First and foremost, the dancing isn't noteworthy. It's not terrible -- though I couldn't wait for Mandy/Alastair's Broadway (are they even allowed to still call it Broadway when it's on a completely different continent?) to be over -- but it's also not great, at least through the first week. I was somewhat under the impression that the UK would have strong classically trained dancers, because, you know, I once watched a DVD of a British ballet performance.
I liked Lizzie and Mark's lyrical hip hop, though, simply for not being CrappyTabs (pardon the French, the UK has laxer language standards), and because I'll immediately like anything a pretty hip-hop lady performs. I have to wonder, though, if a country that produces mediocre hip-hop music (there's, what, Roots Manuva and Dizzee Rascal? MIA? Is Lady Sovereign good?) can produce better than mediocre hip-hop dance.
The production also has second-rate written all over it. More than once, the show cut to an extreme long shot of the stage in the middle of the dance, but the stage isn't raised all that high so the heads of all the audience members blocked the view of the dancers' feet. Still, chintzy production isn't a dealbreaker for me, as I have a soft spot for the aesthetics of low-rent reality shows.
Nevertheless, the episode was engrossing as reality spectacle, which is to say, Cat. She immediately increases the watchability of anything she's on a hundredfold, and seeing her on her stomping grounds is good fun. Momo made a similar observation: "Have you noticed that Nigel speaks differently when surrounded by folks who speak like he does? he seems more relaxed, more fluent, doesn't enunciate so clearly for us yanks." Just judging by this first week, the entire show -- Nigel and the judges, Cat, the camera-people -- seems more relaxed and looser, and there were moments when the banter between host and judges got downright rowdy compared to the more genteel American (hah) production.
And lots of weird British in-jokes that flew over my head.
And, hell, whatever deficiencies the contestants have as dancers, they more than make up for with personality. (And vaguely Gothy hip-hop girls, but that's neither here nor there.) Personality was something that sorely lacked from Canadance season 2, at least as far as I was concerned, and no amount of good choreography could get me over my hump of apathy -- narrative reared its head, unexpectedly. The UK crew has had as long a history with reality tv as Americans (if not longer), so they know what plays in front of a camera, and SYTYCD, being fundamentally a tv show, is improved by it.
Indie rating: Richie Hawtin – "Range / Smart Card? / 10 Strikes to 2001"