First of all, many, many thanks to Lauren for filling in for me on short notice while I was away with family business. Second of all, and somewhat ironically, while last week's Meet the Top Twenty still felt, to me, like a jumble of dancers whom we may or may not know very well, this week's initial competition episode put nearly everyone's best foot forward, and suddenly, I am LOCKED IN. It's probably too premature to start comparing this season to others yet, but I don't think we've had a Top 20 this strong in quite a while. Now if only America would stop itself from voting off a bunch of good ones in the first few weeks, as has sadly been its custom the last few seasons.
The opening group dance is a very production-heavy number, more akin to an awards-show opening than any kind of dance number we're used to on this show. It starts out in the parking lot and moves its way through the backstage area, dancers handing off to dancers, handing off to choreographers (Hey Tabitha! Hey Travis!), all on a winding march to the stage. Hey, do you feel like seeing Herb Alpert and his trumpet cheer the dancers along? There he is! And yes, Nigel Lythgoe gets to live out his dream and finally dance like a real hip-hopper. Congratulations, you old crone. Meanwhile, Jason Gilkison and Mary Murphy get their ballroom on, and Christopher Scott is SERIOUSLY SO FINE. And then the dancers make it onto the stage, and there's Cat at the end and FUNNNNN! Great start, guys!
The less said about the opening round-off the better, as the pairs as called out by Cat are NOT the real pairs as they will perform tonight. Seriously? You're breaking my balls, show. Speaking of which, Nigel and Mary are joined on the judging panel by Wayne Brady, leading to me having to pause the show no less than twice to explain this turn of events to confused roommates.
Mariah and Carlos: Jive (Jason Gilkison)
So Mariah is likeable and probably out of her element with ballroom in the first week, while Carlos is still trying to nail down that whole likeability thing (STOP MUGGING SWEET JESUS), but he's got a better grasp of what his legs should be doing than his partner does. In any event, we all get to hear Fantasia's "Get It Right" as they go along. Her legs look heavy. They hit the lift, though not without some effort, and indeed after it's all done, Mary calls it "labored." Wayne says he wanted them to be having more fun. The judges seem to agree: dancing was not quite there, but they have great personalities.