The Boyfriend of the Week

(photos from left to right: Hok Konishi, judge Shane Sparks, Jamal Weaver)

June 12, 2007

Before I get started with this write-up, I wanted to give a little shout-out of glee to the fans of last year's television show Jericho, who were recently able to convince CBS to give their favorite program a reprieve for next season. Jericho was cancelled at the end of its cliffhanger finale this year, and, peeved as hell, its dedicated fans started what I think is just an awesomely hilarious campaign to get CBS to give it another try. In order to creatively send CBS the message that they thought they were NUTS for canceling such a terrific show (and also, I'm told, as an homage to a line from the season finale, which was itself an homage to General McAuliffe's famous reply to the German commanders during the Battle of the Bulge when they ordered the Americans' immediate surrender ("NUTS!")), the fans organized and began to collect money from each other. When they had enough, they used the dough to buy several TONS of peanuts and had them delivered to the studio. That, plus the hundreds of emails and letters sent in protest, finally paid off last week, when CBS president Nina Tassler wrote the fans an open letter saying they'd decided to give the show a short, seven-episode season next year as a trial -- if the fans could turn their energy toward boosting the ratings next season and the numbers went up, CBS would pick the show up again for real. Several of those fans have been in contact with me (one awesome one in particular -- hi, Beth!) and I am just thrilled for their success. I watched the first couple episodes of Jericho last season and then decided to save it for DVD because there were too many other things on at the same time I was already watching. Since it starred TWO ex-Boyfriends of the Week (Skeet Ulrich and Gerald McRaney), I was really looking forward to getting caught up on it this summer and was, thus, pretty bummed out when I heard CBS had given it the boot.

Now my plan, and I hope yours too, is to start watching it on the CBS web site, where you can stream the whole season for free, and then to tune in this summer when CBS begins to air reruns of the whole first season (Fridays, starting July 6th). When season one hits DVD in September, I'll also be catching up on any episodes I've missed that way too. When the seven-episode season two begins, I'll be watching it live and trying to spread the word then as well. Even if I end up not loving the show as much as others do (unlikely, given the two ex-Boyfriends to drool over, but you never know), I can't help but want to support its fans, who have proven themselves to be not only dedicated and passionate, but also clever and funny as hell. We need more TV viewers like THOSE guys. Maybe if we were all that passionate about our favorites, so many of them wouldn't be going the way of Eyes and Wonderfalls (two favorites of mine that got the boot, for example). Fans have proven their dedication can save shows in the past too -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one example, and, of course, we all know it was fan power that got us Firefly watchers what soon became our favorite flick of all time, Serenity. And now we can add the Jericho fans to the List of Awesomeness as well. Rock on, my peeps! You're a true inspiration to those of us who just sit around and bitch when our shows go off the air. I'm taking a lesson from you, and next time they boot one of my favs, I'm SENDING NUTS.

Okay, now onto this week's write-up.

Here's something that happens a lot on this site: I start watching a television show and LOVE it and can't get enough of it and fall madly in love with its star and start working on a write-up about him. And then I dither and dither and dither over what I want to say until months pass and the show goes off the air (either because it's canceled or because the current season ends). Once the show is no longer active, I decide I don't want to feature the guy because, well, what's the point of highlighting a guy and his great television show if you, my awesome readers, can't run right over to your sets and tune in? If I tell you about a fabulous show when it's OVER, then you either have to sulk because you've missed it or you have to wait months for it to return and by then, you will have completely forgotten everything I had to say about it. Lose-lose.

In the last year, this has happened (roughly) gazillions of times. Most notably, though, it's happened with two TV shows I love. The first is a comedy-mystery on USA called Psych, the star of which (James Roday) I have the major hots for. Watch for his write-up to show up later this summer, as that show returns in July (though, given the fact it usually airs a short season, I may go a third round without getting it posted in time -- I'll try not to, though).

The second, however, I was determined not to screw up again -- it's a show that started its third season about two or three weeks ago. A reality show, in fact, which is a little unusual for me since I don't watch many of those these days (though, confession time: I'm loving Pirate Master even though the challenges are really lame so far and, to my growing surprise, not a single character has let loose with a heartfelt "Arrrrrrr!" yet. What gives?). It's even a reality show about dancers, which is doubly weird for me since I REALLY don't watch many of THOSE. Yep, it's Fox's So You Think You Can Dance -- a dumb name, I will grant you, and also one that's really way, way too long, which is why from this point forward, I'll be referring to it as So Dance. This is also a dumb name, of course, but at least it's a few keystrokes shorter.

Last season, I was completely enthralled by So Dance and spent half the summer trying to write something about it. Part of the problem was that it had three different guys I wanted to feature, all extremely cute and ridiculously talented. Which one do I single out? Or do I just feature all three? Things got a little easier when one of them finally got booted off the show (Musa, for those of you who were watching last year). But I still had two favorites and I spent the last few weeks of the season trying to decide whether I could whittle that down to one or whether I needed to just do a double write-up and call it a day.

That write-up would've probably been called Tranji, as that was the moniker fans quickly gave to the killer dancing duo of Travis Wall and Benji Schwimmer (okay, okay, they only ever did ONE dance together, but it was an absolutely hilarious hip-hop routine that had me rolling with crazy laughter -- I'll be posting some YouTube clips later in the write-up and that'll be one of them, so you can see what it was like if you missed it and are curious).

Anyway, when, in the last episode, Benji was named the winner, I finally decided I would feature him with only a brief mention of Travis, but then I got distracted, and before I knew it, we were a month out and I felt like there was really no point in going on with that one.

THIS season, I started watching with the plan to get a couple of weeks in, wait and see who I liked the best, and feature that guy as a way to help him win the series (viewers ultimately get to decide who takes home the prize, after all). The problem is, the more I watch, the less I'm able to wait to rave about the show. I can't just give it a few more weeks and see who emerges as my favorite. I MUST RAVE NOW. I can wait no longer. So, DANCE!

Here's the premise of the show -- it starts with auditions, kind of like American Idol (right down to the British judge (Nigel) who, some might say, is a bit more "honest" than most of us would appreciate -- incidentally, he's also the original producer of American Idol, so his Simon Cowell act is no fluke). They go to several cities and a bunch of people show up and do one-minute auditions to try to impress them. Like AI, some of these contestants are ridiculously bad, and, frighteningly, some of the worst of them also confess they are dance instructors, something that never fails to earn them the open wrath of said British judge. Yes, they can't dance to save their lives, and yet they spend 40 hours a week teaching other people how to shake their groove thangs. It's pretty disturbing.

For the most part, though, the audition episodes display quite an amazing range of talent. Dancers of all genres come in to perform -- everything from ballroom to breakdancing -- and sometimes they are so incredible they simply take my breath away. I often find myself laughing out loud with absolute pleasure when the breakers and street dancers perform -- in fact, I'm far FAR more entertained by the hip-hop and breakin' than I am by any of the other genres. Give this white girl a popping b-boy any ol' day of the week, I tell you. I'm sure part of this is due to the fact I saw Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo not once but TWICE in the theater back in 1984. Talk about culchah! In my defense, it was Yuma, Arizona in the summertime -- aside from sweating and buying candy cigarettes at KayBee Toys in the mall, there wasn't a whole lot else to do there. At least, not back in 1984 there wasn't.

Okay, so, after the first round of auditions on So Dance, the group moves to Vegas, where they spend a few days learning choreography and then finally choreographing their own dances, in order to help the judges whittle the group down to the final 20 for the show (10 each of girls and boys). This was taken care of last Thursday, and from now forward, the show will progress as such: Each week, the group will put into pairs (one girl with one boy) and each set of dancers will draw a paper out of a hat that tells them what style of dance they'll be doing. They'll then spend several days working with a choreographer who teaches them that style, and finally perform for the judges (and us viewers, who get to vote for our favorites each week). What's so incredibly fun about this is that we not only get to see them performing the dances, which are amazing, but we also get to see them LEARNING the dances, and what could be more entertaining than a breakdancer learning the lindy hop, I ask you? I just can't get enough of it, personally. I can't get enough of seeing all these different styles of dance -- everything from the Viennese waltz to the samba to modern dance to hip-hop. We come to know the choreographers as well, and it's fascinating (to me, anyway) when you finally get to the point wherein you can not only recognize each style of dance, but know exactly who choreographed it (I can always tell a Mia Michaels piece now, for example, and think she's an absolute genius).

What I love too is that all the contestants are AMAZING dancers. The other dance reality show, Dancing with the Stars, has never really appealed to me because it's taking non-dancers and quickly getting them to learn a variety of routines. But even though it's cool that they can take John Ratzenberger and teach him how to waltz, it's not like watching the So You Think You Can Dance dancers perform. They're incredible. Even when they mess something up, they're still mind-blowingly good (in my opinion, anyway, and it should be noted here that not only do I know very little about dance, I'm also one of the most god-awful dancers I know).

I believe I've mentioned this, but for the record: I just can't get enough of this show!! Every time I tune in, it makes me want to get up and shake my butt. And even though this might sound weird, I find myself completely enthralled by watching the dancers' muscles bend and tighten, almost to the point where I sometimes can't even see the dance itself so much as each individual motion. I just love watching those insanely strong bodies do their crazy thang. Ever seen a breakdancer stand on his finger tips? Spin on his head? Hold his body up off the floor at an angle on only one hand? Just watching those muscles at work fascinates me. It's physics. It's anatomy. It's timing. It's comedy. It's talent, heart, passion. It's simply brilliant, week after week. I just can't get enough!

The reason I finally decided I didn't want to wait any longer before getting you guy in on the So Dance fun was not only because I want you to start watching now so you can see the top twenty from the beginning, but also because I wanted to gush about some of the auditions before I've forgotten all the people who truly entertained me in the early episodes (many of whom didn't make the final cut). Most of the ones I loved the most were hip-hop or breakers, of course, but they were also the ones with GREAT senses of humor, which is a quality y'all know I respect more than almost any other. There was the hip-hopper (Jamal Weaver) who, when initially rejected by the judges, claimed he could swing dance and was given an hour to prove it -- his final swing-ish performance was so hilarious the judges couldn't help but put him through to the next round even though there was no way he'd ever make it and they all knew it. And then there was the football-playing teenager who had broken his father's heart by rejecting his sport and deciding to learn how to be a contemporary dancer instead (think Billy Elliot). Though he'd only been dancing for something like nine months, his body control was spectacular. Too much of a rookie for the final twenty, but amazing nonetheless.

Ooh, and THEN there was my absolute favorite -- my total hero -- "the scoliosis guy" (Bryan Gaynor) who came out for his audition with every inch of his tiny, four-foot frame hunched over as he kind of lurched across the stage in a tight walk that didn't exactly scream "grace and athleticism" at me. I could feel the judges think to themselves, "Oh no, how do we tell this poor guy he's a terrible dancer?" And then Bry started up this utterly amazing robot-dance routine that was not only incredibly brilliant, but also just riotously funny. Though he didn't end up making it through (his condition made it too hard for him to learn other styles of dance), he so impressed judge Shane Sparks (who I'm madly in love with, incidentally) that Shane told him he wanted to cast him in his next dance movie. Can't wait for that to come to fruition, as I am now a HUGE Bryan Gaynor fan.

Of the ones who DID make it into the final ten boys group, my top favorite at the moment is Hok, an Asian breaker with what sounds like an Aussie accent who had tried out last year and nearly made it until they learned he didn't have a work permit for the U.S. Hok is another one of those dancers who puts an element of humor into all his routines, and his sweet face and gorgeous smile so stunned me last year that I recognized him immediately when he auditioned this season as well. I was thrilled when he made it into the final twenty, and can't wait to see what he does next.

I'm also a fan of Neil and Pasha, two guys with radically different dance styles but equally good looks. And I'm curious to see what comes of Ricky, who is, in a nutshell, a REALLY weird dude, but who has incredibly strong control over his body, which makes him fun to watch. All in all, it looks like an exciting batch of dancers, and if nothing else, their enthusiasm and passion will get my butt up off the couch at least once a week for the next few months.

If you're still not convinced this show is worth checking out, take a look at some of the YouTube clips I collected for your viewing pleasure. Watch them right away if you're going to watch them at all, because the network keeps taking them down, even though they are JUST CLIPS from the episodes and were all available FOR FREE on network television when they originally aired. Hey, Fox, have you noticed how all the other major networks are making full episodes of their shows available for free on their web sites? With advertising, so they can continue to make money off them? GET A CLUE! If you'd put all these clips on the So Dance web site, I'd be directing hundreds of people to your site right now instead of over to YouTube! Gah! I hate it when television networks are dumb. Do they not want publicity? Do they not want people to see these clips and think, "Damn, I should start watching that show?" Because I can't see how you could watch these clips and think anything else, frankly. Go ahead -- prove me wrong! I double-dog dare ya. (Note, if any of these clips have been removed by the time you click on them, you can try searching for the person's name at YouTube and see if someone else has reposted them.)

Tranji (Travis Wall and Benji Schwimmer):

Jamal Weaver's Swing Dance:

Bryan Gaynor (scoliosis guy):

Myles Johnson (football player turned dancer):

Hok Konishi (breaker who made it into final 10):

My favorite Mia Michaels piece from last season (Travis and Heidi):

So You Think You Can Dance airs Wednesdays at 8 with results shows Thursdays at 9 on Fox. Be there or be . . . um, not there. But being there is way cooler, and cool is what the dancin' boo-tay is all about. Shake your butt!

MacGyver Factor Score: 92.475%. I'm not actually featuring an individual here, so much as an entire series, so my MFS is a bit nebulous. I'm taking points off because you can't catch episodes you missed for free on the Fox site (no, I'm sorry -- I will not be letting that rest). But points back because I still love that "Rama Lama Ding Dong" zombie dance from last season. Check that one out here: Damn, my friends -- that is some good TV right there. Boogie out!

Boyfriend-Related Links

Fox's SYTYCD page
Travis Wall's somewhat-disturbing MySpace page (what ARE those photos about, Trav?)
Fan site on Benji Schwimmer (last year's super-cute winner)
Television Without Pity's SYTYCD page

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