Friday, August 17, 2007

So You Think You Can Dance

It hasn’t been a good summer for “reality” TV.

Big Brother was sabotaged, once again, by bad casting (when the most noteworthy characters are a self-absorbed Paris Hilton wannabe…Jen…and a belligerent over-aged wannabe rocker who goes out of his way to live up to his name…Dick…you’re definitely in trouble…especially when the rest of the cast is uniformly bland, seemingly dim-witted, and whiny.) CBS should have called a “do-over” because nobody in this house deserves half a million bucks.

Usually reliable Top Chef has also suffered due to poor casting (Hung fancies himself the discerning badass bon vivant but he just comes off as an arrogant, big talking twit who often can’t deliver when push comes to shove. And Howie doesn’t seem to understand that there’s a difference between being a plain spoken competitor and just being a mean-spirited ass...he falls squarely into the latter category.)

Age of Love could have saved itself the trouble since anybody with half a lick of sense knew that the 30-something guy was going to pick a 20-something “kitten” over a 40-something “cougar” from the word go. The woeful Pirate Master got shanghaied off the air (and onto before it could finish its run. Hell’s Kitchen stacked the deck with as many sadsacks as it could find so that Gordon Ramsay could go nuclear on them every few minutes. Welcome to the Parker has a certain voyeuristic appeal, I guess, but it certainly doesn’t make the hotel seem like someplace I would want to go to. And Flipping Out might just have the creepiest, most anal retentive (I guess that's supposed to be the charmingly quirky part of the show), and completely unlikeable central character in the “reality” TV genre.

But then there’s So You Think You Can Dance. In its third…and undeniably best…season the dance competition was a brilliant ray of sunshine blazing across our summer television airwaves. With the effervescent Cat Deeley as host and with its judges’ panel anchored by the dapper Nigel Lithgow, both a stern taskmaster unafraid to tell the dancers when they’ve gone off-track and a gracious, enthusiastic fan equally unafraid to lavish praise when praise is due, and the irrepressible Mary Murphy, both delightfully daffy and learnedly insightful, the show rarely hits on a wrong note on this front (unlike American Idol, where the host and the judges spent so much of the time trying to make that show about them rather than the contestants.)

The choreographers…a number of whom rotated through the third judge’s chair to great effect…were on their game this season challenging both themselves and the young dancers. I give special kudos to Mia Michaels, Shane Sparks, and Wade Robson for their often inventive, entertaining, and moving routines.

And the dancers…my goodness, what an enormously talented group they were this season….even some of the folks who didn’t make the final cut were amazing. The top 20…with a quibble here and there…were all game and eager to learn. The top 10 was great top to bottom.

And the top 4…well they kept saying on the show that it would have been fine if any of them had come out on top and that is indeed true. While I am an unabashed Sabra (above with Danny) fan…she is such a charming and engaging little dynamo who handled almost every style of dance she given to do with style, verve, and bright energy…and I’m thrilled that she won, but I would have not been overly disappointed if any of the other 3…vivacious Lacey, affable and athletic Neil, and elegant, often astonishing Danny…had taken the crown.

The final show could have been tightened up a bit…at the end Cat barely got through announcing Sabra as the winner before the final credits started rolling…but that’s not that important after all of the wonderful weeks of entertainment So You Think You Can Dance offered up this season. Bravo.

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