Ninety minutes of wordy verdicts by the panel of judges made this episode of ''So You Think You Can Dance'' a trial
So You Think You Can Dance
Credit: Dan Karaty: Kelsey S. McNeal/FOX

”So You Think You Can Dance”: Talked to death

I’m officially giving tonight’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance a far more appropriate title: So You Think You Can Show Me Some Dancing?

I mean, seriously, 90 minutes of my life spent watching essentially the same scene, played out over and over and over, with nary a fresh moonwalk or head spin or pirouette to be seen. Instead, what Fox foisted on an audience worn down by summer reruns amounted to little more than the following: Host Lauren Sanchez, a woman who seems to have received the equivalent of Botox injections for both her voice and her personality — that is to say, she’s so smoothly void of edge that it’s creepy — methodically introduces us to one of the SYTYCD semifinalists. Each of those dancers goes into a room, one at a time, and stands before the show’s five choreographers. Cut to a very brief (and previously aired) clip of the dancer’s initial audition and/or footage from his or her Hollywood semifinal tryouts. Splice in some generic interview footage from at least two of the aforementioned choreographers, usually offering up opinions that contradict each other. Cut back to the dancer. Watch as the judges give a long-drawn-out verdict designed to toy with the young hopeful’s emotions and perhaps elicit a tearful response. Return to step one. Repeat — 24 times to be exact.

As I asked last week, how is it that the creators of the utterly addictive American Idol seem hell-bent on snuffing out even the slightest sense of excitement, suspense, or momentum from SYTYCD? If you left these people in charge of an extra-long Survivor, they’d leave out the tribal council. Or if they had to produce a 90-minute episode of Fear Factor, they’d try doing it without the grilled animal genitalia.

And that’s a shame, really, because of the 16 remaining dancers on the show, most appear to possess some serious talent and, just as important, scads of personality — so much so, in fact, that the producers’ transparent attempts to ”cast” certain dancers into reality-show archetypes via careful editing is both unconvincing and unnecessary. The judges keep telling Eastern European bombshell Snow Urbin, for example, that she has too much attitude and abandons her partners in choreographed routines. But where’s the incriminating footage of her crimes? All I see is a focused, talented pro whose exuberant freestyle routine had her fellow classmates chanting and clapping to the beat. About the only area where you can fault this dancing queen is her dubious wardrobe choices, like the silver, tiered taffeta skirt and midriff top she brought before the judges. (Ghastly junior-miss pageant apparel on a full-grown adult? Maybe not so much.) As for Ashle Dawson, who has looked like a serious contender since her opening-week audition to a modern drum track, it seemed as if the judges were reading off cue cards in trying to temper their justified enthusiasm for her abilities. Well, all of the judges except maybe salsa instructor Alex Da Silva, since ”unconsistent” isn’t actually a word.

Along with Snow and Dawson, I’d round out my totally unscientific and wildly premature top 6 with sweetly sexy Melody Lacayanga, hunky mattress dancer Craig DeRosa, exuberant ”big boy” Allan Frias, and dapper Jamile McGee. Of course, from what’s been shown thus far, there’s not much separating those dancers from the other 10 finalists, which might be a problem in and of itself. I’ve always felt one of the primary reasons Idol is so successful is that the show’s final 12 gives viewers a mix of A-level talent such as Fantasia and Kelly Clarkson facing middling karaoke acts like Nikki McKibbin and Scott Savol. When somebody like Jennifer Hudson goes home before a John Stevens, it may drive people who take their reality TV way too seriously (like me) into a blind rage, but it also gives everyone something to talk about the next morning around the Combos machine.

Unless a few of SYTYCD‘s contenders prove to be less fleet-footed than we’ve been led to believe, the show may cheat us of us that kind of drama. The only likely root-against hoofers I’ve observed are arrogant Blake ”no shirt, just suspenders” McGrath, who’s gotten an inordinate amount of screen time, and possibly the self-proclaimed ”hardest-working girl in show business,” Kamila Barrett. (Oy!) Whether McGrath and Barrett continue to inspire hateration, I just hope Fox wasn’t fudging the facts by saying we’ll get to see them actually perform next week. I wouldn’t normally doubt such a claim, but given that Sanchez’s repeated promise that tonight’s episode would end with performances by all the finalists resulted in nothing more than the 16 dancers getting introduced by first name, running out to the stage, and dancing for maybe 15 seconds tops, you can forgive my skepticism.

What do you think? Did this episode try your patience past the breaking point? Are you puzzled why snappy Nick McGough (the guy who auditioned in shredded red pants) didn’t make the cut? And, like me, are you at all concerned that Sanchez’s lack of charisma is making you long (just a little) for the much-maligned Ryan Seacrest?

Episode Recaps

So You Think You Can Dance

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.

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