''So You Think You Can Dance'': Mistrial and error
”So You Think You Can Dance”: Mistrial and error
I’ve never been much for reality-show conspiracy theories — I tend to believe Ruben Studdard and Kelly Monaco won their respective American Idol and Dancing With the Stars titles fair and square — but after watching tonight’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance, my internal rat radar is beeping something fierce.
You see, over the last six weeks, SYTYCD‘s producers have devoted quite a bit of camera time to Allan ”Big Papa” Frias, a plus-size guy with a plus-size personality and some halfway decent dance moves. In the early auditions, he was a natural underdog to root for, but all that changed when he reached the finals against 15 major-league players. There, poor Allan swung and missed in his first two at-bats, even though he randomly selected his preferred dance style, hip-hop, on both occasions. Problem is, the first time the judges put him up for elimination, soft-hearted viewers rushed to his rescue, giving him the highest number of votes among the six at-risk contestants. In effect, SYTYCD has created a monster: a fan favorite who needs to be voted out — stat!
We’ve all seen this movie before: Every year on American Idol, some middling kid with a sad story or a winning smile (Scott Savol, Nikki McKibbin, Carmen Rasmussen) outlasts more talented rivals by appealing to voters’ hearts, not their tin ears. But because SYTYCD is structured differently — judges nominate a handful of dancers for possible elimination, then pass the power to the public — there’s more room for meddling.
Did something wicked happen this week? Well, let’s look at the evidence. No doubt about it, Allan was destined for this week’s bottom two men. His lyrical dance with Melody — a military-themed routine to Elton John’s ”Rocket Man” — was, in the words of judge Mia Michaels (arguably the show’s nicest panelist) ”beautifully awful and odd.” I would put it more bluntly: With the way Allan heaved and lugged poor Melody around the stage, he might have a future as a furniture mover, but as a professional dancer…maybe not so much.
And thus we come to the judges’ quandary: If they did the right thing and nominated last night’s actual second worst male performer as Allan’s rival for elimination, they ran the risk of Big Papa’s surviving for another week of disastrous disco or dubious paso doble. The other option, of course, was to place spiky-haired hip-hopper Ryan, the only guy who seems to have a bigger fan base than Allan, in the bottom 2.
Call me crazy, but I can’t find any other way to explain the unanimous spanking Ryan and Snow got after a hip-hop routine that looked perfectly good to me. Honestly, when Mia called their dancing ”awful” and judge Mary Murphy accused them of having ”no fire or energy,” I started channeling Snow’s stony glare. Granted, the editing on SYTYCD — with loads of close-ups and quick cuts — makes it hard to tell whether the partners are completely in sync, but in my mind, Ryan and Snow were far better than Nick and Kamilah, whose disco routine featured a closing lift so slow and shaky it was like watching a 102-year-old woman reaching to put a family-size jar of peanut butter on the highest shelf in her pantry. If judge Brian Friedman really thinks Nick and Kamilah were ”9000 percent perfect,” then the guy’s got no business pretending to be impartial. (As for Nigel Lythgoe’s assessment that the performance took him back 30 years to Studio 54, well, somehow that’s an image I could’ve lived without.)
Of course, even if somehow I’m totally wrong about Nick and Kamilah, then let me ask this: Why didn’t the judges rank Jamile and Destini’s Viennese waltz below Ryan and Snow? Sure, they looked awfully attractive in their ballroom gear, but as their choreographer, Ron Montez, pointed out, the dance should look like a scene from a movie — and he didn’t mean March of the Penguins. Okay, maybe that’s unnecessarily harsh, but why is it that the judges make excuses for certain contestants who are dancing in a style different from their specialty and then, minutes later, fail to follow the very same logic with another couple?
It’s this kind of maddeningly consistent inconsistency that makes a trusting guy like me get all paranoid. Or maybe I’m just bitter that Craig, who seemed to me to be one of the few competitors well-rounded enough to beat out super-smug Blake for the whole ball of wax, got eliminated at the beginning of the show. That said, I think the kid opened plenty of audition doors for himself by graciously saying, ”I just graduated high school — my story’s just beginning.”
So who’s left to outlast Blake? I’d give spunky Melissa an outside shot, or maybe Ashlé (if she cuts it out with the fright-mask eye makeup), or even two of this week’s at-risk dancers, Ryan and Melody. The only thing is, I’d be a lot more excited about picking up the phone and voting if Fox had more faith in viewers’ opinions than in the supposed impartiality of SYTYCD‘s judges.
What do you think? Should SYTYCD adopt an American Idol-style voting system? Do you feel Ryan and Snow got treated unfairly this week? And do Brian Friedman’s clothing choices scare the bejesus out of you, too?
Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.