Before I get to last night’s So You Think You Can Dance, a little housekeeping: First, I want to thank my colleagues Alynda Wheat and Kate Ward for taking most excellent care of this TV Watch while I was gallivanting through the (ridiculously gorgeous) Pacific Northwest. Second, I want to share (most of) your outrage about the Top 18 eliminations, although technically part of the fault for them falls on the shoulders of the voters for whom the Chbeeb can do no wrong — you know who you are! Third, I must confess that after a marathon DVR viewing of the Top 18 week and especially the torpid Top 16 week, I entered this week’s Top 14 feeling uneasy about the prospects for this fifth season of SYTYCD.
Lemme ‘splain: We now have just one street/hip-hop dancer and ballroom dancer left, and the rest are dancers whose specialties (contemporary, jazz, ballet, Broadway) all fall under the same umbrella of traditional dance studio training. That’s certainly kept us from bearing witness to Cedric Gardner/Susie Garcia-style transfixing awfulness, but it’s also meant that a competent sameness has crept into most of the routines, keeping anything not performed by the Brandon & Janette juggernaut from ever truly standing out week to week. (Even the supposedly a-MAZ-ing contempo routine from Jonathan and Karla during Top 18 week felt like a really solid episode of Law & Order to me — i.e. a perfectly entertaining routine while I watched it that dissolved from my memory banks practically the moment it was over.) And if the dancers aren’t popping, the choreographers have felt sapped of any real inspiration; only Mia Michael’s Ode de Derriere gave me something I hadn’t really seen before on the show. After the best Top 20 week in SYTYCD history, where was the spark, the fun, the wowza gotta-press-rewind-on-the-DVR-to-watch-that-again joy?
Well, I guess I chose the right week to do my annual from-the-studio-audience report, because last night’s show was all kinds of satisfying. I chose this week to go to the CBS Television City studio where SYTYCD shoots to give you all the what-you-didn’t-see-on-TV scoopage as recompense, if you will, for escaping from having to write about the last two disappointing weeks. Instead, I was treated to the unmistakable gift of a cha cha, contemporary, alien-impregnation-whatsit, pas de deux, and even the usually impossible quickstep that stood up against some of the most memorable SYTYCD routines ever. Even the judges managed to be insufferable in new and fascinating ways. Forthwith, my account of what the show was like without quick-cutting camera angles and editors snipping out the judges’ more awkward ramblings. (Yes, there are in fact things the judges say that don’t make it to air.)
NEXT: Preshow hijinks