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October 22, 2014

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Surprises and changes in store for Miss America TV programs

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Steve Marcus

Miss Michigan Kirsten Haglund may have the crown for winning the 2008 Miss America Pageant, but she didn’t get to have a pastry, which TLC’s Clinton Kelly passed out to the eliminated contestants of the competition.

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See all of the Sun's 2010 Miss America Pageant coverage.

2010 Miss America Pageant: Preliminary Competition

Contestants of the 2010 Miss America Pageant compete in the first evening of preliminary competition at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 26, 2010. Launch slideshow »

2010 Miss America Pageant: The Judges

The judges of the 2010 Miss America Pageant Vivica A. Fox, Dave Koz, Brooke White, Shawn Johnson, Rush Limbaugh and Katie Harman attend a news conference at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 27, 2010. Launch slideshow »
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Host Mario Lopez and Miss Indiana Katie Stam attend the press conference after the 2009 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas on Jan. 24, 2009.

Tomorrow night, the 53 Miss America Pageant contestants face a difficult decision of voting for who they believe should be in the Top 12 -- and they can’t choose themselves! Their selections also will remain secret.

Those 12 winning names will be tabulated by TLC producers and will be part of “America’s Choice” for viewer voting on the first TV special airing Friday night. Those votes will then be figured in with the judges’ selections, and the 15 semifinalists will be revealed after the parade of states and the introduction of the celebrity judging panel by emcee Mario Lopez on the Saturday night broadcast.

It’s just one of the elements being added to this year’s TLC telecast from Planet Hollywood’s Theater for the Performing Arts.

“We’ve still got a couple of surprises up our sleeves in terms of what we’ll be doing with the production and the video screens this year,” Brent Zacky, program development chief at TLC, told me in an exclusive interview. “We’ve outdone ourselves with the staging this year.

“But there will be one big unexpected twist toward the beginning of the show that will become instantly apparent and involves the entire show. It will remain totally secret until it happens.”

This is the third TLC pageant telecast and the second time Mario has hosted. Brent commented: “We started with a three-year deal, so after this weekend, it will come up for renewal discussions and negotiations. It’s been a tremendous partnership, and we have had real big rating success with what has become great TV.

“We hit our stride with the show in its second year, and last January, not only did we get tremendous ratings, but in key demographic markets, we beat out major network broadcasts. And the pageant was the most watched cable show of the night. It ranked as one of the Top 10 shows for us for the year!”

TLC gets an added boost this year for the Friday behind-the-scenes TV special because it’s hosted by Clinton Kelly and airs after the 250th celebration episode of his hit series What Not to Wear. This is Clinton’s third consecutive year working on Miss America.

One small sequence of the Friday program was filmed in advance. Everything else is being shot right up until Friday morning to air that night. Three camera crews have been shooting around the clock here this week. A Las Vegas post-production edit facility crew is working on several segments, and then the final show is edited in L.A. nearly right up to airtime.

Saturday’s show will be sent via Las Vegas HD’s fiber-optics lines direct to Waterside Plaza in New York and Burbank, Calif., as backup for the national satellite feeds. TLC has about 15 executives here for the week of production, and that swells by another 50 crew for Saturday, with Anthony Eaton as executive producer.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.