MISS WORLD 2013: TRIUMPH OVER NEGATIVITY (PART 1)

Prior to the Miss World 2013, there was a threat looming as hardline Moslems protested its staging in this country, particularly with plans to tour the predominantly Moslem cities of Yogyakarta and Jakarta.  Though the sentiments of these hardliners were not shared by most of Indonesian society, the threat they posed was enough for the Indonesian government to unilaterally declare that all events for this pageant be confined to the predominantly Hindu island of Bali, despite appeals of the main sponsor, MNC Group (a major media conglomerate in the country).

Though the MNC Group complained about the losses they incurred because of the adjustments needed to be made to confine all pageant activities to the island of Bali, it seems to all work out for the best as they added a safari tour as a multimedia challenge event, and the rest of the activities especially the finals were conducted smoothly without any direct incident.  It might be said that the finals was supposedly a scaled-down affair than what was originally planned at Sentul, a Jakarat suburb (like the venue–it was supposed to be held in an 11,000-seater Sentul International Convention Center) it had to be adjusted to be held at the 4,500-seater Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center instead.  But to most viewers, the finals doesn’t seem scaled down at all and was of a similar level as productions in previous recent editions.

I just observed that that unlike most broadcasts I have seen, the scheduled 2 1/2 hour pageant finals began a bit low-key–the hosts came in, then they devoted the first 30 minutes playing clips of the challenge events and other pre-pageant activities (and a song number from boy band Blue, who sang their current single).  What one tends to assume would be the opening number and contestant introduction came 30 minutes into the broadcast.  It reminded me about how syndicated US Sunday comic strips are currently set up so that newspapers have the option to omit the first 1/3 panel so the top panel was usually treated as a “throwaway” sequence by cartoonists.  I suppose this is something like a concession so some international broadcasters can present “only” a two-hour version of the pageant.  I personally would’ve taken the stance of Calvin and Hobbes cartoonist Bill Watterson and be less compromising, but well, I suppose Miss World Ltd doesn’t hold as much sway over broadcasters the way Calvin and Hobbes had with US newspapers in its 10-year original run from 1985-1995.

Sample Sunday comic strip (courtesy of Jim Davis)

The rest of the pageant followed a similar, though streamlined, structure that has been observed in two previous editions.

* A grand cultural production number before the 127 contestants appeared in their designer evening gowns.  There were gaffes in the introduction of contestants, like the fact that the camera failed to pan toward Bulgaria (Nansi Karaboycheva) and British Virgin Islands (Kirtis Malone) (plus the fact that strict alphabetical order was broken between the two as that was precisely the order they were announced).  As a consolation, for the first time we get a full view of all contestants’ designer gowns during the final on the official Miss World Facebook website.  I also noticed a few contestants tripping a bit, most notably Puerto Rico (Nadyalee Torres) while standing up while being introduced and the camera panning towards her.  After the contestants were introduced, there were then flagbearers running across the stage with the flags of the participating countries and a song number with the contestants marching with Balinese children singing a sentimental pop ballad, “Here We Are Indonesia”.

*  After the contestants introduction came the now much-awaited “Dances of the World” segment, which was actually pre-taped the previous day.  Though Philippines (Megan Young)‘s singkil was now regarded as the main highlight, with the stage darkened, the other contestants standing still, and a spotlight on her, the other cultural dances were delights to behold, like China (Yu Weiwei)‘s opening scarf dance, Nepal (Ishani Shrestha)‘s sprightly Bollywood number, Namibia (Paulina Malulu)‘s traditional African gyrations (which looks similar to the controversial twerking dance popularized by Miley Cyrus), Dominican Republic (Joely Bernat)‘s flouncy merengue, and Venezuela (Karen Soto)‘s ferocious tribal number being most notable.

I don’t mean to offend, but doesn’t this remind one of twerking? Namibia’s cultural dance.

* A quick run-down of the challenge events, with the famous leaderboard, then followed.  After the opening salvo of the Top 20 judges’ interview scores, the challenge event results were presented two at a time, starting with Beach Fashion and Sports, then a running tally followed by Multimedia and Top Model, another running tally then a recap of the talent final.  These were recapped rather quickly, in a span of a mere five minutes.  This was then followed by the performance of the Talent winner, Indonesia (Vania Larissa), and then the last Top 20 scoreboard was shown before presenting Beauty with a Purpose.  Why a Top 20 instead of a Top 30 like in the two previous editions?  I speculate in the production post-mortem meetings, some production staff members groused about difficulties processing the running score tallies of 30 contestants that led to the erroneous display that took place last year (and generated a much belated apology on the Miss World website five months later).  So even if it’s a too-brutal cut considering the record number of contestants, they presented a Top 20 instead.

*  The five challenge winners were presented onstage, then the Beauty with a Purpose winner was announced, and the video of the winning project was then shown.  After that, the Top 20 quarterfinalists were then presented before whittling down to the Top 10 semifinalists.    It’s a good thing that the Top 20 was announced one-by-one this time as last year even if the Top 30 were onstage, only the 15 semifinalists were identified.  I’m also glad they made it clear that this time when the Top Ten were announced that the scores are then reset back to zero, instead of 2011 when it was actually carried over.

Some of the Top 20

*  To a fusion of classical music and traditional Indonesian Gamelan music, the Top 10 semifinalists then were introduced and each briefly walked to the front of the stage, though there was a gaffe when the first one called, Ghana (Carranzar Naa Okailey Shooter) failed to step forward until she was called out three times.  Then, the rest of the contestants clad in Indonesian costumes joined them and this was followed by the boy band Blue performing their 2002 hit “One Love”

*  The Top 10 was then whittled down to the Top Five, and in a new twist that I first did not believe when it was first mentioned on Megan’s Miss World – Philippines Facebook page, the People’s Choice winner was then announced to then join the Top Five (if she happened to not be among the Top Five already).  Then, X-Factor (UK) Season 4 champion Matt Cardle came to sing the song most popularized by Roberta Flack back in 1972, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”.  I wish Matt interacted with the finalists by going towards them and singing to them–especially since this year’s finalists were such an awesomely gorgeous bunch.  Instead, he was just static standing and facing the front of the audience.

*  For the final round, the Top Six finalists had a video profile shown and then they were all to speak to the judges on why they should become Miss World.  While the final decision was tabulated, they presented the outgoing queen, Miss World 2012 Wenxia Yu, and there was a special performance featuring her and the Top Two Talent finalists, Indonesia and Australia (Erin Holland) singing an operatic piece rather harmoniously.

Operatic trio: Australia, Miss World 2012, and Indonesia

*  The final announcement of winners followed tradition “as is customary”, and the sense of grandeur and ceremony after all these years for the coronation moment never diminished.  The slightly different twist was that immediately after the crowning, the happy host Myleene Klaas interviewed the winner rather extensively before the winner took her customary walk, and the show closed with everyone uniting to sing the Miss World theme.

There were four hosts for the event: half-Filipina former singer of co-ed pop group Hear’Say, Myleene Klaas, Mister World 2010 Kamal Ibrahim, and MNC presenters Daniel Mananta and Amanda Zevannya.  Myleene satisfactorily came close to achieving the high hosting standards set by nine-year veteran Angela Chow, as in general her hosting (and voiceover work) was faultless.  Kamal Ibrahim, though it seems he strives to have a career as a presenter, needed more polishing and poise before he can become an effective one as he seemed rather nervous throughout and committed a gaffe when he interviewed judge Ken Warwick by saying he won a Grammy (he was immediately corrected by Ken, of course).   Daniel and Amanda were energetic hosts, and of course their accented English is forgivable (since their native language was Bahasa Indonesia).

Miss World 2013 Hosts (L-R): Kamal Ibrahim, Myleene Klaas, Daniel Mananta and Amanda Zevannya.

In between the aforementioned important programme sequences above, there are video interludes in-between.  The flow of the entire pageant felt disjointed with these sequences, if you asked me–for instance there are featurettes for Talent and Top Model shown in the main broadcast each for three times.  For some broadcasters like GMA 7, they even featured the Gwen & Jen (Miss World 2011 1st runner-up Gwendoline Ruais and Miss World 2011 finalist Jennifer Reoch) YouTube behind-the-scenes videos, with some of their earlier days’ featurettes shown in the latter portion of the pageant broadcast, leading to more disorientation.  With the thirty-minute-long interlude before the official opening number and contestants’ introduction, it makes for rather disjointed viewing.  It is no wonder there is an onine petition out there clamoring for improvements in the production of future editions of this pageant.

I have a few brief suggestions on what I want to see next year:

1)  Commit to the 2 1/2 running time and start from the get-go with the opening number and contestant introductions.

2)  A better way to structure the program is this way:  a) opening number and contestant introduction; b) Dances of the World; c) Presentation of results and leaderboard, done one-by-one per challenge event with one continuous video feature per challenge event instead of two or three; d) Presentation of the Top 30; e) Announcement of the 15 semifinalists;  f) Video interview footage and catwalk presentation of the Top 15 (or if they can do casual chit-chat interviews, make it so); g) selection of the Final Seven finalists; h) final speech and catwalk of the Final Seven; i) announcement of winners.  Video interview and/or live interview for the Top 15 would make it a more livelier onstage competition for the finals instead of the current format.

3) Train the production staff to better keep pace of the score tallies.  Or better yet, prepare the running totals in advance since the results were available way in advance in the first place.

COMING UP:  AN ANALYSIS OF THE SCORING SYSTEM

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