Thursday, May 24, 2007

SUMMER'S HERE AND THE TIME IS RIGHT: With Season Three of So You Think You Can Dance taking the stage tonight (a truly squeeeworthy event for the party faithful), it's time for the customary recap of this season's procedural modifications.

For those who are new to the show: SYTYCD is a more complicated competition to stage than AI because of that whole partner thing. During season one, both the partnerships and the dance styles were chosen at random every week, with some unfortunate side effects. The judges then chose the bottom three couples, and America eliminated one guy and one girl from those six after seeing their solo performances. Season two flipflopped the whole thing: the producers chose the partnerships and the dance styles, America picked the bottom three couples, and then the judges decided who would go home based on the solo performances. After some number of weeks (I don't remember exactly how many), the lesser dancers having been weeded out, the assignments went a little more random.

As for this season, the assignment structure will look similar to last year: once the crowd of dubiously talented aspirants are narrowed to the final 20, the first five weeks will have partnerships determined by skill level (whatever that means), and random assignments for both pairings and styles thereafter.

From what I can tell, there are only two significant changes. First, it looks like the prize money has been bumped up from $100k to $250k. (No word as to whether America's Favorite Dancer will get a job out of his or her win, given that last season's winner Benji Schwimmer wisely turned down that aspect of his prize.) Second, instead of creator-executive-producer-impresario-former-dancer Nigel Lythgoe serving as the only regular judge with an array of choreographers rotating through the other two seats, it looks like SYTYCD's resident ballroom expert and supersonic shrieker Mary Murphy will permanently take over the Paula seat, leaving only one seat open for the Karaty/Michaels/Sparks rotation. This is, as we like to say here in the professional dance biz, a bummer. Murphy is easily the least expressive and articulate arrow in SYTYCD's regular quiver of choreographer/judges -- her presence on the panel week in and week out will almost certainly erode the quality of the judging. But admittedly, this is a small nit to pick in the grand scheme of things.

Be on the lookout during the early episodes for a couple of familiar names: apparently both Schwimmer's sister (how many dancers are in that family, anyway??) and 2006 runner-up Travis Wall's brother are auditioning this time around.

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