It’s funny, realizing just how long it’s been since I had to remember to turn the TV on at a particular time, on a particular channel, because I wanted to watch something current.
I watch a lot of TV, but 99.9% of it is on DVD, after the season is over. Commercials annoy the snot out of me; I like being able to hit pause and wander off to get a drink; I like watching the show at my own pace (which is often “marathon”). But when my mother was here a few weeks ago, we watched So You Think You Can Dance, and — gasp — I’ve continued to watch it since then.
Here’s why I like the show. (The dance thing, obviously, but there’s more to it than that.)
For starters, they’re doing a pretty good job of being open to all kinds of styles, from ballroom to ballet to street. Not only can you potentially get on the show whether you’re swing or crunk, once you’re there, they’ll make you operate outside of your safety zone. So we get hip-hop guys doing the foxtrot, and ballerinas grunging it up, and some of them adapt spectacularly. (It also, as a corollary, means that the show has a higher degree of racial diversity than I’ve seen practically anywhere on TV. I predict that once this week’s cuts are made, there won’t be any white guys left — and the only one remaining is a Hawaiian guy who looks like he has more than just Europeans in his ancestry.)
Also, until they get down to the last 10, the cuts are made by both popular and judge decision. That is, viewers vote, and then the bottom slice of contestants solo before the judges boot one guy and one girl. This guarantees that when you get to the final stages of the show, everybody left is actually good. You may have preferred someone who got cut, but the remaining dancers are at least worthy.
Which means that the later stages of the show are really friendly instead of vicious and cut-throat, at least as seen on TV. Tonight’s episode was one big love-in, with the judges raving about what beautiful dancers all of them are; even when they criticize, they often do it apologetically, with references to all the other wonderful things the dancer is capable of, even if they failed at the current routine. And since the contestants have to dance in pairs, whatever sniping may go on backstage, you don’t see it out front; trying to undercut your partner is about the stupidest move you could make. The best way to look good is to make the person you’re with look good. There’s no Donald Trump being an asshole at the contestants, no fake conflict generated to boost ratings.
So what you’re left with is a lot of friendly people creating beautiful and diverse art.
For that, I remind myself to turn on the TV every Wednesday at 8 p.m. It’s worth the effort.