Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance," which just wrapped up its third installment, might be the best competition show on prime-time television. On what other program are viewers treated to a pool of talented contestants working as hard as they can on a beautiful art form, knowledgeable and caring judges, and noteworthy performances each and every week?
This season's winner, crowned at the end of Thursday night's results show, Sabra Johnson typified everything that is wonderful about the show. A powerhouse pixie who began dancing only four years ago, she brought sparkle to the stage with every performance, whether in a spicy disco routine, a moody hip-hop number or her joyous solo dances. She may not have been the biggest goofball or diva or sexpot, but that was never a liability, which says a lot about her talent and the show.
Like any TV competition, though, the "So You Think You Can Dance" finale came with its low points. We saw no shortage of clip reels and slow-motion tears, plus the obligatory useless celebrity cameo as judge Nigel Lythgoe gave a nod to one of his favorite dancers . . . Paula Abdul (not surprising since Lythgoe also produces "American Idol").
Many viewers were actually looking forward to the promised dance between Glamazon host Cat Deeley and wise-guy judge Lythgoe (who has a dance background) but were given the old bait-and-switch with a silly, not even funny Jibjab.com video. The episode ended abruptly as Sabra was announced the winner, denying runner-up Danny Tidwell his moment of reflection upon the season. A handsome, graceful, proud dancer, he would have been the most touching to watch.
Perhaps the most egregious addition was the performance of Nicole Scherzinger from the Pussycat Dolls. It seemed like a slap in the face to the talented individuals on "So You Think You Can Dance" to have to share the stage with someone who mainly gave the audience stomping and heavy breathing.
For the most part, however, the finale provided plenty of what audiences have come to expect: lots of fun. Instead of relying on the hall of shame moments of the open auditions, as "American Idol" does, the show brought back some of the first-round contestants, including a male clog dancer who unexpectedly lent glamour and attitude to the genre. The choreographers and judges reflected upon their favorite moments of the season, and some of the most noteworthy performances were given encores, such as the jazzy yet full-of-attitude West Coast swing performed by hip-hop girl Sara VonGillern and ballroom dancer Pasha Kovalev, as choreographed by last year's winner Benji Schwimmer.
The finale, for those tuning in (very) late in the season, served up a visual montage of all the talent the show has to offer but also gave the top 20 contestants a well-deserved moment in the spotlight.
Third runner-up (and sister to Benji) Lacey Schwimmer exemplified the grit and spark the dancers brought to the stage: She couldn't help the tears streaming from her eyes when she was eliminated, but she grinned as she cried, and she meant it.
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