Day 10 – A show you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
It was at the Dead Dog dinner at OVFF that we found ourselves sharing a table with our good friend markbernstein, and the animated conversion turned its way to television, as it does. We listed the various things we were watching, and Mark began to enthusiastically tell us about his favourite show, So You Think You Can Dance
I have to admit, I was sceptical. I’m not a big fan of “reality Tv’ as a genre; while I admit some are less tawdry than others, they all seem to have the same sort of backbiting commentary and bitter factionalism, which honestly I tend not to find entertaining over long stretches of time. But Mark insisted that SYTYCD had a different tone and that we should give it a try. That week was going to be the first episode with the Top 20 from that season (season 6), and thus would be a good point to jump on. So when we got home, we thought “well, why not” and punched it up on the Tivo, determined to at least give it a fair viewing before writing it off.
I wasn’t surprised to find it mildly entertaining. Good dance is always fun to watch, and the mix of styles (both in the variety of performers and the variety of choreography) kept it from developing any sense of sameness, and if nothing else, it was (to steal kitanzi‘s phrase) “pretty people doing pretty things’, which isn’t a bad way to spend a couple of hours when nothing else is on.
I was surprised to see how quickly we both got invested in the show and the contestants. From the first episode, we were already noting our favourites, and as the weeks passed, we got more and more connected to these people. We were actually disappointed when one of “our” dancers went home, and before we knew it, it went from “something to fill the slow season” to “must-see TV”. I even ditched a standing engagement so we could watch the season finale live and actually vote, something we didn’t do up to that point (usually we were watching the episodes 24 hours after they aired.) The first week after the finale, we had pangs of withdrawal, because our new favourite show wasn’t on, and we eagerly looked forward to the start of Season 7 (just recently completed).
I’ve given a lot of thought to why this show has managed to capture my heart, when no other show like it has been able. I’m not that big a dance fan1; if it were merely the form of art, I’d expect myself to like American Idol, and I don’t. There’s nothing particularly novel about the format, which has been used on everything from Vatican City Idol to The Belgian Congo’s Got Talent, none of which lured me in.
I think the big difference for me is how overwhelmingly positive the whole show is. None of the judges are snarky for the sake of being snarky; they genuinely critique the performances2, giving praise when its merited and criticism when it’s needed, but there’s no viciousness in their remarks. More to the point, the competitors seem to genuinely like each other. You can see them turning into a company by the middle of the season. They support each other, cheer each other on, and get emotional when one of them has to go. The whole thing is just uplifting in tone, and the world needs more of that.
I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Mark, without whom I would likely never have taken a moment to consider watching this show. I’m already looking forward to Season 8!
1Well, I wasn’t then, at least. It’s grown rather a bit on me.
2I’ve done competition theatre. I know the difference.