check out WVG’s interviews with cast members at the 2014 Hot As Hell Event!
By Susan Siniawsky