By Guest Columnist Betty White
In case anyone has been living under a rock (or just been away from your TV set), this week was the two-hour-premiere-episode of So You Think You Can Dance – brought to you by the PRODUCERS OF AMERICAN IDOL. Now frankly, I’m surprised it took so long to get a show like this on the air. Considering the success American Idol had with signing, dancing seemed like a natural fit. And then with the summer success of Dancing With the Stars, this seemed like even more of a sure thing. But having sat through the premiere episode of So You Think You Can Dance, the jury is still out.Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the American Idol auditions. I’ve always waited until the fat has been trimmed before tuning in with the masses, but I do understand that I’m in the minority. Most people tune in to see the buffoons get skewered by Simon Cowell. The first few episodes of So You Think You Can Dance will be American Idol style — with the auditions happening in cities around the country. Idol/Dancer wannabes line up for hours just to get the opportunity to strut their stuff across the stage in front of the judges. SYTYCD promoted the fact that this show was being brought to us by American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, who plays the role of head judge. They make sure to let us know that he has extensive dance background and flash footage of him with the Queen and Celine Dion, among other questionable celebrities. At first I thought he was going to be a Simon Cowell rip-off, but although he is British, he’s not nearly as mean and doesn’t really even try to be. Probably a negative for SYTYCN.
The Ryan Seacrest of this show is Lauren Sanchez, who I recognize as a local Los Angeles newscaster. The thing that previously set her apart is that the local news producers, recognizing that she’s hot, had her do the news from a standing position, always wearing some kind of slinky, boob-showing outfit. SYTYCD producers continue with this theme. When we first see Lauren, she’s wearing bad lipstick, and we can immediately tell she’s chilly in a purple tank.
Anyway, after a bunch of set up with clips of bad and good auditions to come including break dancers, belly dancers and just god-awful dancers, we get down to business. Nigel is joined by two other judges: his wife, Bonnie Lythgoe (who looks like a cross between Camilla Parker Bowles and Penny Marshall) and Jeff Thacker, who is barely given a chance to say anything during the auditions. Later, in Chicago, Bonnie and Jeff stay in Britain, and Nigel judges with an unnamed Asian woman. Nigel sports a Madonna-type headset. We’re not really sure why he needs this. Is someone talking to him on the headset? We can hear Bonnie and Jeff just fine and they’re not wearing one. Hmmmmm.
First up is Cheryl, who immediately looks like a Britney Spears lookalike. And although they tell us that Cheryl only has been dancing for two years, we immediately know she will make it to the next round because they go to her hometown, interview her mother, and clearly spend way too much time on a clip for someone who’s going to get the axe. Cheryl does her thing on stage, throwing her hair around, and doing a poor imitation of Britney. When her routine is over, Nigel states the obvious, “You look like Britney.” She moves on to the afternoon round.
Next up is Christina, who tells the judges she’s employed at the Fun Zone. But we already know she’s not going to make it, because she is fat. And once the dancing begins, she looks like an elephant on stage. NEXT!
Nigel shows a particular interest in well-endowed Belly dancer Isis. He asks about her “accessories,” and no surprise here — she lets us know those double D cups were bought and paid for. The judges let her move onto the next round. After the audition in the hallway, Isis, recapping her audition tells us, “I danced like I know how to dance.” Gee, thanks.
Then the show bores us for a few minutes when four Ukrainians who don’t speak English show up and do a circus-type act. NEXT!
Then, after multiple rounds of afternoon cuts, the auditionees get their final time in front of the judges when most are cut, but Cheryl (aka Britney) is told that even though she’s not the best dancer, she’s going to Hollywood. Cheryl bounces off stage, out the door, and off to K-Fed to tell him the great news. No such luck for Isis and her boobs.
The next day we see more of the same. Musa, a break dancer from New Jersey has some of the best moves we’ve seen. Personally I think a lot of the break dancers are the best dancers on the show, but since almost none of them have ever taken a dance lesson, after making the first cut they are overwhelmed by the choreography and never seem to make it to the next round or Hollywood. Sorry Musa.
Before dancer Camilla goes out to strut her stuff for the judges, she describes her dancing to us “Hot pizzazz that reeks of sexuality.” A little full of ourselves, aren’t we Camilla?
Pretty soon we see Anthony, who is wearing tiny bicycle shorts and probably borrowed his shirt from his six-year-old brother, get his chance in front of the judges. He’s clearly a trained dancer (studied at Julliard he tells us). All is going well until he breaks out the ribbon (probably borrowed from the Ukrainians) and does a rhythmic gymnastic routine. The judges are not impressed, but since he actually can dance, they let him go through to the next round.
We see another Britney, this one is named Melissa. She dances better than Cheryl-Britney. There’s filming at her house too. We know this one will make the cut.
Then there is Brandon. At first we think, Brandon’s fat — no way is he going to make it. But surprisingly Brandon can hip hop. “Don’t let anyone tell you big people can’t dance,” Nigel says. Clearly, before this very moment, he thought fat people couldn’t dance either. But really, if Brandon was Brenda, he’d never make the cut. No one wants to see a big girl bounce around the stage, no matter if they have moves or not.
One guy grabs his crotch three times, but that’s ok, he makes it through to the next round. We have an American Idol moment when a girl, who clearly can’t dance, fights back and tries to tell the judges that they are wrong, she can dance. But Nigel is no Simon, and the girl gets in the last word.
Poor Anthony, still wearing his outfit and lisping away, is told he’s too feminine to make the cut. He tried to argue for a minute, but that won’t work; the judges’ minds are made up. “No one’s ever told me I look feminine when I dance with the ribbon,” he tells us once we get into the hallway. Anthony, it’s obvious: no one ever thought they had to.
Another montage of hometown moments for Maritska, who left her husband because he didn’t support her dancing career. Lucky for you Mariska, you made the right decision, because with all that hometown footage, you’re clearly going to Hollywood.
The day’s first real fattie, Eugene, comes on stage. Surely this is just comic relief. Brandon’s just slightly overweight, but you know Eugene is probably pushing the scales at three maybe even four hundred pounds. In the previews, they billed him as the Nutty Professor, and the comparison is dead-on. He dances to Donna Summer with his stomach hanging below his T-shirt. He’s cut and walks out onto the rainy Chicago street, carrying an umbrella so small that it barely covers his head.
As the magical hour approaches 10 p.m., two hours of endless auditions are nearly over. But we are rewarded for our patience with the best moment of the evening. Lisa, age 29 (who also made the first cut as a singer on American Idol, but here was reprimanded for dancing like an 18-year-old) is told she’s going to Hollywood. Excited she runs out to the hall and receives a big hug and congratulations for a balding, mustached 50-something. “How great to have your dad here,” says Lauren Sanchez, in her role as commentator. “My boyfriend,” Lisa corrects her. “Oops, my bad,” Lauren tells us.