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"So You Think You Can Dance": Raise a glass of Gatorade -- we have a new winner!

August 12, 2010 | 10:01 pm

_PG29648-1 Well, I was satisfied with the outcome of Thursday’s “SYTYCD” finale: were you?  Of course, there was a lot of stuff enjoy (or fast-forward through) before we actually got to the results.

The show opened with a Christopher Scott group number featuring the Top 11 and All-Stars, which showcased Melinda and even still-infirm Alex hand-dancing.

Before the judges got to their seasonal review of their favorite dances, we saw some silly but cute montages of the judges, including one of Nigel’s various hairstyles, one of Mia’s made-up words and one of Adam’s various sexy-n’-serious facial expressions.

The encores began, as Kenny Ortega selected Kent and Neil’s “Shoeless Joe” routine, which was not one of my favorites. But I was happy to then see, as picked out by Nigel, Billy and Ade’s “Mad World.”

Then we broke for a funky, bouncy guest performance by Hok’s Quest crew, before Mia chose Adechike and Comfort to reprise “Fallin’.”  Once again we saw Kent and Anya’s “My First Kiss,” and then, another one of my favorites of the season, Dominic and Robert’s creepy clown routine “Scars.”

I still get a warm and fuzzy feeling from all the footage of people celebrating National Dance Day, which is an example of why I admire Nigel Lythgoe.  He could sit back and count his millions as a TV producer and personality but he’s out there making things like that happen. And he’s not too big to get up onstage and ham around. I was kind of bummed that we didn’t actually see him dance, but it was fun to watch him share the stage with 7-year-old tapping prodigy Luke.

Next the Manzari brothers showed us some grown-up tap-dancing. While I was watching them I started thinking about the Hines brothers, so it’s funny that when I Googled the brothers I found this footage of Maurice Hines introducing them.

Back to the contestants. Nigel introduced Lauren and Pasha’s Argentinean tango, and Adam selected Robert and Allison’s “Fix You,” which I think was actually better this time around, thanks to Robert’s improvement throughout the season.

Last season’s winner, Russell, returned to do a krump routine with Li’l C. I can’t believe we only had one krump routine all season...and it featured Billy Bell.

Speaking of returns, Mary Murphy came back to introduce her favorite dance, Dominic and Jose’s “Battle for the Beat.” It was nice to see Mary again but personally I think this was the perfect amount of Mary for the season. The screaming: I can only take so much.

Before our first round of results, “SYTYCD” UK winner Charlie Bruce performed a Mandy Moore jazz dance with Neil.  It was a lovely dance with some amazing catches, and she seems to deserve the exposure. I have friends who watch international versions of the show when the U.S. version isn’t on the air, so this is an example of what I’ve been missing.

Then we learned who came in third in the competition and I’m sad to say it was Robert. I would have liked to see him place better than that, but I didn’t vote so I guess I got what I deserved.

No time to mourn, though! On to Lauren and Twitch reprising “My Chick Bad,” which served as a good visual reminder of Lauren’s strength in different genres.

Alex got to live once again in the competition as we watched video of him performing “Hallelujah” with Allison, and then we moved on to Billy and Robert’s Bollywood dance and then Neil and Kent’s wonderful Travis Wall dance about a broken friendship.

Before we got to the show’s VERY SPECIAL SURPRISE SPECIAL GUEST (can you tell I got a little sick of the hyping?), the band Black Gold came on to perform the song “Shine,” the song to which the contestants’ “You lose! Go home!” packages are set.

Are you ready to learn who the VERY SPECIAL SURPRISE SPECIAL GUEST was? I’ll give you a hint: It’s someone who used to be on a show that Nigel Lythgoe now (again) produces: Ellen DeGeneres! I have to admit that since I got the news about her appearance early on Wednesday, I was a little burnt out on the buildup. But I came around. She reprised Alex’s role in his famous Nappytabs hip-hop routine with Twitch. The dance was edited a bit so Ellen could clown it up but I’ve got to admit, she did the work and it was clear that she practiced and took it seriously, so all sarcasm aside: Go Ellen! After the dance she put in a plug for National Dance Day.

After this bit of fun came some good news: We have a new winner of “SYTYCD” and it’s Lauren!  Cue an explosion of star-shaped confetti. Lauren looked thrilled although Russell presenting her with a bottle of Gatorade was maybe not as triumphant as if she’d be handed a huge bouquet of flowers. I loved the fun the contestants had with her at the end of the show, carrying her on their shoulders and throwing streamers at her.

So, yes, it was a strange season.  I’ve seen other blogs dissect what went wrong with it, and while it won’t go down in history as the best season of the show, as someone who’s watched a lot of longstanding reality TV shows, I’m happy that Nigel Lythgoe and the other producers took some risks.  A lot of other shows (“Idol,” “Project Runway,” “Top Chef,” “ANTM”) could use similar shakeups, in my opinion, just because it shows more creativity and thoughtfulness than churning out the same thing season after season.  The biggest problem with the season, obviously, was the injuries, and I think three hours a week throughout the entire season was a bit much. But while I missed the contestants pairing with each other at the beginning of the show, there’s no doubt that dancing with the All-Stars did help the contestants improve at an exponential rate. Not all the changes worked, but overall, in my opinion, change is good.

-- Claire Zulkey

Photo: The final 11 contestants and the All-Star dancers perform. Credit: Frank Micelotta / Fox