Toddlers & Tiaras on TLC explores the world of children beauty pageants by following contestants and their parents as they prepare for competition as well as documenting the competition itself. In the first episode, we are introduced to three different families as they gear up for the upcoming Universal Royalty Pageant, which also has a category for mothers to compete in. The first two families introduced are the Alley family and the Jones family. Both focused on mother-daughter relationships. The Perez family differed from the first two in that the main parental involvement came from the father, David Perez. Another difference is the age of his daughter Ava, who is two, whereas the other featured girls are six (Rebecca Alley) and nine (Meaghan Jones). Surprisingly, this mattered very little because the show derived most of its drama and action from the parents while the kids are relatively boring. The parents themselves don’t vary much in demeanor. Stacey Alley stated, “Some people might say well you’re obsessed with pageants. Obsessed? Maybe.” This pretty much described the other parents, who are cheerfully obsessed with their children’s pageantry. They’re overbearing but not suffocating, probably due to the fact that their kids somewhat enjoy and mostly comply with their demands. This lack of variety was disappointing-- one family pretty much told the story of the others.
The actually competition itself wasn’t too interesting. There’s a reason the Miss America pageant has been declining in ratings in recent years; there’s just not enough entertainment value by today standards in modeling casual wear, evening wear, and swimsuits. This can be seen anytime on the Home Shopping Network. There is the talent portion, however. Unfortunately young children are not very talented, especially the 2-3 age group. Beyond running around on stage and playing with a baton, there isn’t much a two-year old can do. Ava was no different, though she did do a “back-flip” with the assistance of her dad, who was shocked when this didn’t get her a title. The older groups weren’t much better, with both Rebecca and Meaghan doing dance routines. The mother’s portion of the pageant went by uneventfully, with the moms realizing that their kids are even more amazing than originally thought. The only real drama on the show was the Jones family arriving late. One of the judges stated, “We’re waiting on Meaghan, and it is an unusual situation and judging someone who’s late, it can be a detriment.” Apparently, it wasn’t too much of a detriment, because Meaghan ended up winning the highest title in the contest. The ending of the pageant was not as exciting as anticipated. There was no real drama from not getting the grand prize, since there are pity trophies and more pageants to be had in the future. Also, Meaghan’s big win wasn’t all that great as she almost expected it. Overall, Toddles & Tiaras lacked excitement, and the parents’ enthusiasm just wasn’t enough to give it life.