We review the Facebook Watch dramedy, Queen America, on The Pilot Podcast. Join us as we discuss the pageant world, southern accents, and our own stage talents (or lack thereof). Can Vicki balance running the show with her home life? Will she mend her relationship with her family without sacrificing the crown? Tune in!
Queen America is set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and follows "Vicki Ellis, the most renowned (and ruthless) pageant coach in the state, and the hapless Samantha Cole who hopes Vicki can mold her into worthwhile contender for the title of Miss America. Vicki is desperately sought after by young women competing to be Miss America for one reason; she can turn any girl into a winner. But when she gets paired with the beautiful but unpolished Samantha, Vicki’s entire reputation might be at stake."
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Welcome to The Pilot Podcast!
Where we watch the pilot episodes of TV shows and recap other shows to answer your question: Should I watch this?
My name is BJ.
And my name is Mitu.
This week we're checking out a listener recommended show on Facebook Watch, Queen America.
Stay tuned to the end to find out what BJ's talent would be in a pageant show. Would it be singing?
What would your talent be?
I am talentless.
Is that your talent? Not having a talent?
I don't think it's a talent.
Well listeners, clearly Mitu not win a pageant in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
And what would you do in Tulsa, Oklahoma?
I'd learned a new skill just for the pageant.
Okay, that's exactly what I would do.
You can't just copy my idea.
That's my skill, copying ideas and improving upon them.
That is a risky talent to use.
Speaking of talents, why don't you use your talents of show recapping to share what happened in this pilot episode of Queen America?
Thank you for the compliment. This definitely is a talent. So in Queen America, we're following Vicki Ellis played by Catherine Zeta Jones and she is a beauty pageant coach in Oklahoma. And so she helps train these young girls for their competitions and she has her own team. She has an assistant who acts as a personal trainer for the girls. She also has another assistant who does hair and makeup to make sure that they're all styled properly and she herself has styling skills like picking out outfits and making sure the girls are show ready. So in this episode, we see Vicki working with one of her contestants for an upcoming pageant and she takes a break from that to go meet up with her niece, Bella. Her sister Katie wants Bella to go with Vicki to a pageant and have some bonding time and Vicki also wants to give her niece a makeover. And so a good chunk of the episode, we see Vicki and Bella at ends when they try to bring their worlds together. Vicki's all about aesthetic and molding yourself into what society thinks is a better or more beautiful version of a person. While Bella is like, look, I like what I like, I don't like makeup. I don't want to wear very feminine clothing and I want to eat Fritos. We also get some tension between Vicki and her sister Katie, where we learn a little bit more about their family history and how they've gone down their own paths. Both doing the best that they can with their own goals, but they're at ends on what's best for themselves and what's best for Bella. There's also some stuff with Victoria Justice. Shout out to her. I'm a fan of her.
She plays the character Hayley, who is one of the pageant contestant working under Vicki. She's one of the Vicki's client and we just see her training, but she's very much in the style of... I'd say the ideal client for Vicki. She's willing to work out, she's willing to sweat a lot lose weight quickly, even if it means fainting from dehydration. So she embodies a lot of the negative stereotypes people think of when they think of beauty pageants. I think that sets up everything for this world. Every time I say Vicki, I think of the evil babysitter from Fairly OddParents.
Vicky! And how did you feel about this pilot?
I liked it. I'm not that interested in beauty pageants / I'm not interested in beauty pageants.
Yeah, I was gonna say "that".
But I think this was a fun setup. It got more interesting when Vicki was interacting with their sister and her niece. I think that dynamic has some potential for some not only good drama, but some good perspective on just how people view themselves and others in the world. So I think there's some cool messages that might come out of this show. I also predict there'll be a lot of good drama. Anything with a competition as a plot line is always going to have some betrayal, some surprises, unexpected results, and I think that can make for some interesting plotlines. What were your first impressions?
I liked it. I thought that, like you said, there's an opportunity to tell some good stories. So there is the basis of a lot of drama. They're showing the different sides of the pageant world. So how destructive it can be with how people are manipulating their bodies and hurting themselves to fit into this standard of beauty for pageants. But you also see the other side of it where we'll meet Samantha, who is this poor contestant who tries to compete in the pageant because we'll later find out and this isn't, I don't think that big of a spoiler, this is a path that she sees to make some money for herself and her family and actually have a scholarship go to school. So it's playing into the positive side of pageants that I think Miss America especially pushes on which is the scholarship nature of the program. Though John Oliver did a deep dive into the Miss America pageant, and the scholarship game is a little shaky.
They don't give out the money?
Miss America has claimed that they've given out $45 million in scholarships. And John Oliver basically took an entire episode to debunk that, if you will.
Wow. There are a lot of questions there. But that's for a different episode.
That's for a different group of people to talk about because I don't want them to come at me like they came at John Oliver.
Would you consider a pageant for a scholarship?
What if it was a full ride?
I already got a full ride to college.
This is in a hypothetical situation, a heightened fictional reality.
For our listeners, we just finished watching Beverly Hills 90210, reboot reboot, which was painted as a heightened fictional reality. Uh, no. Would you ever compete in a pageant?
It just feels like too much pressure.
I just don't think it's healthy.
It's not, it's a lot of stress, anxiety, potential for bad self image.
For example, I know they love the sport for the most part, but earlier this year I went to the NCAA finals. And it really hit me that these are kids.
Yeah, they're young.
People were shouting obscenities at them. I'm sure people around me were betting money on these kids.
They're not even being paid to deal with all this. And there's so much pressure on them. And when the team that lost, lost, they were so emotional, and I really felt bad.
Their schools are asking a lot of them.
It can't be good for them. Speaking of asking a lot of, how do you feel about Hayley pushing herself to such extremes?
It strikes me that her character is one of those people who's very driven and focused. So in her mind, it's you gotta do whatever to win, because winning is what's most important.
It almost seems like it makes her happy, like when we reviewed SKY Castle, and that oldest daughter who was in that unhealthy habit or cycle of studying to the point of not sleeping and wearing herself down just to achieve these high grades. But she also seemed to bring a strange joy from it, I think, because of the way she was groomed, to want to achieve at all costs and find joy at sacrificing herself to achieve at all costs, because that meant she was really giving it her all.
I think there are some personalities and like you said, they're probably groomed this way due to the people around them where they thrive when they're in situations where they struggle to succeed. Like the "no pain, no gain" type of mentality is what they live by. So they're like, if I'm not suffering, if I'm not hurting, I'm not pushing myself to the limit, I'm not doing enough.
What did you think about the relationship between Vicki and her sister?
So there is a big reveal that comes towards the end, where we find out Vicki has asked something very significant of Katie, and that has brought some tension, understandably so. I think because of that secret, it makes sense that there is so much tension, we do see a moment where Vicki says that she does respect, Katie, so they don't like how each other living their lives. But underneath all of that, I think there is this weird understanding where it's like, I get what you're doing, I just still don't like it. And I don't know how people can move past that, especially when they're family because it's like, I may never like you, I'm a still love you type of situation.
So I imagine this tension is going to always be there.
And it seems like it's something that they have been dealing with their entire lives even before this big secret because they talk about their mother. At one point, Vicki says I can rage just like mom did. So it sounds like their mom did a number on them too.
Katie punched Vicki in the face.
In the face. I didn't grow up with siblings. But I can imagine it's a big deal when you're willing to physically hurt another one of your siblings like that. She really got her.
A clean hit.
What did you think of Vicki's family and how that contrasts with the life she has and how she portrays herself?
I'm actually curious about how the show will tease it out because she has these moments where her veneer slips and she becomes that hick person that she's running away from. And so I'm curious about if she becomes closer to her family and works on this relationship a little bit more, how that inner conflict in her will play out of the person she really wants to be regarded as and works very hard to portray versus the person that she has been suppressing. And I wonder as well, if she has a little bit of almost survivor's remorse. So people that leave tough backgrounds will talk about sometimes experiencing survivor's remorse or guilt of making it out. But knowing people who are still struggling in a way that you know quite intimately, so I wonder if she will have some of those moments as well.
Yeah, I think there's definitely potential for that.
I felt that a little bit when she was looking around her sister's house. So I'm curious about that. The only thing though is Catherine Zeta Jones, icon as she is, kept slipping in and out of that Southern accent in a way that was a little annoying to watch.
Yeah, I will also say Victoria Justice had a bad accent.
It's tricky. Sometimes, I'm like, just don't even bother.
Because also you and I grew up in the south and I don't think we have Southern accents.
I had someone recently ask me why I didn't have a southern accent.
Cause they were like, you grew up there? I was like, yeah. And like where's your accent? It depends on what part of the South you're from, some towns you don't hear it, some you do.
That is so strange. You should have been like, some horrible, "well, I was hiding how I really talk" (in bad Southern accent).
You caught me (in bad Southern accent).
Only for you (in bad Southern accent). And then you just go back to speaking how you speak.
Everyday I'm trying really hard to restrain myself and hide my Southern accent.
There you go. I'm hiding my southern self. So are you.
BJ, what's the nickname you love people to call you?
Dumplin' and this episode is brought to you by Audible where you can find the pageant show themed book by Julie Murphy.
Nice! Thanks, Dumplin'! Just go to audibletrial.com/thepilotpod, you'll get a free 30 day trial membership, be able to browse their unmatched selection of audio programs, and pick a title to download free and start listening.
Again, that's audibletrial.com/thepilotpod. Happy listening!
And now back to our show. How did you feel about Vicki's relationship with her niece?
It's complicated, but I think she means well. I think it's one of those things where an adult doesn't understand what a teenager is going through and how they feel about themselves and their emotions. And she might be a little harsh because there were unspoken... well and spoken comments regarding her niece's weight and how that might be affecting how Vicki sees her and how Vicki thinks she should improve herself. Although I think Vicki was very careful about that only in regards to her niece for certain reasons. So she clearly loves her niece, means well, just doesn't understand her. What do you think?
I agree, I think her niece is just looking to have her feelings and preferences validated. And instead, Vicki is throwing suggestions at her when that's not what her niece asked for. And also, I'm a little tired of the trope of the sad fat girl. I can't imagine how annoying it would be that this is the role I assume she gets over and over again. When she's literally pretty. Not that your beauty validates anything, but that she could've just played an average teenager on this show, too.
She didn't have to have this sad, fat girl story. And hopefully I don't want to count this out at the top of the show. Hopefully as the show progresses, we get to see her find joy and not hate herself and her body.
I'm optimistic there's more for her. It seems like Vicki's sister and niece are gonna be relevant throughout the season. So let's cross our fingers and hope they develop Bella into more than a sad, fat girl.
But I also hope that she loves herself and all of herself and not just despite the fact that she's fat. Nicole Byer talks about this a lot where people will look at her and be like, oh, you're not that fat. And she's like, no, I'm fat but I'm just also beautiful. Those things aren't mutually exclusive. You can be fat and beautiful.
And so I hope that she feels that way you can be fat and beautiful. You can be fat and healthy. You can be fat and happy.
It's not a flaw.
It's not a flaw. It's not a character flaw or a flaw of your body. So I hope that she finds that because also they almost immediately try to excuse or explain her weight when her mom says that she has a lazy thyroid, like she can't help it. And it's fine, some bodies were just made a certain way.
And I just wanted that to be the point.
Hopefully see different perspectives.
Since they are tackling the whole superficial beauty aspect that comes up with beauty pageants. Although there is a chance that with Samantha Cole, the kind of poor beauty pageant contestant, we might hit on an angle that's more about your upbringing and your social status and your wealth rather than more the different types of physical beauty.
You know what movie or show did that trope pretty well I would argue is Dumplin'.
Oh, I never saw that.
She loved herself not despite the fact that she was fat but she just loved all of herself. I thought that was dope.
Reminds me of Honey Boo Boo.
Reminds me of Honey Boo Boo is something that really came out of your mouth in a positive way.
She was a very happy child. I don't know how she's doing now.
Well, they're back on TV. I wonder how they're doing? I won't review the show but...
At least when she was a little kid, she was very happy. She knew she had a little belly and she didn't care. And that's a good message
She loved all of herself. That's true. Except they framed a reality show about her mom called From Not to Hot. And it basically was just her getting I think her stomach stapled and a bunch of plastic surgery.
Yeah, her family has gone down a different path. But she started off fine. I mean, she's in the pageant world.
Oh my gosh, speaking of the pageant world, did you know that the moms dope their kids up so that they have good energy?
With the pixie sticks.
Yeah, for those Toddler & Tiaras type shows they put pixie sticks and Mountain Dew, like a cocaine cocktail for kids.
Yeah, so they got energy for their stage and talent and you got to be ready, alert.
That's what I would do if you are my contestant. I would be like Mitu, just take a little bit this, hype you up.
A pixie stick / Mountain Dew cocktail? No, thank you.
I'd give you one or the other. I'm not gonna load you up.
And it wouldn't work, all that sugar. I would feel really like a rush and then I would get sleepy, it would be so ineffective for me.
Yeah, we'd be like she's first, put her on now. Go go go. We got time limit.
Alright, Beej, do you have any other thoughts on this show or are you ready to rate?
I'm ready to rate.
What would you give Facebook's Queen America?
I would rate would watch again casually. I think this story is interesting. It premiered back in November, so at this time that we're checking it out, you can already watch the full first season. I don't feel a need to binge it. Our regular listeners may know, I don't binge a lot of shows so I think this is a show I would pace out. I'm gonna check out the next few episodes, see where it goes. See what Vicki's up to, see what happens to Victoria Justice. That's where I'm at.
Wow, two shows in a row that we agree. I totally am with you. I think this storyline is very interesting. I'm excited to see where it goes. But I'm not so compelled to watch the next one right now. So I'll probably watch it maybe on a weekly or even more spaced out basis. But I know that I'll finish it.
Especially since we're in the summer now and we have a few weeks until all of the Fall shows come back.
As of today's recording, we have 47 days until Superstore and The Good Place return.
Yeah, we can do this.
Well, if you want to find more of our recommendations, head to our website at thepilotpodcast.com You can also subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher Radio and Spotify and be sure to leave us a rating and review, it helps people discover us.
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai