Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SYTYCD - FINALE WEEK, Krumping Towards Ecstacy

Greetings All! Another SYTYCD season has come to a conclusion - this one a bit hastier than most. I talked last week about how odd this season has been, and the (too soon) Finale this week continued in that head-scratching tradition. The final performance show featured NINE dances (the top 3 guys each partnering with the top 3 girls equals nine routines!) but for the first time in forever it's NOT two hours long. They've shoved it all into one hour. Why? Because Gordon Ramsey is teaching us how to cook dinner LIVE AT 9PM. I don't eat dinner at 9pm, nor do I have a tv in my kitchen so this whole project to me seems a little ill-conceived.

Seriously, what is Fox thinking? Because the show was only an hour long we get no rehearsal footage, no solos, no same-sex dances and no interviews between Cat and the finalists about their journeys this season. I call bullshit. Give the Finale the attention it deserves, Network!

The only thing that redeemed this travesty of TV scheduling was that finally all the dances were kinda awesome. All season the routines were a little wonky, and then last night it seemed the gloves came off (along with most of the costumes. It was as if the costume department saw the order for 18 costumes for just six dancers this week and said "screw that, all the guys can go shirtless!") and the choreographers and dancers all really threw down. A brief recap of all the routines:

Kathryn and Ryan - Samba, choreo. by Jason Gilkison. If this show was So You Think You're A Chiseled Bad Ass MoFo, Ryan would certainly win. He's shirtless and shaking everything is mama gave him HARD in this routine. Dude is solid muscle, which helps if you have to flip a girl up over your head and catch her on your back as Ryan does in this routine. Kathryn is looking great too and moves well. Although the judges heap praise on her, I actually thought she looked a little off-balance at the beginning. I give the effort a solid B+.

Ellenore and Jakob - Broadway, choreo. by Tyce Diorio. The music is "I Gotcha" from Fosse and the costume and style reflect what you'd think of Fosse. Tyce's Broadway routines can be very hit or miss from me but this one hits. Ellenore and Jakob rule as partners. This one is fun and sexy and sharp. This one gets an A.

Ashleigh and Russell - lyrical jazz, choreo. by Sonya. I totally dug this routine. Ashleigh is Russell's guardian angel and i think the movement is just beautiful. The judges really focus the attention on Russell, who indeed is great, but I thought Ashleigh was very very strong as well. I'm glad these two got to dance together after last week's injury. I give this an A+.

Ellenore and Ryan - jazz, choreo. by Gary Stuart. I didn't really go for this routine on first viewing, but going back to it again today, I really liked it. It was intentionally robotic, which Nigel didn't care for, but Mary Murphy and I appreciated for its weirdness. It didn't really feel like Jazz though. This routine probably didn't inspire a lot of votes, but still I would give it an A- for execution and commitment.

Ashleigh and Jakob - foxtrot, choreo. by Jean-Marc. Ashleigh and Jakob make a great dance couple and they once again look great doing this. Foxtrot isn't the awesomest of dance styles to pull from the house, but I thought Ashleigh and Jacob did a solid job and always dance beautifully together. Their partnership was a real highlight from top 20 down to top 10. Grade: A-.

Ellenore and Russell - Paso Doble, choreo. by Jason Gilkison. This was good, but I've seen better Paso Doble's on this show. Possibly on this season? Russell is not really the driving force he needs to be, which Ellenore compensates for by being a fiery wraith of a dance partner in an awesome dress that works for the occasion. It would've almost been boring without her added spark and she really saves the dance for me. Solid B+ effort, but not as good as some of the other numbers already tonight.

Kathryn and Jakob - Contempo, choreo. by Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson. For this one we're dancing to a Michael Buble cover of "At This Moment." I don't get the appeal of Buble, just like I don't get the appeal of Hannah Montana, but I know people like his style The dance itself is totally awesome. It gets the encore presentation of the week. Adam calls it a total game changer, which means after witnessing this dance, Joe Lieberman has embraced Health Care Reform, Bin Laden turned himself into the authorities, The NY Senate reconvened to vote in favor of Gay Marriage and Michele Bachman freely admitted herself to a mental institution. If not, at least their dance was the best of the night for a well-earned A+.

Ryan and Ashleigh - Contempo, choreo. by Travis Wall. The marrieds dance together and I don't want to hear massive backlash from the public because someone voted hard enough to keep them in and it was probably YOU. The dance between them is a beautifully tender experience as you can tell they are genuinely happy to have made it as far as they possibly could, while probably internally conceding that neither of them could actually win the title. Ryan's not as good as Ashleigh in the routine, and Nigel's right that she has better dance chemistry with Jakob, but it's still fun to watch. For that I say, A-.

Russell and Kathryn - Hip Hop, choreo. by Tabitha and Napolean. This is totally in Russell's wheel house and he does not disappoint. Kathryn throws down really well too. It's acrobatic and hard hitting and all the little things work. She's up on his shoulders. She's throwing him around. It's really good. Since it's the last competitive performance of the season, it's nice to end on a Grade A performance like this one.

So overall there was a very very solid show crammed into this hour. We didn't have time to really breathe (or blink even) for the entire hour. but the performance level was high and I expected to see a few of this week's performances get encores in the finale. This week's dances didn't do anything to sway my opinion of how the final six would shake out. 6. Ryan 5. Ellenore 4. Russell 3. Ashleigh 2. Kathryn 1. Jakob. feel like if Katherine had a separate Final Four week, she'd have been able to rally the underdog vote and win it all. Even with Nigel telling her on Tuesday how she'd been his favorite for weeks, I didn't think it'd be enough.

This brings us to the LIVE* Finale (* -33% taped footage.)! We're gonna see several favorite dances from throughout the season, several pointless musical filler performances, an extend commercial for Avatar during the show and a music video for margarine during the commercials. Also the contestants will be getting whittled down from 6 to 1. So exciting! The first group number is a new Top 20 dance which is only top 19, i think so that the one alternate kid who replaced Billy (Elliot/Jamie) Bell could participate next season instead. It was a really cool number the non-finalists all danced around awesomely and then revealed the top 6 against a giant red backdop as if they were glam-rock X-Men. (For The Record if they were X-Men: Ryan is Colossus, Ashleigh is Jean Grey, Ellenore is Jubilee, Russell is Bishop, Jakob is Iceman and Kathryn is Kitty Pryde. Legacy would've been Wolverine... sigh.) After we get done with that they recap eveything from last night I aleady recapped and then get to the favorite dances. Lemme just tell you all the routines that got Encores:

Meet the Top 20: Hip Hop with Legacy, Kevin and Russell
Top 10 Wk: Jakob and Ellenore, Sonya Tayeh's "Tore My Heart" Contempo
Meet the Top 20: Tappa Tappa Tappa with Philip, Bianca and Peter
Finale: An Original Jive Choreographed and Performed by Ashleigh and Ryan
Finale: Kathryn and Jakob, Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden's "At This Moment" Contempo
Top 18 Wk: Nathan and Mollee, Nakul Dev Mahajan's "Bollywood Prince"
Top 8 Wk: Legacy and Ellenore, Travis Wall's "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" Contempo
Top 16 Wk: Russell and Noelle, Sean Cheesman's Frog Prince African Jazz
Meet the Top 20: Contempo with Arianna, Channing, Jakob, and Nathan.
Finale: Russell and Kathryn, Tabitha & Napolean's Hip Hop
Meet The Top 20: Top 20 Wade and Amanda Robson "Bar Scene" Number

If we take a quick look at these selections, do we notice a trend? 4 of 11 Dances from before the Official Start of Competition and 3 of 11 Dances from the night before. One of the remaining dances was new, leaving only 3 dances to represent the rest of the ENTIRE COMPETITION. That's not good. That means there were several weeks where apparently nothing memorable happened. In my opinion, the Tappa Tappa number and the original jive shouldn't have been included in the finale. The Tappa was not that good the first time around, and was worse last night. And there was no need for a ballroom number between the Marrieds. They got their moment together the night before. Instead, they should've given the nods to Kathryn and Ryan's Cha Cha from Top 8 and anything from Ashleigh and Jakob's time together (I personally enjoyed the Cane Dance from Top 16, but they were all really good.)

We also got some "special" performances throughout the night:
*Leona Lewis sang horribly in front of a jumobo screen commercial for Avatar.
*The Groovaloo's hip hop danced.
*Adam Lambert sang "Whataya Want From Me" wearing a grey suit with some weird extra black material on his right shoulder. I hope that it wasn't an upcoming Project Runway challenge to design an outfit for Lambert to wear on the SYTYCD Finale, because if that was the winning design, the upcoming season of P.Runway is in serious trouble.
*Mary J. Blige sang "I am." in front of other images of herself on the big screen.
*Jennifer Lopez came in on a giant high heel shoe, telephoned Santa and then sang and danced to "Louboutins," nearly exhausting herself.

All of these performances could've been skipped and nobody would've cared. The Groovaloo's and MJB were pleasant, but unnecessary. J-Lo was fun and bizarro in her now-usual way. Lambert didn't kiss anyone. Leona Lewis was just TERRIBLE. It saddens me to say that, because I usually like her vocals, but they were WAY off during the show. Pitchy doesn't begin to cover it. And the giant Avatar commercial in the background was tacky - even by Fox standards. It's annoying to think we might've gotten more dances if these "special" performances weren't there.

So now to the real business of who won. Well JUUUUST as we approached the first elimination, the whole effing system broke down. And I don't mean my DVR for once. I mean the show itself. Let me set the scene: Cat's in the process of calling everyone out on stage when her mic cuts. She makes her way to center stage, and she's just standing there all alone. The theme music plays. Someone (turns out it's Nigel) is yelling offscreen. Then three of the six dancers come on looking flustered, and some techie finally comes out with a hand mic for Cat. TRAINWRECK. Still, Cat walks away from it unscathed and is ready to move forward. On with the show! Just one little problem: half the finalists are still missing! But wait, here they come! Sort of... Ellenore and Ryan take the stage and they're helping Russell, who appears to be injured and in tears. What the hell happened backstage? "I messed my leg up," he says to Cat as a matter of not really explaining. But he's crying so what do you do? Cat reasonably asks if he's seen the doctor and Russell says that he has. But it looks like he totally can't walk on his own. Thank goodness Colossus is there to haul him around the stage. Surely none of the other finalists would be strong enough.

Realizing there's nothing else to be done but get on with it, Cat announces who las landed in sixth place...

And it's Ryan. No surprise there, but it's a bit awkward because Ryan is the only thing propping up Russell right now. Cat keeps everybody where they are and positions herself next to Ryan and they do their best to stay focused on his goodbye and not on Russell's injury. They do a tight shot of their heads so we at home can pretend that Russell is crying merely inches away from Ryan and Cat. She throws it to Ryan's video journey, where we learn that Ryan's been very muscular and just a wee bit weepy throughout his time on the show. He wasn't always the best soloist but he was great at partnering and did some good routines. When the clip show is done, it looks like Russell's been taken offstage, with the other dancers who are still in the competition. Cat handled the whole thing like a total pro and it's shit like this which would've sent lesser reality hosts totally off the deep end, Deely didn't panic and ske kept the show rolling. This is why she needs a Reality Host nomnation and win from the Emmys. She makes the whole show so much better than it would otherwise be. So for your consideration, Cat Deely, Ladies & Gentlemen!

We now resume our regularly scheduled elimination of the contestants...

in fifth place was Ashleigh. Damn, my whole ranking is now thrown off. I thought she'd be higher on the list, but she wasn't gonna win, so I guess it doesn't totally matter. She and her husband got the unique experience of taking the season-long journey together. She had a great partnership with Jakob. She made it to the final without even dancing in Top 8! So you can imagine that she feels very thankful for making it to the end.

In fourth place is our lovely Ellenore. Cat called her "one of the most original, wonderful characters we've ever had on the show." It's totally true. She danced two of the best routines of the season and she was a delight the whole way through. She never really got a ton of voter love, but she always impressed with me with her commitment and technique. Rock on, lady.

In third place came Kathryn. I was a little surprised that she wasn't top 2. As I said before, if she had another week, she probably could've made up the difference in the vote. She had many great performances throughout the season with Legacy and she was also great with Nathan, Ryan, Russell and Jakob. She was the dark horse, and while she didn't make it to the top of the rankings, she was certainly a great dancer and competitor.

It came down to Jakob and Russell. They ae very different dancers and it's neat that they were both at the top at the end, but...

Jakob took second place. I was a little sad for him. I thought he was the best dancer this season. He was really incredible. I'm sure he has a great dance future ahead of him. At least they did a clip package for both he and Russell before they announced the results. Usually whoever comes in second gets totally screwed out of any acknowledgement on this show. This change felt like an improvement. Jacob jete'd his heart out all season and was just as worthy of the title. I hope he stays in the SYTYCD Family in future seasons.

RUSSELL WINS! I thought he had it in him. I honestly forgot to really consider him as Kathryn came on so strong and Jakob was so continually impressive. Russell's krump is AMAZING though and his solos always showed how talented he was in his own dance genre while the routines showed how versatile he was. Dude just has a loveable personality to boot. Good on you, Russell, for taking the title. I only wish the network hadn't mismanaged your season so badly. You and your fellow dancers deserved better. But enjoy the spoils of winning and I will look for you and Kathryn in the Adam Shankman-produced Oscars this year!

So that's it for this season! I know this recap was VERY long, but if you've been reading them all along, I hope you enjoyed it. I really think this wasn't a bad season, it was just treated badly.The problems I had with this season had nothing to do with the dancers who I thought were a really dynamic top 20. I had a big problem with the set and lighting design detracting from the actual dance, but I felt like the camera work started to adjust to it in recent weeks. I had a problem with some of the routines, but I think giving the choreographers some time off to pursue other projects in between seasons will be good. I had a HUGE problem with how Fox scheduled the show, but hopefully they will just keep it to a summer schedule and it can be a big fish in a small pond, instead of getting roughed up by Baseball in October. I love that Travis and Sonya came into their own this season, but I want Mia Michaels back among their ranks. Cat continues to only get better and better at hosting this show, even as the situations around her get crazier and crazier. Give that woman a raise. And a well earned vacation. And an Emmy.

See you in 2010, SYTYCD! Hopefully with Billy (Elliot/Jamie) Bell and Natalie. Remember Natalie? She auditioned for Seasons 4 and 5 and was cut FOR NO GOOD REASON! Please bring her back! PLEASE!

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