I've long held the theory that reality shows cannot thrive in Miami -- look at the Real Housewives of Miami, Miami Social, 8th & Ocean (though the seasons of Top Chef and Bad Girls Club that were in South Beach were pretty awesome, though those shows travel every season and aren't dependent on the surroundings the way that the former series were, but I digress) -- so my hopes for the South Florida spin-off Lifetime's already surprisingly wonderful Pittsburgh-based Dance Moms were exceedingly low. And the show somehow still managed to disappoint me beyond that. Here's why it doesn't work:
It's Too Sharp
In reality TV, there's always a danger that the cast members will be too over-the-top and that the drama will feel staged. Miami falls victim to this, as Victor and Angel (the owners and head instructors of Stars Dance Studio) seem too tailor-made for reality TV, knowing exactly how to argue well and steal screen time. There's not enough awkward silent moments here, as everyone is too busy figuring out a way to position themselves in front of the camera -- and unless you're a true powerhouse like Candy Apples' Cathy, it's no fun to watch. The fact that the show takes place in a higher-stakes setting also pales in comparison to the extreme drama that surrounds little ol' Pennsylvania.
The beauty of the original series is that Christi, Kelly, Holly and Melissa have known each other and Abby for years. They overshare their secrets to the point that lawyers get involved, protect one another and gang up on new moms who are foolish enough to try to join the group. The moms on Miami are way more like stage moms than our beloved Abby Lee Miller crew, who at best are mostly just bored and catty, which is why they are really the heart of the series.
Even worse than the moms are their ultracompetitive daughters (and son). Nothing against the actual kids, but the reason I'd rather watch Dance Moms is because Maddie, Mackenzie, Chloe, Nia, Brooke and Paige are clearly longtime friends who love each other and would never outwardly compete with one another, much less rip trophies out of each other's hands. It doesn't hurt that they're younger, too, as it's more impressive to see smaller children dance well and because it makes for way more hilarious dialogue, like Mackenzie's famous, "I don't wanna go on Broadway. All I want to do is stay home and eat chips."
There's No Abby
In case the final moments of the Season 2 finale didn't demonstrate this, there is no Dance Moms without Abby Lee Miller. She is the glue that holds the show together -- a common enemy for the mothers to bond over, a ridiculous quote factory and just obviously sad enough inside to still be tolerated, if not loved. Her pyramid is way better than Victor (a former So You Think You Can Dance contestant) and Angel's Wayne's World Top 10-looking list. On the bright side, Abby will be back in June... or will she? (She will.)
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