ABC’s new show “All-American Girl” can easily be understood by following a simple formula: Take the Miss America pageant and kick it up a notch. Throw in a former Spice Girl, a charismatic show host/former basketball player and a talent executive to serve as coaches for the women, and you have the latest attention-grabbing attempt by the alphabet network that thought “Are You Hot?” was actually a good idea. This program, however, is an improvement over some of its past attempts. By combining a decent concept with some interesting characters, you have a show that’s not totally worthless for a change.

Todd Weiser
Courtesy of ABC

Basically, the show seeks to find the most well-rounded woman in America. The “All-American Girl” has to combine beauty with intelligence, athletic ability, personality and talent in performing. To do this, the 20-somethings are subject to a series of challenges to narrow down the field.

In the first episode, 45 women vied for a spot on three teams, each coached by one of the celebrities. Then, in the performance skills round, the girls showcased their abilities in singing, dancing, gymnastics or, in the case of one girl, a horrible impression of Michael Jackson. After eliminating 21 contestants, the girls did a choreographed dance, took tests and told stories about their lives. Not only was the audience at home (who will eventually decide the winner) given a chance to know these women, it also allowed the judges to select the best of the best.

The judges are an interesting bunch. Former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, whose British accent brings up memories of Simon from “American Idol,” joins John Salley (“The Best Damn Sports Show Period”) and Suzanne Depasse, the former president of Motown Productions. The judges bicker over each other’s personalities and one at home can tell that a friendly rivalry will develop between the judges in the weeks to come, another aspect that may keep audiences intrigued.

“All-American Girl” isn’t the best reality show to appear on the spring schedule, but it’s far from the worst (if you don’t believe that, watch “Married by America”). With the ability to learn about the women and witness the training process, this show offers more than a bikini contest and a tired spiel about “making the world a better place.” When you consider the fact that total strangers aren’t getting married here, this program is worth a look. As Geri Halliwell would sing, it just might “Spice Up Your Life.”

3 Stars

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