The Finale Factor
August 5th, 2009
While I accept any and all criticism of reality television as far as the sheer gluttony of the stuff that arrived on the airwaves over the past decade or so, I will say right now that the “Finale” is the reason the genre has continued to appeal to me. There is something about sheer uncertainty that few scripted programs can really match, as there is often no way to choreograph (eww, sorry) the twists and turns that could potentially happen. With shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race, any small snafu could completely alter the power structure, leaving your expectations in tatters on the floor while an unexpected winner is crowned. That’s the kind of story that keeps me hooked on (good) reality television, and the kind of story that makes me believe the genre has a definite place.
However, for shows like So You Think You Can Dance and its musical counterpart, American Idol, there isn’t always that same sense of uncertainty. Sure, there’s always a chance that expectations can be defeated, but for the most part things have been narrowed to the point where the final performances are not a surprise, and where the result is more a foregone conclusion. Last year, I don’t think anyone believed that Joshua, with his combination of braces and some fantastic and memorable routines was beyond likeable, was going to lose, so the suspense was somewhat gone. On these shows, dancers give so many performances that there is a lot of empirical evidence for how audiences are responding and voting, and as a result one can feel like the finale is only going to cement what has already taken place.
All of this being said, I feel as if this fifth season finale of So You Think You Can Dance is an example of a finale that has only further complicated what has been a very difficult to read season. Most thought that Brandon and Janette, so strong throughout the competition, were going to sail into the finals, but both found themselves in the Bottom at Top 8 and Janette even went home. Evan, meanwhile, has lacked a single breakout performance, and yet has never fallen into the bottom. The top two girls, meanwhile, are Kayla the Partner Killer, who was regularly in the Bottom Three, and Jeanine, who carried Philip early in the competition before emerging as a powerhouse when it mattered most.
The result is a competition that’s too close to call, but based on the evening’s events I think we can say that this is a finale that will truly matter.