Tuesday is Groundhog Day, and this So You Think You Can Dance fan has a dream.
Whether or not Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, Fox executives must retreat to the nearest conference room, blast audio of Mary Murphy’s “Hot Tamale Train” battle cry on repeat loop, and not emerge until they’ve sent their blueprint for Season 13 through a cross-cut shredder.
The show’s tweaked title — So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation — seems studiously designed to trick longtime viewers into thinking it’ll be business as usual when the summer reality staple returns May 30 at 8/7c. (“Hey, it’s just the next generation of gals and guys who’ll have to respectively deal with Nigel Lythgoe’s ‘you’re hot!’ and ‘be more masculine!’ critiques.) But don’t be fooled. Gone is the show’s “18 or older” age requirement — replaced by a new edict to spotlight dancers between the ages of 8-13.
Look, no disrespect to the late, great Whitney Houston and her lyric about believing that children are our future, but that philosophy has no practical application in the reality-competition genre.
Remember Fox’s short-lived X Factor, and the sickening, guilty feeling we all got watching its littlest contestants tremble and weep on elimination night? As you watch the embedded video of 13-year-old Beatrice Miller’s fragile psyche getting smashed in front of 10 million viewers, remember that were she in SYTYCD: The Next Generation, she’d be one of the oldest contestants in the competition.
But wait — it gets worse! The middle- and grade-schoolers who impress the judges at auditions in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York will advance to “The Academy” and compete for a slot in the Top 10 — where they’ll be “partnered permanently with a SYTYCD All-Star” (a detail I’m officially filing in the folder marked “C+C Music Factory’s ‘Things That Make You Go Hmmm…‘”).
Do we really want to see grown and sexy SYTYCD alum like Jasmine Harper, Alex Wong, Kathryn McCormick, Robert Roldan, Anya Garnis and Ade Obayomi performing routines with little tykes? One misstep in choreography, costuming or execution, and the show has the potential to wind up at the corner of an Amy Schumer pageant parody and NBC’s To Catch a Predator.
The larger problem, though, is that there’s no way pre-pubescent kids can (or should) be expected to bring to life the types of mature, emotionally gripping pieces that are the hallmark of the perennially Emmy-nominated program. Routines about addiction, seduction, war, breakups, and countless other topics are, quite frankly, impossible or inappropriate fare for eight-year-olds. So should we expect the show to give us two hours of “Good Ship Lollipop” and selections from Frozen and Shrek every single week?
It’s hard to fathom how Fox and SYTYCD producers came up with the idea to meddle with the contestant pool when that’s the one part of the show that maintained its appeal through a decade of changes in choreographers, live-show sets and judges — not to mention last season’s boneheaded “Stage Vs Street” twist.
Ironically, the one aspect of SYTYCD most desperately in need of a complete overhaul — the judges’ panel of Lythgoe, Paula Abdul and especially the consistently terrible Jason Derulo — is the one thing that’ll look exactly the same in Season 13. That’s the equivalent of ordering a kitchen renovation, then coming home to find the contractor’s torn down your entire house, leaving you with nothing but the broken refrigerator, stove and microwave you’d dreamed of replacing for months.
What do you think of SYTYCD‘s latest changes? Are you, as Mr. Derulo loves to say, “Here for it” or are you tuning out this summer? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments!