Tag Archives: Mary Murphy

All-Stars, No Story: Confusion reigns over So You Think You Can Dance Season 7

All-Stars, No Story: SYTYCD Season 7

June 16th, 2010

When it was announced that So You Think You Can Dance would be changing its structure for its seventh season, in theory there shouldn’t be any complaints: after all, many of the show’s fans were frustrated by the sixth season, where the series felt stale for the first time. However, that staleness wasn’t really the result of the show’s structure so much as the decision to schedule the series in the fall (only weeks after the fifth season ended) and an unfortunate new stage which sucked some of the life out of the series. We were suffering from fatigue more than anything else, and while some small changes could bring us back to the franchise it seems as if Nigel Lythgoe decided to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

While we’ve known for a while that the series was throwing out its Top 20 structure and going with a Top 10 (in fact a Top 11) and teaming up the individual competitors with All-Stars from previous seasons, it wasn’t entirely clear just how that would work. The show is still a collection of 11 dance routines as it was before, but there are newfound conflicts in who we’re supposed to be paying attention to (the competitor or the All-Stars), and with Mia Michaels sitting in for Mary Murphy there is simply something different in the air.

And it’s proving to be, at least right now, a diversion from what used to make the show so engaging – while my choice of title may make it seem like the problem is that the show is focusing too much on the All-Stars (I couldn’t resist the play on No Guts, No Glory), the truth is that they didn’t focus on the all-stars at all, which is even more distracting and confusing for audiences and judges alike.

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So You Think You Can Dance Season 6 – “Top 20”

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“Season Six – Top 20”

October 27th, 2009

The season started out with such promise: the Top 20 was touted as one of their best ever, and the network even gave them an hour of primetime to prove it last night when the dancers got to showcase their own personal styles in a series of group numbers. It made for a really engaging bit of television, a celebration of the individual dancers that Americans would be voting on.

However, as tonight’s performance show demonstrated, this season has very much been taken out of America’s hands, not in any substantial way but through a series of unfortunate circumstances. Just as viewers may have started falling in love with Billy Bell illness pulled him from the competition, and Noelle suffered a knee injury that seems likely to pull her from the competition considering the huge honkin’ brace she was sporting during tonight’s performance show. And to top it all off, with the World Series dominating Fox’s airwaves, America didn’t even get to vote for their favourites, meaning that two dancers were sent home without ever using their fingers to make numbers in front of millions of Americans.

It was an unfortunate turn of events because it takes a show that more than any other democratizes reality competition programming, emphasizing the America and Favourite in “America’s Favourite Dancer” with gusto, and turns it into a charade that this talented group of contestants doesn’t particularly deserve.

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So You Think You Can Dance Canada: Sugar and Spice, and Everyone’s (Too) Nice

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So You Think You Can Dance Canada:

Sugar and Spice, and Everyone’s (Too) Nice

Any good judging panel is kind of like the Seven Dwarves (stick with me here).

The people on the panel all play their roles, either productive (Doc, the wise leader), or conflicting (Grumpy, the curmudgeon), or entertaining (Dopey, the goof). Throw in a couple of variations here and there, and you have yourself a unit. It’s not an exact science, no, but the most important quality of those groups is that sense of diversity.

And So You Think You Can Dance Canada loves to talk about diversity. Where the American show tends to dumb down its categories to fit into more general categories (very rarely do you see them step outside of Hip Hop, for instance, outside of Krump), the Canadian edition loves to single out Dance Hall, and to indicate more clearly where they are drawing their inspiration. I don’t doubt that Canada has a diverse culture of dance, but the connection between this question of classification and our perception of Canada as a cultural mosaic of dance is pretty slim (and yes, this is my thesis bleeding into my viewing of a reality TV show – consider it my productivity for the evening).

The problem is that the judging panel doesn’t have any diversity in terms of how the judges actually, well, judge. They might represent a broad range of styles, but during this early part of the competition they have been beyond nice. There’s a place for a nice judge: Paula Abdul, now departed from American Idol, was an important part of that judging panel at the end of the day, even if I never felt as if she offered any substance. However, for some reason, the panel on SYTYCD Canada seems to be categorically focused on building up these dancers, focusing entirely on their strengths.

The problem with this isn’t that they shouldn’t be nice to dancers, or that they shouldn’t have positive things to say, but rather that it throws off the critical balance. When the judges are nice to everyone, including some admittedly flawed couples, but then rain down on the final performers, it creates an unrepresentative gap between the couples – in being too nice to almost all, they’re actually being CRUEL to the few people who they actually pan.

I’ve got a few more things to say about the judging below, and don’t worry – I’ll talk about the dancing a bit too.

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So You Think You Can Dance Season 5: The Finale Factor

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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.

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Don’t Call it a Comeback: Dancing out of the Bottom Three on So You Think You Can Dance?

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Don’t Call it a Comeback

Season Five, Top 18 Performance Show

I’m not quite an authority on dancing, nor do I really have the endurance to really comment on every single one of the Top 9’s dances during tonight’s performane show. As a result, I’m going to focus on the most interesting element of the week for me, which is seeing how the two surviving couples from the Bottom Three (Asuka & Vitolio and Jonathan & Karla) manage to bounce back from rough first weeks, plus offer some general thoughts on who I liked, and how the night went overall.

What I found from this perspective was honestly quite interesting, as you see how the luck of getting the right dance combines with the producers’ efforts to provide a moving story, as well as the dancers themselves stepping up to the plate to try to stay alive. The judges don’t want dancers to be down and out this early in the competition, nor are they going to purposefully try to sink someone, so these dancers are fully capable of making a dramatic comeback, winning the hearts of the judges, and winning over America at the same time.

Whether these two couples have done that…well, I’m not quite so sure, as it’s kind of tough to make that call without understanding the show’s dynamics.

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Finale: Who Won So You Think You Can Dance Season Four?

“Season Finale: Results”

August 7th, 2008

After one of the most well-structured pieces of fan service I’ve seen in a reality finale, emphasizing reliving past dances, seasons and even careers for its judges, it’s come down to this.

Could Twitch emerge from a few Bottom Three placements to win the day? Can Courtney overcome her technical deficiency with her charm and determination? Is Katee’s technicall brilliance a hindrance or a benefit with voters? And will Joshua’s feel good story and versatility win over America?

The votes are in, and it’s hard to argue with the decision.

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