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Emmys 2017
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A reality TV novice experiences the 'Dance War' premiere

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Dance_lQuick fix for the writer’s strike: Force execs to sit through the arduous two-hour premiere of Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann, ABC’s latest reality talent show. Scripted TV has never looked so sweet.

Of course, I have to confess: I managed to sleep through the American Idol phenomenon, and have never seen Dancing With the Stars, the hit from which this sugary new confection was spun. That I’m following Dance War for PopWatch is either a case of inspired counterintuitive casting or because no one else on the EW staff raised their hand.

You decide.

So this is what’s happening for the next six weeks: Two big personality judges/choreographers, Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba, recruit a bunch of young performers, divide into two teams, then go head-to-head in a competition. Bruno is a flamboyant little dude with a fey British-Italian accent who resembles a cross between Alan Cumming and Kevin Spacey. Carrie Ann has a savage tan and likes to wears sequined minidresses.

Last night, they tried to play up a rivalry, but didn’t strike a lot of sparks. Occasionally, “host” Drew Lachey, a former Dancing with the Stars champ, turned up looking ill-at-ease and disheveled. He’d crack a lame joke and then call out, “Let’s give it up for Bruno and Carrie Ann!” Not sure what his role will be in the unfolding drama.

They saw scads of acts this week in their visits to New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville. They turned what must have been an ordeal into an ordeal, barraging us with clips of would-be performers would-be performing accompanied by the unfunny repartee of Bruno and Carrie Ann.

Wit. I expected more. Here were the stabs at humor I noted: At the Tennessee State Fair, Carrie Ann tried to milk a cow. Hilarious! And there was the genius comedy of people singing off-key while Bruno mugged despair. Original! Not that there weren’t a few worthwhile contestants.

I’m convinced the outrageously bad singers were plants. In fact,from the few seconds I was allowed to see them, I thought most of theperformers were remarkably accomplished. Also, poised. I imagined theeditors scanning for moments of raw human connection, shame, or deepfeeling and there were virtually none. I liked Quandrell from Buffalo,the cute kid with cornrows whose mother was taking photos. I was surehe’d make the cut, despite weak singing, but he didn’t. Then there wasthe trio of girlfriends from Louisiana. I predicted they’d be separatedas slowly as possible with excruciating reaction shots, and thatstatuesque blond Kelsey would be the gal pal left standing. I was notdisappointed.

As for Kelsey, I now (unfairly) resent her on her friends’ behalves. Strange, how ill will is born.

I have nascent interest in a few other performers. I’m curious aboutdreamy Zack, who is already the golden boy of the crew. Toothy Maxxwith the soul patch — what’s his story? And why does Philip alwayswear that cap I associate with elderly Scottish men?

Sitting through basically an hour and fifty minutes of quick-cuttingmush did make the song-and-dance number at the end surprisinglysatisfying. And when I get to know some of the participants in comingweeks, maybe I’ll engage with Dance War. My first response as a newbieto the genre, however: Bring back The Gong Show.