Thursday, November 11, 2010

So You Think You Can Dance--the live show

Did you know "reality shows" have screenwriters? This came out during the screenwriters' strike. Maybe that helps to account for the histrionics in so many of these shows.

I watched the first season of Survivor, but that was that. It soon became apparent that the goal of the show was to find the most soulless, manipulative backstabber in a group of soulless, manipulative backstabbers and then reward that person for his or her soulless, manipulative backstabbing.

I would want to watch this why? These are all people I wouldn't let into my house, frankly.

Then there's the talent shows. These go back to the days of radio.

Here we get to see some people with real talent at something or other, in amongst people without that talent--usually spectacularly so--who appear to have no reality feedback mechanism in their brains, such that anything negative the judges or the audiences tell them just rolls off their backs.

This phenomenon is related to that bogus enterprise known as the employee performance self-review. It has been found that in these reviews, the worse the employee, the higher the self rating. Top employees tend to be very self-critical, OTOH.

The actually skilled performers on such shows can be quite good. But their natural skills can be swamped by other factors. In American Idol, even few of the top ranked performers sing anything like rock & roll. It's more of a squishy teen pop with gospel licks in all the wrong places.

How many of the show's top ranked performers have actually gone on to make a real name for themselves? Kelly Clarkson has proven to be a real rocker. That's about it in my book. Adam Lambert, the latest, behaves so narcissistically I don't enjoy watching him perform, even though he has a beautiful voice. I sympathize with the fact that his videos can't show his real love objects, and this makes things kind of awkward. But I'm not objecting to his homosexuality--I'm objecting to his self-absorption. And his goofy costumes...

Then there's America's Got Talent, which mixes genres, so one minute you may be watching something grotesque--a raunchy octogenarian comedian, a guy who flosses in one nostril and out the other, and the next you could be seeing extraordinary athleticism or artistic talent.

For shows like this, a DVR is the only answer. Then I can fast-forward through all the lame/ewwww! moment acts and just watch the good ones. Is that worth the trouble? I was for me, becasue that's how I found out about Jackie Evancho (see my review farther down in this blog).

Which brings me to "So you think you can dance." SYTYCD is my spouse's and my favorite reality show. The judging is generally constructive and supportive of real talent, and the performers, though competing against each other, keep it collegial. And there's some outstanding dancing on the show. In fact the show has genuinely helped promote dancing--in many forms--in the eyes of the public, and it has helped dance studios as dancers become inspired to cross-train in different dance forms.

So we thought we'd go see SYTYCD's live show. We'd done something like this earlier when we went to an Ice Skating traveling show featuring America's top skaters. That had been disappointing--they were dots on the ice as seen from our nosebleed section seats, and the skater we'd most wanted to see--Emily Hughes' older sister--was a no show.

This time we spent a lot more on the tickets--they cost $168 for the pair of us--for tier seating about halfway between the orchestra section and the nosebleed seats.

Turns out it still wasn't close enough. The dancers weren't dots, but they weren't really close enough to make out their expressions except on the grainy Jumbotron screen images above and flanking the dancers. I had binoculars but then I could only see one dancer at a time.

Part of the problem was that we'd seen all the routines on our big screen TV at home, so I guess we were a little spoiled about the view.

I conclude that if you want to see a live show of something you've seen on TV, either pop for the high price of pretty close seating or stay home.

And as far as SYTYCD goes, we have other reasons to stay home. It was fun to see the dancers we'd seen on TV, only live. And all the dancers served as the hosts introducing the acts and the dancers, which was also good. The only downside here was a tendency--especially by Dominick--to introduce acts in that annoying chanting style Oprah uses to introduce acts--AND HEEEEEEEEREZZZZZ....ALLLISON!!!!!!!!! Maybe I'd have like it better if I were a 13 year old girl, but as an adult it seemed both hackneyed and childish.

They pretty much only did routines we'd already seen on TV, and since they weren't competing any more, my spouse and I both got the feeling that they did the routines a bit less intensely.

Worse, they showed stuff on the Jumbotron instead of live dancing way too much. They had a long intro, a whole routine by a dancer who wasn't there, and lots of other bits, all of which we'd already seen, only in HD on our home big screen TV, instead of on these distinctly lower-rez Jumbotron screens--and we didn't have to pay $168 for that. So we felt a little ripped off. And we both came to that conclusion before we talked with each other about the show as we were walking to our car.

But worst of all for me at least was the sound level--the sound system was so cranked up that even when the dancer/hosts were just talking it was too loud for comfort. Then during the dances, the bass was pumped up so much it made my aorta resonate.

OK, maybe not, but it was making my flesh throb. If OSHA inspectors were visiting an industrial facility with sound at that level they'd require all the workers to wear ear protection. Here's a handy rule of thumb: if you experience ANY hearing loss at the end of a concert, and/or any kind of whooshing or tinny sound in your ears, and you recover in a few hours or a day--you have now experienced a small but permanent hearing loss. It seems to come back all the way, but audiologists will tell you it doesn't--not completely.

And that was what the sound level of this show would have done if I hadn't stuck my fingers in my ears most of the show. In all fairness, however, my spouse, who didn't plug her ears, says she didn't experience any hearing loss right afterward. So maybe I'm being overly sensitive. Back in the army I damaged my hearing by taking the marksmanship exam without ear protection, making me nearly deaf for about 24 hours, so I've been sensitive about this stuff since then.

But whether it was damging to the hearing or not, I found the sound level extremely uncomfortable.

One other note about the show: the audience was 90% female. I'm not kidding. It was like going to a cage wrestling match, only in reverse. Any males there get drowned in the estrogen.

And they loved the guy-on-guy dance routines--standing ovations! It wasn't quite like being a fly on the wall at one of those women-0nly Chippendale's male stripper performances, but the male dancers definitely felt the luv.

Afterwards my spouse said she was glad to have seen it once, but didn't feel a desire to go again.

We had a basis for comparison: we saw the Australian show Circus Oz a few weeks earlier. It cost less than half as much as SYTYCD's live show and we left it feeling much more entertained.

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