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Missing Miss America

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Unless the Miss America Pageant finds another television outlet to broadcast its Atlantic City spectacle next year, Miss America will be missing from most American homes. People will turn on their televisions to discover "There she ain't."

We are confident organizers will find an outlet. They've proven amazingly resourceful over the past few years. They've had to be. Some of the gleam and gloss, alas, has gone from the show that set the standard.

Time was families would sit in front of the old RCA and cheer their state's contestant on to glory. Talent, intelligence and even a touch of titillation were to be had. But there never was a great deal of any of it.

And that is the rub.

For years the pageant wanted to be about "scholarships" and "wholesome young women," but — at the same time — wanted to add a whiff of cheesecake to the mix. It was a tough card to play. And as bright young women found new ways to display their talents and intelligence on television without having to don a two-piece swimsuit, and the lusty-busty crowd turned to the Hooters pageants and — don't wince — the Miss Nude Black America Pageant to meet their needs, the Miss America Pageant soon looked like an old-style diner trying to serve a little bit of everything, none of it especially memorable.

Yes, the pageant is an institution. And, yes, Bert Parks crooning to the newly crowned queen is a slice of Americana that never will die. But critics are right when they see the pageant as something of a dinosaur. In the age of hip-hop and iPods, the show comes across a bit dated — like those old Lawrence Welk re-runs. The fact the Country Music Channel couldn't see a reason to keep it should prove the pageant needs to be either retired, re-tooled or re-invented.

For viewers looking to see young women with brains, talents and beauty, television simply has too many other alternatives today.

It's sad to see such a vibrant and wonderful part of American lore withering on the vine.

It would be nice to see some good, old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity find a way to freshen the pageant again and bring it back in a bright, lively new package.

In fact, we owe former winners — and Bert Parks — such an effort.