The CW could sure use a hit. Can they turn the corner with "Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants" (8 p.m., CW)? This eight-part series treats a mother-daughter beauty pageant like a reality show, inviting 11 pairs of beauty queens to a gaudy mansion with a lot of pink rooms. At least one pair gets eliminated - or "de-sashed" - every episode.
The mother-daughter aspect of "Crowned" more than doubles the potential for awkward, nasty and ridiculous behavior. Some of these pairs are gorgeous, some are just vicious and others just don't have a clue.
I'm happy to report that I haven't laughed so much or so hard at a reality show in a very long time. Even the most earnest participants remind me of characters from some Christopher Guest mock documentary. And some of the wicked stage mothers are right out of "Hairspray."
And if the ladies weren't cringe-worthy enough, the judges go out of their way to keep them off-balance. They include former Miss USA Shanna Moakler, TV "personality" Cynthia Garrett and "Queer Eye" star Carson Kressley.
Kressley has returned to the top of his game here, dishing out advice with brutal honesty. I don't think he's ever been funnier - or more acid. When he's not blurting out the outrageous, he lets his face and his eyes do the talking. But often he's saying, or at least expressing, what we're feeling. Don't watch "Crowned" while eating: You won't be able to keep your jaw from dropping.
From its tacky mansion to its absurd "de-sashing" ceremony, "Crowned" is clearly aimed at people who hate beauty contests or at least love to laugh at them. I don't know whether "Crowned" will become a hit, but I sure think it's funny. I haven't seen a reality show more assured of its own absurdity since "The Joe Schmo Show."
¢ "P.O.V." (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) concludes its 20th season with a profile of Tony Kushner, the acclaimed playwright and author of "Angels in America."
¢ Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw host "Christmas in Washington" (9 p.m., TNT), featuring performances by Alan Jackson, Andrea Bocelli, Colbie Caillat, Heather Headley and Katharine McPhee, among others. The president and first lady are invited.
¢ An idealistic lawyer takes on his late father's job of serving as counsel for a corrupt and eccentric New York dynasty in the pilot episode of "Dirty Sexy Money" (9 p.m., ABC). The most addictive new series of the season is now in repeats. If you haven't been keeping up with "Dirty," now's your chance.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ Republican candidates for president debate in Iowa (1 p.m., Fox News).
¢ Howie Mandel hosts two hours of "Deal or No Deal" (7 p.m., NBC). This show has become a Hamburger Helper of sorts for the network, helping to stretch out a very thin schedule.
¢ An insurance adjuster is put on ice on "Pushing Daisies" (7 p.m., ABC).
¢ A winner emerges on the season finale of "America's Next Top Model" (7 p.m., CW).
¢ Addison relocates to Los Angeles and misplaces her clothes and dignity on "Private Practice" (8 p.m., ABC).
¢ The guys take to the air to test legends about skydiving and flying on "Mythbusters" (8 p.m., Discovery).
¢ A murder investigation leads to Laughing Larry's novelty shop on "CSI: NY" (9 p.m., CBS).
¢ Ann Curry interviews the McCaughey family a decade after the birth of their quintuplets on "Dateline" (9 p.m., NBC).
¢ Heidi tells the contestants "fashion is transformation," and they look on in consternation on "Project Runway" (9 p.m., Bravo).
¢ Extroverted celebrities without a budget or class throw lavish parties for their spoiled spawn on the 13-part series "Party Mamas" (9 p.m., WE).