Miss America may have moved to cable after ABC passed on it, but broadcast TV, and ABC in particular, will be well represented at the pageant. In fact, the new host will provide a show-long plug for ABC's top program. James Denton, hunky Mike Delfino on Desperate Housewives, will play the Bert Parks role this year, while Housewives narrator Brenda Strong, who competed in the 1980 Miss America pageant as Miss Arizona, will be a judge, as will Jerry Rice, ex-football star and current contestant on ABC's Dancing With the Stars.
Also representing broadcasting on the judging panel will be Malcolm in the Middle star Jane Kaczmarek and veteran syndicated TV talk-show host Leeza Gibbons, joined by fashion commentator Robert Verdi, R&B artist Brian McKnight and Miss America 1985, Sharlene Wells Hawkes.
The show airs Saturday, Jan. 21, at 8–10 p.m. on CMT (Country Music Television). The pageant, which has been in Atlantic City since its inception in 1921, will be in Las Vegas this year at the Aladdin Resort & Casino. In June, CMT, a Viacom-owned network, picked up the rights to run the pageant in 2006 and 2007, with an option through 2011. ABC, the pageant’s most recent broadcaster, decided not to renew its contract with Miss America after the 2004 broadcast pulled in a record low 9.8 million viewers.