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Sopranos Grilling Galls NJ Beauty

A Miss America pageant judge was wrong to ask Miss New Jersey about her views on "The Sopranos," the contestant and some Italian-American groups said.

The judge asked Alicia Renee Luciano what she thought about the show during an interview segment of Saturday night's pageant in Atlantic City. The HBO drama focuses on fictional mob boss Tony Soprano as he juggles organized crime and his family life in suburban New Jersey. The show has been criticized for reinforcing Italian American stereotypes

Luciano, 19, answered that people shouldn't take television shows seriously, and that good parenting should offset violence on TV.

"It was a question that I don't think they would ask of anyone, other than someone with my background," she told The Daily Record of Parsippany for Tuesday's editions. The Byram resident is believed to be the first Italian-American to represent New Jersey in the pageant.

"I wasn't expecting that," Luciano said. "Everyone else was getting questions about how they felt about performance dance and the arts."

Several Italian-American groups agreed, calling the question insensitive and insulting. Miss America officials did not immediately return a message left at their office early Tuesday.

"I don't think it was appropriate," said Anthony Marci, vice president of the North Jersey chapter of Fiery, a group of students and young adults that celebrates Italian culture.

"It's a television show that should be taken with a grain of salt," he said. "But at the same time, Italian-Americans should be cognizant that it adds to the stereotypes in this country."

Despite some changes in the pageant, including the addition of a 16-question
multiple choice quiz for the five finalists and Wayne Brady as the first black ever to emcee Miss America, viewership was down.

Nielsen Media Research reports only some 12 million people tuned in to see the crowning of Erika Harold as Miss America 2003. That's the fewest in pageant history and down 1.6 million from last year.

At the same time, though, the show did draw more viewers than any other prime time program Saturday night.

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