TV Recap

Trial by Jerky

Two hours of ''So You Think You Can Dance'' auditions in Los Angeleese and Chicago bring out some talented dancers, some sadly deluded individuals -- and Nigel's nasty side

PLAYING THE HEAVY Nigel gratuitously insulted an overweight auditioner
Image credit: Kelsey McNeal
PLAYING THE HEAVY Nigel gratuitously insulted an overweight auditioner

''So You Think You Can Dance'': Audition marathon

Remember how last week I called So You Think You Can Dance the hipper younger cousin of American Idol? Yeah, well, there were so many unhip shenanigans in this two-hour-long audition episode of SYTYCD that I'm seriously thinking I need to up the genetic match a notch and call the two shows siblings.

But first things first: With not so much as a fanfare, Cat Deeley told us that this year's prize money has been upped from $100,000 to a cool $250K. (Sorry, Benji!) Did you catch that bit? I had to go back to the season-premiere ep in case I missed the announcement of the new amount there, but my TiVo bloop-bloops seem to say that Cat waited to drop the news of the higher amount until we got to Los Angeleese. (In truth, this number's been out there for a while now, but that only makes the producers' choice to wait six more days to announce it stranger.)

Oh, and by the way, calling out Cat's rhymes-with-cheese pronunciation of my city's name is the best I can do for those of you who demanded I defrost the host's old calling card — i.e., pronouncing ''judges'' as ''jidges.'' As far as my ears can tell, though she's not perfect yet, Ms. Deeley has been practicing her u's in the off-season, and I can't in good conscience toss out a jidge for the rabble to feast on if Cat's not going to provide me with any fresh meat. So instead, might I call your attention to what I believe was my grandmother's nap blanket wrapped around Cat during the first day of Los Angeleese auditions. I don't think Gramma appreciates your sneaking into her home and snatching it off the davenport, Cat.

Meanwhile, Wade Robson's a judge! Woot! It's about time the best choreographer of the second season stepped into the judge's chair — way to show humility after headlining your own dancing show on MTV, Wade! (Yes, I watched. You expected I hadn't?) But, again, I mean it, when Britney Spears does more than a 15-minute lip-synching set as her ''comeback tour,'' then you get to place her back on your résumé. Not before.

First up, Lauren ''Misha'' Gottlieb, i.e., the Woman Who Helped Ruin Spider-Man 3. It was bad enough that we learned Misha had assisted SYTYCD choreographer Tyce Diorio in the second season, which is pretty much like one of those Idol backup singers showing up at auditions next season and expecting a shot. But then Misha had to go and blithely brag that she helped Tyce teach Tobey Maguire that unspeakably awful Evil Emo Peter Parker dance routine that made the comic-book threequel derail like the runaway train in The Fugitive. (And we, the audience, were Harrison Ford.) Misha is supremely lucky that she auditioned for the show before Spidey 3's release, because I cannot believe Nigel would want anyone even remotely connected to that tango fiasco anywhere near his show. (And, oh, Tyce, why did you have to go and sully your gleaming reputation as SYTYCD's second best choreographer? It was nice while it lasted, I suppose. We'll miss you.)

What Nigel apparently does want all over his show are female dancers who smother their firm tummies in baby oil halfway through their routine. Unfortunately, unless Jessi Peralta is able to find another song that includes a lyric similar to ''oil on my hands'' (from Corinne Bailey Rae's ''Like a Star''), her incredibly literal dancing style evidently demands she remain oil free. Plus, correct me if I'm wrong, but the last thing dancers want is an oily stage, right?

Things only got more screwy from there. After the audience understandably applauded Ernie ''EJ'' Sierra's surprisingly spry lyrical routine — I mean, the guy landed in splits and made it look easy — Nigel tried to get all huffy over their ''patronizing'' ovation, which he said was so enthusiastic because EJ was ''fat.'' (The other judges weren't much kinder. Wade: ''You're dancing like a girl — who can't dance.'' Mary: ''I'm horrified.'') And then Nigel had the nerve to tell EJ to keep dancing because ''it's going to be good for your health.'' Who's being patronizing here, exactly? (Thank goodness EJ was such a great sport.)

We followed EJ with Colin Wheeler, a kid who I'm going to spare from snark because I'm kinda convinced he could be nearing the realm of the mentally diagnosable, judging by his revelations about the secrets locked inside the human blood cell, the mental communion with the late Anna Nicole Smith, the distressingly thin frame and gaunt, darting eyes. I think the judges got that vibe too, as they let Wheeler's wavy rave flow off with the gentlest of touches — Nigel even offered to come to Colin's planet rather than make Colin come back to Earth — but, really, are we doing the kid any good by putting him on television?

Because by doing so, we're only encouraging families like Olivia Usey's. Her mother told the camera that the treatment for the 18-year-old's skin problem had made her sick, but what broke the mother's heart was that Olivia stopped dancing to protect her health. Okay. And then said mother found a lump in her breast and told her daughter that the only thing she could do to make her feel better was to audition for So You Think You Can Dance, on the day she went in for a biopsy, no less. Fine. Let's hope it was benign, because after Mary Murphy practically hand-engraved an invitation for Olivia to break down and share her story, I'd just about had it with the emotional manipulation oozing from all sides in this segment.

Indeed, my patience was tried even further with Bryce Cleverly, a.k.a. Golden Inferno, the masked, self-declared American jumpstyle champion who was far more amusing to the judges than he was to me. (By the way, in case you haven't bothered YouTubing yet, jumpstyle is, in fact, real. And, I'm surprised to report, kinda cool.) I guess I would've been less annoyed had Fox not chosen to run its on-screen promo for the upcoming exclusive trailer for the new Fantastic Four movie right underneath Mr. Cleverly's masked alter ego.

And while I did enjoy watching Mary Murphy completely lose it in the face of ballroom dancer Kurt Myers' seven-and-a-half-year bout with the hiccups, between his hyperactive diaphragm and his partner Dia Beck's overactive right eyelid, I began to get a creeping feeling that SYTYCD was devolving into little more than a well-choreographed freak show by the second.

NEXT: Not-insane skills

1 2