There is No Way Paula Abdul's Live to Dance Can Be Good
I mean, watch the premiere tonight on CBS with your breakdancing friends, if you must -- but Paula Abdul's new reality show Live to Dance is set to be a lukewarm medley of disappointments, backflips and septuagenarian hoofers.
Live to Dance bills itself as a contest for all ages and dance styles. One auditioning troop comprises women aged 50-81. Another is hip-hopping twentysomethings. And still, some solo performers are classic ballerinas. Professional experience is not required, but apparently, neither is a point to this entire competition.
Live to Dance makes a big deal of the UK series upon which it's based. (On its website, underneath the giant Abdul closeup, it says "Based on the Hit British Series Got to Dance, as if to say, "We have reason to exist.") CBS has even imported one of the show's original judges, former Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt. Problem is, Live to Dance's format also borrows from a stateside series, and it's the gloomiest one of all: America's Got Talent.
If you watched last season of America's Got Talent, you'll recall that the final showdown between opera fop Prince Poppycock, singer-songwriter Michael Grimm, singing tot Jackie Evancho, and blacklight performers Fighting Gravity made no sense. Similarly, there's no reason to pit Irish jiggers and krumpers against one another on Live to Dance. So You Think You Can Dance at least forces its contestants to attempt the same gauntlet of styles, thereby equalizing the competitors' chances -- but all Live to Dance wants is to give audiences a variety of performers before arbitrarily picking winners.
Ultimately, the show makes the mistake of expanding So You Think You Can Dance's performer requirements instead of narrowing them. A competition series about only ballerinas (or b-boys, contemporary performers, krumpers, etc.) is entirely novel. That's what makes MTV's street-centric America's Best Dance Crew and the shockingly good The Sing-Off so watchable: Their contestants should be compared to each other. Professionally, they're each others' competition. But Live to Dance's loose parameters pose the show as something of a well-lit high school talent show, and Paula Abdul's legitimate (and impressive) dance background is beneath this. Better yet, do we even want to watch Abdul preside over such a far-reaching audition pool? Do we want to watch her emulate the opening scene in Michael Jackson's "Remember the Time," flashing the thumbs-down at a bunch of circus performers like Iman? No. We want her to reclaim her professional power and exercise the chops she exhibited in the following clip:
Sure, she's not as, er, put-together now as she was in 1986, but a competition devoted to, say, music video performers would at least be a suitable domain for Abdul. Live to Dance's talent is too random for a decent contest and too versatile to make Abdul's inclusion worth it. Cat Deeley, I miss you a whole lot right now.