Welcome back to So You Think You Can Dance! Reality TV’s little engine that could has returned for another season of unlikely partnerships, emotional backstories, and dresses that only Cat Deeley can pull off. The series is shaking things up this year, but Cat is still here to guide us through—so we’re going to be okay. Let’s meet our “jidges.”
Jason Derulo: R&B star, experienced dancer, professional dirty talker. He can make you famous on Instagram. His next album drops tonight. He likes singing his own name. Cat pronounces it like “Derillo,” which is potentially humbling for him.
Paula Abdul: Cat introduces Paula as a “multi-platinum, Grammy-winning pop music and dance icon” but neglects to mention that she once did a music video with MC Skat Kat or that my parents put me in dance class after I spent an entire day watching her choreography videos. Wipe American Idol from your brains, kids. This woman danced with an animated cat. She deserves this.
Nigel Lythgoe: As always, the man who created the show is here to watch everyone’s feet and make the tough calls. Remember when he told Mary not to touch his water because it was vodka? Classic.
We’ve said goodbye to Mary Murphy and her Hot Tamale Train—will Paula and Jason step it up and invent a new imaginary ride for the hottest dancers? The panel of judges isn’t rotating this year, but I’ll continue to hold out hope for a surprise visit from Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
In another season 12 shakeup, “stage” dancers and “street” dancers are now going head to head. The top 20 will be split into two teams, with one member of each team going home every week until the finale, at which point one winner will be crowned. The teams will be captained by two of So You Think You Can Dance’s most prolific all-stars: Travis Wall (for Team Stage) and tWitch (for Team Street). It remains to be seen how well this new system will hold up in the performance round; what matters now is that we get Travis and tWitch every week. That’s always a good thing.
And just so we can all have something familiar, callbacks are back in Vegas this year.
Everyone caught up to speed? Cue music on day one of the Memphis auditions.
Peyton Albrecht, 18 (Team Stage): In one back of his head, Peyton knows he’ll make it. In the other, he’s not so sure. No one follows up on what this implies about the shape of his head. Peyton is a powerful dancer who does a weird move with his pants at one point, but is otherwise engaging, blending graceful pirouettes with sharp contemporary moves. He looks like a young Travis Wall. I just want to get that out there now, because in a few minutes, Nigel will also call him a young Travis Wall. Stop looking at my notes, Nigel.
Jason calls Peyton “the kind of dancer that wakes the audience up,” which is a good way to start the day. Paula sounds almost disinterested as she tells him that he has it all. She might not be fully awake yet, but Peyton is going to Vegas.
NEXT: Twerking in Memphis