So! We’re at the end of the road that is season 3, and Nigel Lythgoe has somehow convinced Fox Broadcasting that four hours were necessary to put the lid on this sucker. Proving that the giant collective ego that is American Idol doesn’t have a patch on SYTYCD. Simon Cowell, eat your heart out.
Except that modern dance isn’t quite as popular as pop music (would they call it “pop dance”, then?), and show hostess Cat Deeley – who is as woefully dressed as we’ve ever seen her, in strapless brown (yes, brown) sateen with a dreadful flounced netting making her look eight months pregnant – proudly announces that there was a record-setting 16 million votes this week. What number of votes did American Idol pull in again? Wasn’t it something like 38 million? Rest easy, Simon C. – the fact that Paula Abdul is in the SYTYCD audience means nothing. She probably just needs some additional footage for her reality show. Probably.
The top 20, all clad in white, are introduced – good thing because I’ve totally forgotten about Jesus and Anya – and then Cat gets to the really important stuff. The important stuff being that she’s going to dance with Nigel tonight. Well, there is two hours to get through, after all.
The judges are introduced – that’s almost all the judges, actually. The ones that they liked enough to sit onstage at the finale. Adam Shankman is probably fuming out there in the audience. In the places of honor are Mia Michaels, Shane Sparks, Wade Robson, Dan Karaty, and the ones that never go away, Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe. Cat briefly interviews each, and everyone is full of love and positive thoughts, as to be expected. Nigel shakes it up a bit by pointing out Paula Abdul – who displays splendid coordination skills by managing to wave modestly at the camera and hide her pocket flask away all in one swift movement – and Claire Calloway. Who the hell is Claire Calloway, you ask? Some awesome dancer from season 2 who sprained her ankle, then had the bad manners to get herself pregnant in spite of having a personal invite from the judges to return for season 3. In Nigel’s world, this is good enough for a special spot in tonight’s audience, and Claire triumphantly cuddles her little girl while beaming at the judges’ panel. Gee, you think she’ll be back for season 4? Unless she gets taken hostage in Lebanon or something…that’s pretty much all that’s left for personal emergencies that render her unable to dance.
And so, the 115 minutes of filler begin
Once the judges stop talking, Cat trundles out that tired old barrel of tricks, the audition clips. Because if a finale show is two hours long, you can be sure there’s going to be plenty of re-living the past in the form of audition tapes. So there’s a long, dull montage of the high-and low-lights of the auditions – the freaks, the geeks, the cowboys, and the ones that make you go “What the hell was that?” Then just before you seriously start to wonder what you wasted your time watching all summer long, there’s some of the top 20’s special moments. Just so you can reassure yourself that your summer wasn’t a total waste.
Something that SYTYCD does better – much, much better – than American Idol is group routines. The first one (oh yes, my friends, there’s more than one…in fact, there’s more than two) is Tyce D’orio’s Lion King routine, performed by the entire top 20. And it’s quite well-done, and very impressive with all twenty onstage at once. Still no Pumbaa and Timon, though.
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
The judges’ opinions count, really they do. To prove it (and to kill the remaining 108 minutes) the producers have decided to let the judges and choreographers pick a few of their favorite things. Mary promised not to unleash her high-decibel beast tonight, so she gets to go first. As much as she avowedly despised Cedric when he was a member of the top 20, she gets all misty-eyed and nostalgic as she recalls how blown away she was by him in the auditions. The routine she really wants to see, though, is Shane Sparks’ Transformer-inspired hip-hop number, to Pitbull’s “Fuego” starring Lauren and Pasha. I’m sure Mary’s choice has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that these were the very two dancers who were unceremoniously punted from last week’s final six in the infamous “studio lockdown”. The duo do a splendid job – funny how good people are when there’s nothing left to lose – and join Cat, who apologetically reminds the audience that they got a pretty lousy sendoff. Cat encourages everyone to contribute to a rousing round of applause for the two dancers, and the audience and judges oblige by jumping to their feet and cheering. Anticlimactic, much? Lauren and Pasha modestly wave to the crowd and are hustled off, because it’s time for more audition footage. Because watching clips of a bunch of lousy dancers is way more important than honoring a couple of hoofers that only made it to the final six, after all.
Vote for Pedro
“Riverdance” was a big, big hit, back in the ‘90’s. Had it been a big hit more recently, I’d guess that young Brandon Norris might have cracked the top 20. Cat assures us that Brandon is not just some random audition hopeful, because having somebody like that as a guest on the finale show would be stupid. No, Brandon is a clogger extraordinaire – in fact, he’s so good that he can clog to Timbaland’s “The Way I Are”. This unusual talent has earned him a few minutes on tonight’s show, and I admit both Brandon and his dancing are oddly appealing, for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on. He’s sort of like the Napoleon Dynamite of clogging, I suppose. And his number goes over just as well as Napoleon’s did at the school election.
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
There’s an overly long plug for the upcoming Fox show, American Band, explained by the fact that Nigel is producing it and he needs to take up some of the 98 remaining minutes to encourage us all to watch it later this fall. This gives Nigel the opportunity to segue into a few more of his favorite things, now that he’s covered off money and free advertising. Nigel wants to see Jaime and Hok reprise their bird-and-flower jazz routine to “The Chairman’s Waltz”, from the Memories of a Geisha soundtrack. The pair does an extraordinary job of the Wade Robson choreography once again – Hok in particular shines – and they happily tell Cat that fans of the show always compliment them on this number, and deservedly so.
Jean-Marc Genereux, ballroom-dance choreographer, has surprisingly chosen a hip-hop routine as his favorite thing. He wants to see Shane Sparks’ “slow” hip-hop to Ne-Yo’s “Make It Work”, as performed by Dominic and Sabra. Sabra, who more than ever appears to defy gravity even while doing the most mundane steps, is a standout in this number, and Dominic manages to not drop or manhandle her this time around. Dom, still the good-natured comic, tells Cat that he’s jealous that Sabra has made it so far in the competition, then quickly hugs his tiny partner and praises her talent.
Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Up next on the My-Favorite-Things list is Adam Shankman, Broadway musical guy who’s currently riding high on his “Hairspray” success (and Adam, I know that you would definitely get my subtitles, because you probably have the director’s cut gold-label DVD version of “The Sound Of Music”, bless your heart) has chosen Sara & Neil’s disco routine to Rachel Stevens’ rendition of “Knock On Wood”. The dance is as cute and energetic as Sara & Neil themselves, though I notice the stylists are still pissed at Sara – they’ve given her a gruesomely exaggerated version of ‘70’s-style curly bangs, which she bravely declares she loves.
Little Man, Big Stage
Yet another round of audition clips – this time featuring poppers, breakers, and krumpers (and for everyone born after 1985 – those are actual forms of hip-hop dancing). This is all to introduce another SYTYCD hopeful, who garnered a standing O from the judges at his audition, not to mention an offer of a movie role from Shane Sparks. Who is this marvelously talented individual who wasn’t good enough for the top 20, you ask? It’s Brian Gainer, and before you can say, “WHO?” – he’s the little person who has a
damned weirdhighly unusual style that can best be described as “special needs robot-boy mime”. Now before you send me an angry PM, go back and watch him dance. I defy you to come up with a more apt description. Wade Robson would have the time of his life choreographing a piece for this guy. Brian does his thing – for lack of a better word – to Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man”, and the judges lap it up, while the audience cheers because, well, that’s what a talent show audience does. And you would no more boo Brian Gainer than you would kick a puppy.
Cat reminds us that she’s going to dance with Nigel later in the show. I’m thinking that they should have made her dance with Brian – now that would be filler worth missing a bathroom break for, don’t you think?
Group routine #2 is a Shane Sparks hip-hop number, set to Ciara’s “Get Up”. If you don’t recall it, it’s the one that has Lauren tarted up all Trinity-style in a black leather trenchcoat, with everyone else in gray suits. It eats up a few minutes, then Nigel tells us that he’s already hired the “alternates” for the SYTYCD tour, and those lucky extras are Jesus, Shauna, and Hok. They’ll perform in case any of the better dancers become ill while on tour. I’m thinking that’s a pretty awesome gig – you get to travel around, for free, and possibly not have to work at all. It’s enough to make me want to audition myself next season.
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wade Robson’s favorite thing is Hok in L.A. Which sounds pretty x-rated when stated like that. Never mind, it’s not what he really likes, anyway – Wade wants to see Lacey & Danny’s samba, to “Hip Hip Chin Chin”. Not only is this a killer routine, it has some seriously cool music. It’s also (arguably) Lacey’s best performance of the entire competition. Wade has some good taste going on in that weird little mind of his, plus he’s conveniently chosen a routine that includes two of the final four. Not to let such a golden opportunity slip by, Cat charges up to the pair after their performance and announces that one of them is getting the boot from the competition, effective immediately. The first elimination of the evening turns out to be Lacey, and there’s barely a ripple in the audience at this news. Brother and season 2 winner Benji bounds up onstage to hand his sister a huge and rather ugly flower arrangement, but other than that, Lacey is given the usual SYTYCD video journey as a fare-thee-well. For those who are keeping track, the final 3 dancers are Danny, Sabra, and Neil. Do I really need to tell you that one of the guys is going next?
Hiss and spit
Usually, one doesn’t expect much from a reality show’s “musical” guests. At the same time, there’s hardly ever a “musical” guest that I have such disdain for that the very word “musical” gets quotation marks. For the finale, the best that SYTYCD could do apparently is…Nicole Scherzinger. I hear a chorus of “WHO???”, again. Nicole’s claim to fame is being a former member of the softcore porn pop ensemble known as The Pussycat Dolls. She’s doing her, uh, single, “Whatever U Like”, and it involves lots of posing and hair-tossing. And frankly, I’ve already taken up far too much space talking about her – space that could be far better taken up with making fun of Cat’s dress.
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Time for yet more favorite things, and Tyce D’orio likes Jean-Marc Genereux’s foxtrot to that old standard, “It Had To Be You”, courtesy of Danny and Anya. It’s a sweetly old-fashioned routine, though a bit underwhelming after the clogging champ and Lauren & Pasha’s skeleton-stencilled hoodies. Tony Meredith’s pick is Wade Robson’s vagabond number, “Cabaret Hoover”, with Sara and Jesus in funky little flapper and newsboy rags. For someone eliminated so early on, we’re certainly seeing a lot of our b-girl tonight. No, I’m not complaining – this particular routine was my own favorite thing this season, and besides, you have to love a girl who can spin on her head.
Mia Michaels gets her turn next, and though she really liked Sabra & Neil’s Paso Doble, she’d prefer to see the pair’s jazz routine to the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams”. It’s another personal favorite of mine, and not just because I’m a huge Annie Lennox fan – the corporate theme is unusual and Sabra & Neil enthusiastically pound the “boardroom table”, plus Neil again does that eye-popping “plank” move over Sabra. The repeat performance earns a standing ovation from Mary and Nigel, and again it’s super-convenient that this particular couple danced together tonight because it’s time for the last elimination before the last elimination. Cat calls Danny onstage with Sabra and Neil, which proves to be unnecessary as Neil is the dancer sent packing. There’s some sad wails from the young ladies in the audience, and Neil is handed the same ugly bundle of flowers Lacey received while Cat embraces him and Nigel declares him to be a “lovely lad”. In the event you’re not paying attention, Sabra & Danny are announced to be the finalists, except that we all have to wait just a little bit longer to hear the winner’s name.
Nigel smokes some hot tamales
The final group number of the evening is set to Imogene Heap’s “The Moment I Said It”, featuring the top eight or so dancers dressed all in black, with black eye-mask makeup. Very arty, very contemporary, very…annoying at this point, because we’re soooo close and yet so far from hearing who won.
And now it’s time for Cat and Nigel’s dance. Mary, snickering away at the judges’ table, introduces SYTYCD’s “very own hot tamales” – and within 30 seconds, I’m wanting to throw Nigel under Mary’s little hot tamale train. The “dance” turns out to be a video of a bizarre-looking superimposition of Cat & Nigel’s heads onto two creepy cardboard-cutout dancing bodies, dressed in charro suits. It’s basically the kind of thing they do on kids’ TV shows, but Nigel thinks this is high-tech comedy gold – in fact, he’s back at the judges’ table, convulsed with laughter. It’s been a long season for Mr. Executive Producer, I guess.
When the dog bites/When the bee stings/When I'm feeling sad/I simply remember my favorite things
Musical guest #2 is Ryan Cabrera, who penned the SYTYCD “goodbye” song, “I Will Remember You”. Hope you all were quicker with your mute button then I was – if you weren’t, then you already know the song is standard pop mush, made no better by the giant video screen in the background playing yet more clips of the past season. And don’t even get me started on the guy’s hat.
Dan Karaty got the last spot in the favorite things line likely because he picked Mia Michaels’ tearjerker “flower” routine, with Lacey as Mia and Neil as Mia’s late father. I hate to mock what’s obviously a heartfelt piece by the show’s top choreographer, so I’ll leave it by saying it fell a little flat the second time around. It didn’t help that Lacey seemed to be smirking rather than smiling sweetly at her “father”. Is it too late to replace her with Sabra?
Speaking of our girl wonder, she’s finally onstage with Danny to hear the results of the voting. The pair exchange compliments and hugs, and after a long preamble about their respective talent, Cat announces that Sabra is this season’s winner. A load of ticker-tape descends from the rafters, and the other dancers hoist Sabra on their shoulders, while Cat rapidly signs off. And yes, it was just that fast – in fact, it probably took me longer to type this paragraph out. Seeing as Fox cheated Sabra of the fanfare she deserves, let’s briefly take a moment to wish this marvelously talented young lady the best for her future career. You go, girl!
That’s it, dance fans…many, many thanks to the wonderful Leo, recapper extraordinaire, who’s brought us his brilliant take on this season’s performances, and to all of you readers for hanging in there all summer. I’m off to my krumping lesson!
What are a few of your favorite things? PM me.