There are reality shows that take to the new “junioring” fad really well. Take Chopped, for instance, or Project Runway. Chopped: Junior features teen chefs who are both prodigy children as well as completely unaware of the irony when they say how, at age 11, it is hilarious to adults to listen to them parrot the “I’ve wanted this my whole life” competition trope that adults spout all the time. Project Runway: Junior gives the show a way to have a “nice” version of the show, in a time when “nice” reality shows are on the rise, without having to retool their original format.
The there are the shows where the “junior” variation is a disaster. American Juniors, which was the name of American Idol: Junior ran one season for a reason. One would think that Nigel Lithgoe, who lived through that ten years ago, would have remembered it when the time came to discuss the concept of So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation.
Beyond the fact that SYTYCD:Jr did not take the easy title but made an already unwieldy title more cumbersome is only the start of our woes. SYTYCD works because it is adults who failed to get a dancing career off the ground on their own, competing to live that dream. Like Idol, the age of the contestants is part of why the show works–Adam Lambert was 26, and aging out of his chance at pop stardom when he launched a career from the Idol stage. Taylor Hicks was 30. A child of 12 singing for the first time hasn’t struggled for the career, and doesn’t understand the dreary world of retail they might find themselves in if they fail. And so it is on SYTYCD.
Look, they’re very cute. No one is going to argue that they aren’t very cute, up there on stage, dancing like little trained ponies. But this is not a show where I am looking for cute mini human tricks. I am looking for dancers. I am looking for talent. I am looking for someone who can convey emotion with their bodies.
I got this.
I get that SYTYCD was on the verge of cancellation. Idol is over and done with, and Lithgoe can’t depend on it to buoy up his pet project with the terrible name anymore. He had to do something, and the Junioring of reality shows seems to be where the wind was blowing, so he let it blow the show that way. But in doing so, they’ve lost a key factor in why this show was worth watching in the first place. They killed the show to save it. I suppose at least this way, they all still have jobs.
I’ll try tuning in again at the end of auditions and see if things improve, but otherwise I think it’s time to accept that SYTYCD is dead.