Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Would you like to be "Queen for a Day"?

Queen for a Day (First Look): With all the reality shows on the air today, viewers take for granted how they turn viewers lives around or upside down.
But back in the '50s, there were few of these types of shows around. Queen for a Day was certainly one of the first and one of the best known. The show began on radio in 1945, then moved to TV in 1956 and lasted there until as late as 1970 and seen by viewers on both ABC and NBC during its run.
Jack Bailey, who crowned over 5,000 queens during the show's two-decade run, hosted the radio and the early TV versions (a later TV version in 1969 was hosted by Dick Curtis). Bailey's "Queen For a Day" was known for his lions-roar opening -- WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE QUEEN FOR A DAY? -- and its infamous applause meter.
This three-disc set from First Look is a charmer. It includes the only surviving seven complete episodes of the show, plus clips from five others. Bailey sure knew how to charm the housewives watching the show and he certainly did with his folksy charm and even a little innocent flirting with his audience. He did his darnedest to boost the drama on the show and bring his daytime audience to tears -- and he was very successful. The audience, whose applause drove the audience meter to pick each day's queen, helped out -- they were generally cooperative in selecting the women with the roughest stories about why they wanted to be queen as the day's winners. The queen was then crowned in a red robe by Bailey, given a huge bouquet of roses and serenaded with a blaring version of "Pomp and Circumstance." The drama was complete. (You had to wonder what the losers were thinking, though.)
The quality of the set is rough -- the shows were transferred from kinescopes. The shows also include the original commercials, many done live.
Feminists later saw "Queen For a Day" as an example of trying to keep women in their places, but a look at these shows reveals a lot of that criticism was uncalled for. "Queen For a Day" was an innocent show that was right for its time.
And with the flurry of rambunctious reality shows that live for shock value, it's refreshing to see a show for which changing reality was primarily for the better.