''So You Think You Can Dance'': Fairness issues
”So You Think You Can Dance”: Fairness issues
Isn’t it nice when TV talent-show contestants make voters’ jobs easy? Take this week’s edition of So You Think You Can Dance. Of the 14 remaining hoofers, there’s a pair who stick out like Elaine Benes gettin’ ugly at an office holiday party: Michelle and Allan. With two obvious candidates for elimination, viewers won’t be compelled to shed any tears next week when the duo return to the relative anonymity of, say, wowing crowds on the floor at friends’ weddings, or choreographing their community theaters’ respective summer variety shows.
Wait a minute. What’s that I hear? Could it be the clichéd sound of a needle screeching across a record, the one that’s used in a gajillion movie trailers to signify a sudden shift in tone and content? I’m afraid it is, and that’s because, somehow, the judges forgot to include Allan, a.k.a. Big Papa, in the bottom 6. Perhaps, to paraphrase the song Allan and partner Kamilah boogied down to, err’body on the panel’s gettin’ tipsy.
How else to explain the fact that the exuberant, charismatic Craig — a lyrical dancer who still managed to completely out-hip-hop Allan on the latter’s own turf — is on the chopping block? Well, actually, there are a couple other ways to explain it. For starters, as host-bot Lauren Sanchez pointed out, of the six dancers up for elimination last week, Big Papa got the most viewer votes, so the producers know he’s a fan favorite, presumably thanks to the underdog status that comes along with his not quite lithe physique and self-deprecating personality. (His exhausted mid-rehearsal cry of ”I need Jenny Craig!” was particularly winning.) What’s more, SYTYCD comes from the producers of American Idol, and these folks know controversy goes a long way toward generating watercooler buzz, something SYTYCD isn’t generating much of, despite its decent ratings. We all know the word-of-mouth power that’s generated when, say, a John Stevens or a Nikki McKibbin outlasts a Jennifer Hudson or a Tamyra Gray, and since the final decision on SYTYCD isn’t entirely in viewers’ hands, why not manipulate things a little?
Not that I should be surprised by any of this. Judge-producer Nigel Lythgoe admitted in the audition episodes early this season that his goal was to cast a show, not necessarily find the best dancers, and Allan is, if nothing else, a character people can root for. I just wish he had the technical capabilities of competitors like Blake and Ryan. As scary Mary Murphy pointed out, Allan lucked out when he or his partner selected hip-hop the first two weeks; and if he’s not even the best in his own genre, how’s the dude going to fare when he’s asked to salsa, or samba, or fox-trot? Anyone else sense a week 3 disaster in the making?
On the women’s side, you know it’s either Michelle or Snow going home, but I’m hoping that Snow’s lightning-fast ballroom footwork and hilarious camera-hogging antics during the closing-credits freestyle dance-off will again score her enough votes to survive. Not to mention the fact that the judges would’ve never put her in the bottom 6 at all if her partner, Jamile, hadn’t been so painfully awkward during their quick-step. Surely, they couldn’t expect the stoic ex-Soviet chick to carry all that dead weight on her skinny shoulders!
Which brings me to my other complaint: Since the judges can clearly separate the individual performances in each pairing — Brian, Mary, and Nigel respectively praised Snow as ”exquisite,” ”fantastic” and ”superb,” while calling out Jamile’s mistakes — why not single out the three worst individuals of each gender, instead of selecting the three worst pairs, for potential elimination? It wouldn’t be a difficult rule to tweak, and it would certainly add to the fairness and legitimacy of the competition.
That said, two of the duos — Blake-Destini and Ryan-Melissa — were so seamless and strong that they almost defied separate critiques. The former pair is probably the more technically proficient, but it’s the latter, Ryan with his gravity-defying hair, Melissa with her Sandy Duncan-grin, who know how to win over an audience. A couple of their salsa moves lacked the necessary heat, but as delightfully loopy choreographer-judge Mia Michaels likes to point out, when you’re on that stage, it’s really about being a person, not a dancer. And so while my mind recognizes Blake and Destini as the most likely to score professional contracts, my heart chimes in that it’s Ryan and Melissa who I’d shell out money to watch.
Well them, plus my come-from-behind kids, Craig and Snow, who I’m going to spend the next seven days worrying about. Then again, maybe I should just relax. America did a pretty good job this week, letting the other dancing shoe drop for gangly Jonnis and desperate Sandra. Now if only those shady judges had given viewers the option this week of axing Allan.
What do you think? Will Craig’s insanely shredded torso (you know, the one he exposes at the end of every episode, promptly sending me into a shame spiral over my secret peanut M&M addiction) distract teenage girls and gay men from his overplucked Joan Crawford eyebrows and get him the votes to keep his dream alive? Will Snow’s hardened-by-the-tundra exterior help her ice out stripper wannabe Melissa and forgettable Michelle? And was it just me, or did Nigel look like he’d just returned from a session with the Queer Eye guys this week?
Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.