Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Have Two Months

...to convince someone I know to see this with me.

And to get drunk enough to experience it the way God intended. Hudgens! Mary-Kate! NPH! "She's very into roses!" This has the potential to be THE GREATEST.

[EDIT: Looks like I've got a good deal more time to prepare. Still. Clear your calendars for 2011!]

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Island

To look Lost in the face. Always, to look Lost in the face. And to know it for what it is. At last, to know it. To love it for what it is. And then, to put it away.

Lost, always the years between us. Always the years. Always Often the love. Always...The Island.

Lost 6.17/18: "The End"

So...Lost. Maybe I'll just start writing until my feelings on the finale -- and indeed the whole series -- make sense. Because, I can tell you right now, I loved almost all of the 2.5-hour series finale, and especially those last 15 minutes some people seem to be struggling with. Which is really weird for me, because my thing with this show has always been that I love the mystery but hate the characters. Even the ultra-controversial "Across the Sea" (which I liked and everybody else hated), was more about deepening the show's mythology and setting it into an ancient Biblical/mythological/pre-literate context. People hated that it ignored our fair Lostaways entirely. I was more than okay with that.

But "The End" was a success almost entirely because of these characters we came to know and love (and tolerate and be exasperated by and loathe). Even before the celestial end-game revealed itself, there were so many emotional payoffs owing to the history these characters have with each other. Even Sayid and Shannon, whose reunion was almost comical given how much we had all forgotten their what's-the-opposite-of-epic romance. Six seasons full of Nadia-based longing/whining from Sayid and we're supposed to remember that six-week courtship with Shannon? And yet, that moment really worked, if for no other reason than two extremely attractive people making out seemed very right. (Though, nobody gets to mack on Boone? That seems terribly unfair.)

And if you know me at all, you know that the Sawyer/Juliet moment tore me right up, as I fully expected it to. What I didn't expect was that I'd be almost as caught up in the Charlie/Claire reunion. And I thought this episode had a much more emotional capper on Jin and Sun's story than "The Candidate" did. The steady stream of flashbacks felt like a great reward for the fans, and for the first time, I felt invested in the Sideways universe. But before I get to that, how 'bout the Island itself.

While I will agree that everything surrounding Desmond and the cork and the light and the whatever felt like so much MacGuffining around, the emotional payoffs surrounding it were uniformly excellent. Jack getting one over on NotLocke, Sawyer and Kate jumping off that cliff together, that team of expendables (Frank, Miles, and Richard) getting the Ajira plane up and running, Jack making his sacrifice, leaving a truly unlikely team of Hurley, Ben, and Desmond behind to steward the island going forward. Hurley's accepting of the role of Island Protector was some strong storytelling, and got the added benefit of the best acting of Jorge Garcia's career. In fact, all around, the acting that I had previously found to be wildly overrated came up big when it counted. For Pete's sake, I even marveled at Evangeline Lilly. (!) I love the idea of Hurley and Ben as No. 1 and No. 2, and the small changes they brought to the island (Hurley as a less capricious version of Jacob; Ben having his experience and opinion valued) felt large in impact. And if, indeed, as I've seen speculated this morning, Hurley did use his new Jacobean powers to create that little slice of afterlife knows as the Sideways universe (and I'm not really sure I buy that), then it would mean even more.

So about that Sideways universe! I'll say right now, I loved it. I knew a lot of people wouldn't, because once you utter the word "heaven" (nobody on the show did, but everyone at home must have), half your audience is turned off, either for personal reasons or for fandom-mandated genre-loyalty reasons. Don't you try to tell a sci-fi geek about heaven or God. He will throw a big red FAIL stamp on your forehead. I don't think it was a copout to have everybody be dead at the end. As they only reminded us a billion times, what happened on the Island happened, and it mattered. And in the end, all the characters we knew best came back together after they died -- whenever they died. Boone and Charlie, who died years ago; Jack and Jin and Sun, who died very recently; Hurley and Ben who died long after they decided to partner up on the island -- they all wound up on the alternate Oceanic 815, because that's where they all ultimately wanted to be, together. As Christian told Jack, this was the most important time of their whole lives. It was where they died, or gave birth, or fell in love, or redeemed themselves. But you'll note that in Sideways world, they didn't return to the Island, just each other. Ultimately, this WAS a story about the people. There was a mystical island that drew them all to it, and it raged at them and scarred them and healed them and ultimately gave itself over to them. Its mysteries and the actions it saw were real and mattered. But in the end, they lived together and died ... well, together.

I was kind of amazed to see how many people didn't quite get it. Not "didn't like it," that I can't argue with. But there were a lot of people thinking the whole show was in purgatory, or at least confused as to what events those final minutes ultimately invalidated. Right after it was over, even I was like, "So that whole Sideways plot was completely meaningless until this week." And in a way, it was. I can't imagine watching Season 6 back again and being at all invested in Sun getting shot or Kate on the run or Locke's operation -- even Desmond's quest to be the James Bond of soul-gathering. In terms of plot, those scenes are meaningless now. (Of course, the rewatchability of Lost has been in serious question for some time now. Have you tried to watch an early-seasons episode lately? Have you counted the dropped plot points or the mystical hoo-ha that never amounted to anything? I liked Lost a lot, but I was never under any illusions that all the loose ends were ever going to come close to being tied again.)

But as I keep thinking about the Sideways, I feel more and more like they were necessary. Not just for the structure of the season, though that was important. We don't get the amazing payoff of the finale if we hadn't put in the time, nearly every week, investing (even a little) in this timeline. They couldn't have sprung the alt world on us in the finale -- or even with 4-5 episodes to go. It's similar, actually, to how the flashbacks began as essential backstory and quickly became structural assistance for a series that had to suddenly become built to last. [Also similarly, I had about as much patience for the side-flashed as I did for the flashbacks, which is to say not much.]

But more than just buttressing the finale, the Sideways does seem to have served an emotional purpose. The characters lived out the lives they could've had if the Island had never pulled them to it. For some, like Ben, this is an atonement, which I guess plays into the "purgatory" angle, though I don't think that's quite right. For some, like Sayid, he ends up back in the loop of violence and longing for Nadia (also Kate's still a criminal). Jack is a dad, Hurley's lucky, Sawyer's a cop -- some don't follow a literal line of "here's the damage you have to overcome" but they all make some kind of comment on the characters' lives. (Well, for the most part. Again, this show never seems to get it all right. Why would Juliet have dreamed up an alternate life for herself where she's Jack's ex wife? Why would Locke still want to be in a wheelchair?)

I liked that not everybody had to be "ready" at once. Sure, that gave them a built-in excuse for why Michael and Walt and Eko and Ana-Lucia weren't there -- at some point, we're gonna have to stop blaming the showrunners for the fact that Malcolm David Kelly got too old and Adebisi didn't want to live in Hawaii. Ben wanted more time with Alex; Eloise wanted more time with Daniel; Nikki and Paolo probably wanted to enjoy the lives of sexy movie stars for a while. I'm okay with Michael not being there. I fanwanked it that he wasn't there because, for him, the Island WASN'T the most important time in his life. But then I remembered his restless spirit is still on the island. And then I remembered that nobody likes him and I stopped worrying.

Was it an imperfect end to an imperfect series? Absolutely. I could list the plot holes and inconsistencies all day. But in the end, Sawyer and Juliet walked hand-in-hand into whatever was next, and everybody lived until they didn't. In a way, it reminded me of the Six Feet Under finale that way, with Michael Giacchino's soaring score standing in for that Sia song. I felt satisfied.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Week in TV

Community (5/20)
After a pretty brilliant freshman season, things unfortunately ended on two straight bum episodes. Not that I didn't get a charge out of the Jeff/Annie surprise ending, and Britta had a season highlight with that "he's been to flavor country" tirade, but everything felt too effortful (the Jeff/Britta/Slater stuff) or not well thought out (Troy's "Good Will Hunting" take off last week). Also, obviously I'm not happy about Senor Chang becoming a student next year, and I was somewhat dismayed to see that John Oliver is kind of the Chang 2.0 of this show. Anyway, two mediocre shows don't ruin an amazing season, but I'm already ansty for next season so I can get a different taste in my mouth. (And if this were an Office writeup, I would be all over the "That's what she said.")

30 Rock (5/20)
Interestingly, after a largely down season, 30 Rock ended this run with three incredibly strong episodes. "The Moms" featured the return of Jan Hooks ("I got the meat!"), "Emanuelle Goes to Dinosaur Land" had that amazing Tracy Jordan trip down memory lane ("The G train, Nermal!"), and "I Do Do" brought it home with maybe not as many big laughs, but it still gave us Avery's Maryland accent, the return of Feyonce, and Matt Damon's Sullenberger-hating pilot.

The Real Housewives of New York City (5/20)
After an episode of nonstop drunken hilarity -- including Ramona on her 30th pinot grigio slurring "shudderdown" and me finally liking Sonja -- this week stopped being polite and started getting real about Kelly's probable paranoid schizophrenia. ...I mean, right? Not that we haven't all called Alex a vampire once or twice, but we never meant it literally. That said, was that not the best Jellybelly product placement ever, watching Kelly chow down on them while giving crazyface an updated definition?

The Office (5/20)
A couple of really funny moments (David Wallace telling us about "Suck It" and Kelly/Ryan telling us about Woof) couldn't save a dour episode in a dour season. It's strange to say this about a wildly successful series in its sixth season, but this show has never exactly known how to handle Michael Scott from episode to episode? Is he our ptotaginist, or is he the guy acting on our protagonists (Jim and Pam)? The show has never kept this consistent, which is why they have to keep importing new levels of hierarchy to keep Michael "relatable" or sympathetic or whatever. Not that I don't love Kathy Bates and Zach Woods, but the money in this show is when Michael is the boss. Let him be the boss.

Glee (5/18)
It hasn't been a season of sustained excellence, but last week's episode was one of their incredibly awesome ones. Once this season is over, I should sit down with all the episodes I loved and try to figure out what ingredients they all have in common. Certainly, the quality of the musical performances plays a big part, and this week had a three-pronged attach that would stand up to any ep this season: Will and Bryan Ryan's "Dream On," the wonderfully choreographed "Safety Dance" fantasy, and (most especially) Lea Michelle and Idina Menzel tearing the house down on "I Dreamed a Dream." Like, everything I ever wanted out of "Glee" in one number. Now I just need one good Quinn Fabray episode before the season ends.

Parenthood (5/18)
Now that I've given up on "Brothers & Sisters" for good (don't get me started on Saul), this has settled in quite comfotably into my enjoyable-if-flawed family dramady slot. And it's been betting better as the weeks have gone on. I still have trouble getting past my Peter Krause aversion (he's actually quite good) and I do sometimes wonder why they make Sam Jaeger hate Erika Christensen all the time if they're married. But the characters have become people I'm rooting for. Though, seriously, this Amber vs. Haddie thing? If they think I hesitated for a second before strapping on a Team Amber t-shirt, they're crazy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Embarrassing Movie Wednesdays of the Fuuuuuture...

This looks like a total guilty pleasure, but one that's hitting a lot of buttons for me. Check out the trailer for the upcoming movie Easy A (via Vulture):

Okay, let's list them off: Emma Stone is reliably funny and really seems to be getting a showcase here; I lovelovelove Dan Byrd on Cougar Town; Patricka Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, and Lisa Kudrow are amazing; the premise is both literate (The Scarlett Letter!) and filthy (the movie pretty much launches via a donkey punch); Dan Humphrey takes his shirt off, and I assume Cam Gigandet will as well; "Poker Face" still does it for me, poeple; it comes from the director of Fired Up!, an EMW entry I very much enjoyed. Yes, I'm choosing to ignore the lame Tom Cruise joke that closes the clip. And I'm sure there won't be one plot development that does anything I haven't seen 100 times before. But whatever, y'all, I'm seeing this fucker.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Week in TV (So Far)

Glee (5/4)
Yeah, not my favorite, this episode. It all felt disjointed and kind of pointless. Also, anything worth salvaging from the great guilty pleasures from the '80s and '90s has already been salvaged. Leaving us with a limp, inconsequential "U Can't Touch This," and the dispiriting re-occurrence of Rappin' Will Shuster. Also, what was the point of that Sue subplot other than to accommodate Olivia Newton-John? Also also? If you're going to make the whole episode retroactively about how Quinn feels like she's lost her grip on her old power, maybe instead just make the episode actually about her. A meandering episode of Glee can be redeemed by great performances, but besides "Total Eclipse of the Heart," this didn't have any.

[That said, thanks to Sling for the screencap above, which elevates the episode by half a letter grade at least.]

United States of Tara (5/3)
Unlike Glee, every episode -- every moment -- of this season has propelled the season forward. Max and Marshall were both, quite understandably, at the ends of their ropes, with Marshall delivering a blistering takedown of Courtney, and then his whole family. He's the greatest. And...I think they're really going to hook him up with that hottie neighbor gay. Department of Dream High School Years, this floor!

Nurse Jackie (5/3)

Um, so...are we supposed to like Eddie? I can't be the only one who deeply hates him, right? And yet sometimes I feel like the show wants Jackie to end up with him. This episode had some of my least favorite elements re-surface -- cartoonishly face-pulling Akalitus; Cooper's boob-grabbing tic -- but I am totally into the O'Hara plotline, with Julie Ormond doing pretty great playing a very thin gloss on Lara Logan. And Zooey doing the secret agent thing was a scream.

The Amazing Race (5/3)
Happy the cops are gone. And I know Dan was an incredibly spazzy ball of anger in the Shanghai cab, but I still kind of adore Jordan, and I'm certainly not going to root for Brent and The Iraq. As for the cowboys...uncle. They seem nice and funny and dumb as rocks personable. And they revealed themselves as secret (if butterfaced) hotties when they had to take their shirts off recently. But...well that's my point, kind of. They've got the world on a string already. The show gave them their own theme music! What do they need the million for?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Lost 6.14, "The Candidate"

Despite my not insignificant issues with the quality of the show this season, there's no doubt that it was exhilarating to see Lost kick it into its stretch run so definitively. There's no turning back now. No more running in circles and meeting new factions and working on little projects that ultimately won't matter. If this episode did nothing else -- and it did plenty -- it laid out the following as clear as day: DarkLocke wants the candidates dead; he can't kill them directly; he's trying to find ways to make them kill themselves. For a show that often layers itself in vaguery and a lack of information, to see something like that stated so plainly had an electric charge to it.

The episode also saw a number of characters finally making decisions that felt like a long time coming. Jack finally trusted Sawyer in his plot against Locke. Sawyer ultimately couldn't trust Jack and his bomb theories (more on this in a second). Sawyer definitively turned his back on Claire. Jin decided to never leave Sun again.

That last moment is what everybody's talking about today. And intellectually, I recognized it as a Big Moment, a Powerful Moment, and something that should really be hitting me hard. And yet those thoughts had a hard time making their way to my gut, and I have to think the reason is the Sideways timeline. Not knowing how that timeline is going to ultimately resolve itself, it's hard to view these deaths (and Sayid's, and Lapidus's) as final when we know at the very least that the alt-universe versions of these characters will still be around. And while I don't really believe the alt-universe's existence means these dead characters will be resurrected in the real universe, the fact that we still don't know where the alt-universe is going means it's still going to be a nagging thought at the back of my mind. (Also, if I'm being nitpickily honest, it did seem strange that in the whole teary-eyed lead-up to Jin's final decision, neither one of them mentioned their daughter.)

But it's not all negativity! For an episode that featured so much Jack Shepherd, I didn't yell "Shut up, Jack!" at the TV once. Which may be a record. I didn't much care about the events with alt-Jack trying to restore alt-Locke's legs, but that's nothing different than the rest of the season. But on the island, I was actually down with most of what Jack was doing. He wants to stay on the island? Fine! His innate self-righteousness makes him a perfect choice for new Jacob. And the fact that he's stopped trying to make his decisions count for the whole group counts as progress. And even though he was talking Man-of-Faith crazy about the bomb in the sub, he was probably right. Of course, you can't exactly blame Sawyer for not trusting Jack's little leap of faith. The last time he did that, his girlfriend got killed.

That said, all this "Emmy-worthy Matthew Fox performance" talk is ... well, kinda retarded. He was fine, but ... okay, I'm just going to say it: if you're going to have a big emotional climax where three of your four surviving protagonists break down in tears over the deaths of their friends, it is often an asset to employ actors WHO CAN CREDIBLY CRY ON CAMERA. Evangeline Lilly? Nope. Matthew Fox? Getting closer ... kinda. Poor Jorge Garcia is never going to be confused with a great actor, but by the time they had to hide his unconvincing sobbing behind his own hair, I started to laugh. Not the reaction I was hoping to have at that moment.

All in all, this was a very good episode that essentially stuck a rocket up the show's ass and pointed it in the direction of the finale. I'm glad DarkLocke has a more defined purpose now. I'm glad they found a way to redeem Sayid and still kill him off. And I'm glad that Anthony Cooper's vegetative state didn't turn out to be yet another long con. I wish I could've cared more about Jin and Sun. I wish the actors could cry. But I'm just not going to get everything I want out of this show. And I think that's mostly okay.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tony, Tony, Tony Has Done It Again

I didn't think I'd end up blogging about the Tony nominations, mostly because, after following the precursor awards throughout the season, I'd given up hope that any of my favorites would end up getting recognized. As I've said before, I fully admit that I have next to no authority on matters of the stage. Though I've really increased by Broadway attendance this year, I've still only seen a tiny fraction of what was eligible for this year's Tonys. (It doesn't help that the two shows I was most moved to write about here -- The Pride and The Understudy -- were off-Broadway and thus not Tony eligible.)

Even so, I had my favorites (In the Next Room and Superior Donuts among them) , and it just seemed like they were destined to get passed over for Tony love. But credit Roommate Mark for reminding me that the Tony nominating committee sometimes has a mind of their own. Here were some of the nods that made me yelp this morning:

Best Play: In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play
Definitely the best Broadway show I saw all year. Sarah Ruhl's play was funny and unexpectedly insightful, beyond the one-joke premise ("Can you believe they used to use vibrators as therapy??").

Best Actress in a Play: Laura Linney, Time Stands Still
I liked Times Stands Still quite a bit, and while I don't think I truly loved it, I am unambiguously in love with Laura Linney and and thrilled that I got to see her perform in this show. I guess it's not incredibly common to be able to see your very favorite actress perform live in a role she'll be Tony-nominated for. And, not to be spiteful or anything, but I'm equally happy Alicia Silverstone was not nominated for this same play.

Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Musical: Christiane Noll, Ragtime
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical: Bobby Steggert, Ragtime
I wasn't wholly thrilled with Ragtime -- and I'm kind of horrified to see it not only nominated for Best Musical Revival, but also for its director and stage design, which were both pretty glaring weaknesses -- but these two performances were incredibly strong and deservedly recognized.

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play: Jon Michael Hill, Superior Donuts
I'm disappointed that this play wasn't able to remain at the front of voters' minds from all the way back in last October. At the time, I'd have said Michael McKean was a shoo-in for Best Actor. That is, until the avalanche of big-name, big-talent actors took the stage this spring and made the Best Actor list look like it could double as an Oscar category (Denzel Washington, Alfred Molina, Christopher Walken, Liev Schrieber, and Jude Law). Still, Jon Michael Hill was the best performer in that whole show, and it's a minor miracle he survived the long, hard winter to a nomination, so cheers for that.

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play: Maria Dizzia, In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play
EASILY my favorite nomination of the year. I plainly thought Maria Dizzia had no chance at a nomination, considering practically no one was talking about her hysterical, scene-stealing work as the most nervous of repressed housewives. Love, love, loved her in this show. Thanks, Tonys!

Monday, May 03, 2010

So You Think You Can Dance Format Change Summit

In case you've all missed it (what, you're not losers and don't follow Nigel Lythgoe on Twitter?), the new season of So You Think You Can Dance is set to have some pretty significant format changes. Outlined here, the changes include:

The competition round will feature only 10 dancers, down from 20. Only one dancer eliminated each week. The dancers will be paired, each week, with a different partner from a pool of "all-star" SYTYCD dancers. [At the time this discussion started, the announced all-stars were: Allison (season 2), Lauren and Pasha (season 3), Mark, Twitch, and Comfort (season 4), Ade (season 5), and Kathryn (season 6).]

The judges will choose the eliminated dancer (from a fan-voted Bottom 3) until the finale.

Mary Murphy will choreograph on occasion, so she won't always be a judge.

Mia Michaels will return to choreographing.

I figured it was time to get the band back together and discuss these changes to our favorite dance competition show. Answering the call were Vance, Lauren, and Kirk.

Click to read the full conversation (including all 12 all-stars) after the break...

Joe: SO! First impressions? Does this make you more or less excited for Season 7? Did you think the show was in need of such a drastic shakeup?

Vance: I guess I'll start and start it off on a positive note. MIA WILL BE BACK! YAY! MARK WILL BE BACK! YAY! PASHA WILL BE BACK! YAY! ALLISON WILL BE BACK! YAY! I can also see the pros of the 1 vote off per week combined with All Star pairings, in that it won't necessarily be guy-girl guy-girl. And the final can possibly be all girls or all guys. And no one can survive until the Top 10 with a stronger partner. But then again, there is no Top 20.

Kirk: I'm already looking forward to seeing Mia in the audition rounds. More cutting! I'm super glad they're bringing her back, ditto the rotating judges chair. Toni Basil issues aside, I really like the guest judges and missed them last time around... doesn't seem right to have a season of SYTYCD without 'C.

As for the all-stars, there's a chance it'll work, if only because I get the sense that a lot of people are a little burnt out on the current setup... it feels like much of my recent time with the show (especially last season) has been spent reminiscing about when the dancers were better, the routines more memorable. Perhaps the producers decided to simplify the show while giving us more of our favorite dancers?

So I could see it working okay, provided they find good contestants and the whole thing can avoid seeming desperate.

What I'm curious about is... what were any of those dancers even doing? The SYTYCD endgame is still kind of murky for me. Like, if you win, you end up doing backup dancing for an American Idol singer or something? Bringing all those contestants back seems to imply that this is the best gig they can get, which kinda robs winning of some of its oomph.

Joe: See, Kirk, one of my favorite things about the show is the exact opposite of what you're saying. Because there is no path to notoriety or mainstream superstardom in the dance world, the competition becomes much more about the work itself. Being the best dancer on the show becomes its own reward. I tend to watch American Idol with an eye to what singers I like the best, yes, but I also have to think of things like marketability, likability, how they would fit in the current musical landscape. And that all gives "Idol" some dimension and that's fine. But it's great to watch a show like "Dance" where the ONLY thing that matters is what's happening during those ten weeks.

At base, I like this idea because I will enjoy seeing the all-stars again, and honestly, I don't get attached to more than 10 dancers per season anyway. I do hope the semifinal/Vegas rounds are expanded a bit, so making the Top 10 becomes a momentous achievement. [BTW, I don't think Mia's hopping back onboard 'til after Vegas.]

LOVE that we're getting a rotating judge back. I loved Adam Shankman the best of all judges last year, but I missed my Debbie Allen and Lil' C terribly. Having Mary's seat become (semi-)rotating appears to be the best of both worlds. And i wonder if this means Travis Wall will get a seat on the panel before long.

I noticed that Anya (season 3 ballroomer) was announced as an All-Star today. Which seems to leave one slot open. For a boy. Who are we hoping pulls that slot? They've already got a bunch of contemporary experts, so I guess my hopes for Neil and/or Jakob are long shots. I've love to see Gev or Legacy return as hip-hoppers. Or Hok! Sweet lord, Hok!

Vance: Yah, rarely do dancers become famous in the first place, so the show IS the fame and makes rock stars out of dancers who usually are relegated to the background. Even in ballet, there are only a few principal stars with a huge company behind them. And it's usually only smaller moments like seeing Travis Wall choreograph, Neil Haskell on Broadway, or Mark Kanemura joining Lady Gaga's entourage that we consider successes post-SYTYCD. So coming back as All-Stars will be a nice little gift back...

BUT... are they choosing right? Nigel sure is kinda choosing obvious picks. And making sure the demographics are there. I mean, no offense to Comfort but COMFORT? Really? Just because they want a female black Hip-Hop dancer? (And I'm guessing Donyelle (who I would have much preferred) was busy with her own dance troupe and motherhood?)

And does Anya seem like she comes as a package deal with Pasha? I like Anya, but seriously, Pasha is the star in that team. I wish Legacy had the hip-hop slot (given to Twitch) but from his tweets, it didn't seem like he's been contacted by Nigel. I would love Neil AND Jakob to be on, but is there really only 1 slot left? If you think about it, since they're always switching, they CAN have more than 10 All Stars if they want. Having a rotation of stars every week.

Anyways, while it's true we don't get attached to more than 10 or so dancers a season, and usually it doesn't really get great until the Top 10, the Top 20 did give us a chance to start weeding them out in our minds ourselves. I guess the prolonged Top 10 now will have to do. I can also see why the judges want to take back the ultimate vote-off power (especially after seeing what's happening on American Idol) but looking at some of the decisions they made last year, I'm not sure giving Nigel more power is a good thing. Let's hope for some outside sense with the rotating judges.

Kirk: Oh, on the whole, I really like that SYTYCD is more humble than American Idol. It's nice to watch a show that isn't constantly reminding me what a huge effing deal it is, and where the judges have more of a sense of perspective about the show, the industry, and themselves.

And I also like that they have their own community - The 100th episode, when they all got together at the end and had cake? I died. So really, it seems like the new format will build that community more firmly into the fabric of the show, which is pretty cool. Rather than a contract or whatever, the reward for doing well on the show is a place in that community, which is in many ways a better prize than, say, a recording contract. Especially since, as Vance points out, there's no equivalent for dancers.

I was also surprised to see Comfort on the all-star list - she was a dancer who never really connected for me. For that last male slot, it'd be great to see Gev back, since I always liked the guy, but if there's one dancer from the past few seasons that I want to see more of, it's Jakob. God, such a freak, and a great partner!

I realized that with this shift, the show will kinda become a twist on "Dancing With The Stars" - the twist being that the stars are dancers, too. Which means, sadly, no more watching for that special couple that blossoms into amazingness. Seeing duos like Katee and Joshua or Courtney and Gev find a groove together has always been one of my favorite parts of the show - I'm kinda bummed that we won't get that anymore.

But the more I think about it, the more I'd like to see some more shake-ups, especially among the choreographers. It seems like a lot of them are repeating routines that we've seen before (especially Tab+Nap, who I thought got overworked last time around). Travis's routines were the by far the most enjoyable of last season, and I, too, hope he turns up as a guest judge. And it makes me wonder who else is out there!

Sometimes I wish that they made a competition show for choreographers. So You Think You Can Choreograph (...eograph ...eograph)

Joe: In Comfort's semi-defense, she did shine on a couple of those hip-hop performances in her final weeks (with Twitch; with Thayne). As far as hip-hop girls go, I'm a Sara von Gillern guy myself, but alas.

Kirk, you bring up what a great partner Jakob was, and that's a great point. I'll remember it when the hordes of Danny Tidwell and Will Wingfield fans come complaining that those two weren't chosen for the all-star pool. Both great dancers, sure, but they were AWFUL partners.

And I agree that we're losing something with not being able to see pairs of dancers grow and bond together. That was always a big part of how I grew attached to the dancers -- think Kathryn/Legacy just last season. I guess there will be bonding with the all-stars too, but there won't be a sense of learning together.

What do we think of the increased judges' control over the eliminations? I've never had much of a problem with the dancers Nigel and Co. have chosen to be eliminated. Even the ones I've really loved (Matt Dorame from season 4; Victor from last year), you could tell they'd run out of steam. It's America whose choices haven't always been the best lately (looking at y'all, Evan and Ashleigh).

Vance: Oh yah, I would have been down with Sara von Gillern too! And yes, I hated Danny since day 1 because he was all ME ME ME dancer and a horrible partner. I've blogged about it, but when I saw him in Memphis the musical on Broadway (which he's in right now anyways, so he's busy), he basically dropped his partner. She looked PISSED. (He caught her just in time before she smacked the floor, so injury averted, but still.)

Joe: How did I know that last all-star would end up being Dominic? Inferior Quest Crew members for the win, I guess.

Kirk: Huh, Dominic ... he never made that huge of an impression on me as far as I can remember, but then again, he always made Sabra look really good, and she wound up winning! So perhaps strength as a partner is indeed factoring into the decisions? In my mind, the ability to dance super-well and make your partner look good has usually been what separates the great contestants from the good ones. Though he never connected on his own, Ade was actually like that - he had this incredible athleticism, and made his partners look great. It'll be nice to see him back!

I have no problem with the judges getting more control - the only issue I've ever had with the SYTYCD eliminations is that the process isn't very well-explained... I remember feeling kind of baffled for like the whole first season I watched, unclear on how the voting/dance for your life/elimination part of the show really worked. That's probably on me and my short-attention-span ass, though, heh.

Taking it down to single eliminations seems like it'll change the feel of the competition considerably, and will doubtless make the whole thing feel more focused. Really, the big challenge for the next crop of contestants is going to be measuring up when placed next to their all-star partners! I would imagine that means the audition process is going to be pretty brutal, which: bring it.

Joe: See, and I always thought it was SABRA who made DOM look good. Though, Kirk, I agree that the challenge for the newbies will be to wrest attention away from the all-stars.

Anyway, I was wrong, it's gonna be 12 all-stars and not 10. The two final all-stars got announced this week, and to my delight, they're two of my all-time favorites: Courtney Galiano (s4) and Neil Haskell (s3). At the risk of sounding partial, FUCK YEAH.

So once again, here are our all-stars:

Allison (season 2)
Lauren (season 3)
Pasha (season 3)
Neil (season 3)
Dominic (season 3)
Anya (season 3)
Mark (season 4)
Twitch (season 4)
Comfort (season 4)
Courtney (season 4)
Ade (season 5)
Kathryn (season 6)

Final thoughts on the all-stars? I have to say, I kind of intensely love this group. Though I wonder if we're gonna be sick of seeing dancers like Comfort, Anya, and Pasha, since they're pretty much the only option for their specialty (i.e. if there's a guy who draws hip-hop, his partner will always he Comfort; anyone who draws any ballroom number will get Pasha or Anya). (...Oh, who am I kidding, how could I get sick of seeing Pasha?)

What about you guys. On a scale of 1 to 10, how psyched are you for the new season?

Vance: I was gonna say, sick of seeing Pasha? Have you gone completely MAD? Looking at the full list ... Hmm ... no S1'ers. And considering how awesome S2 was, I'm shocked there's only 1 (then again, Travis will still be choreographing). And I agree, I think Sabra won but is also easily forgotten because she was the ultimate partner and morphed from style to style, making it all look good. But she didn't have her own distinct style/identity BECAUSE she immersed herself in each dance.

Lauren: I'm here, I'm here! Lord, I am EARNING the vacation I am taking later this week. But I couldn't not weigh in on all of this, and forgive me if some of what I've got you guys discussed last week already. Seriously, Joe, sick of seeing Pasha? NEVER!

I am actually really excited about this new format because I was definitely getting a little bit bored. I think the main reason for that is having a Fall season -- I didn't have time to miss the show yet from the summer, and I also have enough other TV to watch and recap during the regular season that committing all that time to SYTYCD because kind of unrealistic for me and so I never got as into it as I had been in the past. I didn't necessarily jump to needing a new format, but when the new format was announced I was stoked because I love the idea of seeing the all-stars again and because it feels fresh.

I am thrilled about the new voting, too, because while I don't always agree with the judges' decisions 100%, I do agree at least 90% of the time and I don't trust America nearly that much with who they sometimes keep around FAR past when I think they should be there. (Evan, you're darling, but no.)

The one thing I will miss a little is the same thing you guys mentioned -- seeing partnerships grow during the first part of the season -- but at least on paper for me the trade-offs are worth it right now. I always enjoy the dancing when a couple is doing the style of at least one of the two dancers because it's just so much stronger, and so to have the all-stars there in that respect I think will raise the level of dancing even higher. Also, I adore most of the picks and can't wait to see them again. The impression I've gotten is that a lot of the dancers on the show have gotten opportunities afterward, but I think because the dance world is still not mainstream in the way the music world is, they aren't nearly as visible. I watch Dancing With the Stars on and off and love the few SYTYCD alums that have gotten a chance on there, and have also noticed Pasha, Anya, and Travis (off the top of my head) at various times appearing in performances on that show.

I hope this makes sense because I had to just throw this all in an email while I had a chance.

Kirk: Dang, seeing the list all at once I'm reminded how much I really like all of these dancers. This should be great!

Interesting that they don't have anyone from Season 1. Wonder if it has anything to do with how many people watched that season, versus Season 2 and beyond? I know I didn't tune in until S2, anyway.

Joe, allow me to second your FUCK YEAH to the addition of Courtney and Neil and upgrade it to an OH FUCK YEAH. Not only did Courtney dance in my Official Low Resolution #1 Favorite SYTYCD Routine Of All Time, I always thought she was an awesome contestant. By which I mean I always thought she was hot.

Vance: Ok, I just got back from seeing Burn the Floor and right now, the cast includes Ryan and Ashleigh, Artem and Karen Hauer, and Pasha and Anya.

And seeing Pasha and Anya dance again has gotten me REALLY excited about seeing them on my TV every week again! I guess at this point we all seem curious about the new switch and could be interesting.

It could work... as long as they CHANGE THAT DAMN FUGLY SET FROM LAST SEASON.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Short Play About Chicago

NOTE: Mystique will continue to answer your questions in the comments as long as you've got them. I'm considering a Mystique-based self-help column if I get enough of a response.

Mark: Hey Mystique Summers-Madison, what's your favorite movie?
Mark: Bitch, I love Chicago!
Joe: Hey Mystique, what's your preferred style of Deep Dish pizza?
Mark: Bitch, I prefer Chicago!
Mark: Hey Mystique, who were the best purveyors of 80s power ballads and mom-friendly mid-tempo hits?
Joe: Bitch, I dig Chicago!
Mark: Nope! Air Supply.
Joe: ...Hooker.