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Dancing -- with less slam

One of the appeals of `So You Think You Can Dance' is that it treats participants and fans with respect. Take that, Simon Cowell.

June 01, 2007|Claire Zulkey | Special to The Times

It's early in the season, so all this potential goodwill has lots of room to be spoiled, but "So You Think You Can Dance" seems to insult its audience's intelligence much less than the average reality TV show. While there are times the viewers at home are being overly played to (did we really need two contestants who managed to power through with false limbs?), the show seems for the most part to treat its fans and participants with a healthy amount of respect.

A few reasons "So You Think You Can Dance" isn't as guilty a pleasure as it might at first seem:

1) The judges. Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and whoever is sitting in the third seat (it's been rotating these last two episodes) have no catchphrases, no eye rolling, no slurring. They tell the dancers when they're good but, more, they tell the dancers when they've been entertaining. They don't sugarcoat the bad news but also don't make a point of sticking the dagger in as far as it can go just for entertainment's sake (we're looking at you, Simon Cowell). A good example was the overweight young man who tried out in L.A. in the first hour: While Nigel chided him for his build and astutely pointed out that the audience was being patronizing when they cheered for him, the judge admitted that he actually had potential and to keep going. The result? An out-of-breath yet dry-eyed contestant who promised he'd try again.

2) It might be the most gay-friendly show on network television. This is obviously hard to prove. However, if sweeping generalizations may be made, a show about dancers is likely going to net a few gay male contestants. Unlike on other network shows, though (reality and scripted), they're not turned into bland sexuality-free Ken dolls or attitude queens. There are some gay folks on the show. They're here to dance. That's just about it. It's refreshing. It's surprising it's not on Bravo.

3) Cat Deeley. We just can't get enough of her! We're trying to find out what the inevitable weakness is in the host of the show but she's still cute as a button, articulate and seems to have personality. She'll probably be fired soon or given her own talk show.

The only area where the audience could actually use a bit more pandering to, it seems, is when it comes to the actual dancing. While "Dancing With the Stars" would fill in the viewers on what made a particularly good fox trot or samba, it's occasionally difficult to tell the varying degrees of dancing skill between the contestants on "SYTYCD," especially when they're all performing in different genres. And when it comes to the numerous fresh-faced, long-haired hard-bodied female dancers who do high leg kicks and splits to inspirational songs, a little guidance on why we should care for one more than the other might be helpful. Other than who is the prettiest, of course.

Show Tracker follows television shows through their highs and lows. For more, go to latimes.com/showtracker.

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