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'So You Think You Can Dance': She's no 'Idol'

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Part of me understands Fox’s reasons for airing the season premiere of So You Think You Can Dance a mere 24 hours after the season finale of American Idol — all 36.4 million of ’em, in fact — but unfortunately for the network, such close proximity only served to highlight why the network’s dance contest will never duplicate Idol‘s breakaway success.

1. The stakes aren’t high enough. On Idol, the winner is pretty much guaranteed to top the Billboard charts. On SYTYCD, the winner gets… a one-year gig as a dancer in Celine Dion’s ”A New Day” concert in Las Vegas? (Insert sound of needle scratching across record here.) Seriously? Can you imagine if Idol‘s entire season culminated with Taylor Hicks getting to do background vocals for a Michael Bolton CD?

2. SYTYCD doesn’t have a Simon — or for that matter, a Paula. Pity poor Nigel Lythgoe (pictured, Idol‘s exec producer, who also serves as a judge on SYTYCD). He’s working overtime to nail Simon’s brand of charming British cadishness, but without Cowell’s inherent sense of humor (and good looks), he’s merely offensive. Case in point: On last night’s premiere — discussing little person Jason Perez’s audition — Lythgoe’s insistence that he wasn’t conducting a tryout for Cirque du Soleil was the episode’s thudding low point. And say what you want about Paula, but her loopy-infuriating shtick serves it purpose — and isn’t all that easy to duplicate. Just ask SYTYCD‘s beige Mia Michaels.

3. There’s no way you can land SYTYCD‘s top prize without formal training. On last night’s premiere, b-boy Christopher Bryant nailed a dizzying array of fleet-footed feats — leaving the judges mesmerized — but the way the show’s set up, if the guy can’t master tango and quick-step and the Viennese waltz (all of which require expensive lessons), he hasn’t got a snowball’s chance. In that way, SYTYCD will never duplicate the thrill you get from seeing average kids like Elliott Yamin and Kellie Pickler get plucked from total obscurity to become household names.

Of course, that’s just my take. I’m curious how many of you watched SYTYCD last night, and whether you’ll be back for more next week.