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'So You Think You Can Dance': The thinking man's reality TV dancing show

May 31, 2007 | 10:34 am

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It’s early in the season, so all this potential goodwill has lots of room to be spoiled, but “So You Think You Can Dance” seems to insult its audience’s intelligence much less than the average reality TV show. While there are times where the viewers at home are being overly played to (did we really need two contestants who managed to power through with false limbs?), in large part the show seems to treat its fans and participants with a healthy amount of respect. Maybe they have a small budget or something.

A few reasons why “So You Think You Can Dance” isn’t as guilty a pleasure as it might first seem:

1) The judges. Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and whoever is sitting in the third seat (it’s been rotating these last two episodes) have no catchphrases, no eye-rolling, no slurring. They tell the dancers when they’re good but moreso, tell the dancers when they’ve been entertaining. They don’t sugarcoat the bad news but at the same time don’t make a point of sticking the dagger as far as it can go just for entertainment’s sake (we’re looking at you, Simon Cowell). A good example was the overweight young man who tried out in L.A. in the first hour: while Nigel chided him for his build and astutely pointed out the audience was being patronizing when they cheered for him, the judge admitted that he actually had potential and to keep going. The result? An out of breath, yet dry-eyed contestant who promised he’d try again.

2) It might be the most gay-friendly show on network television. This is obviously hard to prove. However, if sweeping generalizations may be made, a show about dancers is likely going to net a few gay male contestants. Unlike on other network shows, though (reality and scripted), they’re not turned either into bland sexuality-free Ken dolls or mincing attitude queens. There are some gay folks on the show. They’re here to dance. That’s just about it. It’s refreshing. It’s surprising it’s not on the Bravo network.

3) Cat Deeley. We just can’t get enough of her! We’re still trying to find out what the inevitable weakness is in the host of the show but she’s still cute as a button, articulate and seems to have personality. She’ll probably either be fired soon or given her own talk show.

The only area where the audience could actually use a bit more pandering to, it seems, is when it comes to the actual dancing. While “Dancing with the Stars” would fill in the viewers on what made a particularly good Foxtrot or Samba, it’s occasionally difficult to tell the varying degrees of dancing skill between the contestants on “SYTYCD,” especially when they’re all performing in different genres. And when it comes to the numerous fresh-faced, long-haired hardbodied female dancers who do high leg kicks and splits to inspirational songs, a little guidance on why we should care for one more than the other might be helpful. Other than who is the prettiest, of course.

-- Claire Zulkey

(Photo courtesy Fox)

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