Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

My Favorite TV Personalities January 18, 2010

When it comes to tv viewing, I usually stick to the fiction end of the spectrum. I have often expressed my distaste for the reality genre. That being said, there are times when I enjoy a non-scripted show, and a likable host is a big part of that. My husband is a big fan of Discovery Channel’s hit show Dirty Jobs, and while I can’t always stomach the show’s revelations about the nasty work that some people do for a living, I still find myself drawn to it. Why is this the case? Well, because my favorite tv personality happens to be the host! I define a tv personality as any one who plays a version of themselves on tv. They could be a talk show host, a variety show judge, an emcee, or even a reality show star. I have compiled a list of my favorites below:

  • Mike Rowe – Most recently, you might recognize Mike as the spokesman for Ford, in their “Why Ford. Why Now” commercials. But for years he has been lending his voice as narrator to many Discovery Channel shows, and his real claim to fame is as host of Dirty Jobs. The show, which started in 2005 and is now in its sixth season, was based on a concept that he developed while working on a San Francisco program called “Somebody’s Gotta Do It.” He has a great voice, which is why he’s done so much work as a narrator, and he’s also charming, down to earth, and attractive. I mean, anyone who can still be called attractive while standing in the middle of the sewers or while cleaning out a garbage truck, has a special charisma. And that he does. It is also interesting to know that he used to be an opera singer! Check out this video, which gives a taste of his hosting duties on Dirty Jobs, and gives a sample of his singing:

  • Neil Patrick Harris – Next on my list is little Doogie Howser, who years later regained fame by suiting up as Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. He also impressed and entertained with his role as Dr. Horrible in Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. It seems that Neil Patrick Harris can do it all: child genius, manipulative bachelor, diabolical mastermind, Emmy host… It’s that last bit that qualifies him for this list. His suitability to hosting gigs became apparent when he subbed for Regis several times on Regis and Kelly. He is one of those people who looks so at ease in front of the camera, seems to be having fun, and seems like he’d be fun to hang out with. A host who is that personable makes me want to watch a show, which is why I tuned in to every minute of last year’s Emmy Awards. He was a natural, and, in my opinion, was one of the best hosts an awards show has seen since the days when Billy Crystal hosted the Oscars. Check out his opening musical number from the Emmy Awards:

  • Cat Deeley – The one reality show that I watch is So You Think You Can Dance, and really it is more of a variety show than reality. I have been a huge fan of the show for several seasons now. I love that it showcases such amazing talent and features a variety of dance styles. One of the things that holds each episode together is Cat Deeley’s presence. With her distinctive clothing (the hair, makeup, and costume departments go crazy with her!), her pleasant British accent, and her cheerful demeanor, she is like a mother hen to the contestants. When they are excited, she is thrilled along with them; when they are devastated, she cries alongside them. She’s always there to give an encouraging word or hug, and every bit of it seems genuine. I much prefer her hosting style over Ryan Seacrest’s cheesy, artificial one on American Idol. So kudos to Cat, for a great job hosting her show. Many of the judges have put on their dancing shoes and performed on the show – I’d like to see Cat join in one day!

  • Conan O’Brien – Of all the late night talk show hosts out there, Conan is my favorite. I can’t say that I stay up every night to watch The Tonight Show, but whenever I do I am never disappointed. I love his self-deprecating, sarcastic sense of humor, and his willingness to do all sorts of zany things to entertain us. I hope that when the dust settles from this Jay Leno fiasco, Conan is able to walk away with the better end of the deal, whether that means staying on The Tonight Show, or moving to another network that will treat him with more respect.

  • Adam Shankman – And so another member of the So You Think You Can Dance team makes an appearance on my list. There have been many judges and guest judges on the show, but my favorite is Adam, director/producer/choreographer extraordinaire. He is so passionate about dance, and gets so excited when the contestants give a knockout performance. And his critiques are actually useful, unlike some other reality show judges I can think of. He gives both gushing praise and constructive criticism. His enthusiasm for dance is contagious, and so his presence on the show makes it more exciting to watch. I look forward to seeing what he does as a producer on this year’s Oscars telecast.

  • Ellen DeGeneres – Representing the world of daytime talk on my list is dancing, tennis shoe-wearing Ellen. Like Conan O’Brien, she has an understated, sarcastic brand of humor, but she is also very personable like Neil Patrick Harris. Sometimes her rambling comedic style comes across as awkward, which is why she works better in the comfort of her own afternoon show than as host of an awards show. I haven’t been as impressed with her stint as a judge on American Idol, since she basically brings no expertise to the table, and gives about as much feedback as any of the couch potatoes watching could. Maybe that’s the idea, but I’d rather see someone else in the music business sitting on that panel. But then, I don’t even really watch that show, so I’ll just continue to appreciate her presence on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Who are your favorite tv personalities, and why? Did I forget about someone who is really incredible?

 

SYTYCD Season 6: The Top 16 Perform November 11, 2009

Was Cat Deeley participating in the much-promoted Simpson’s Scavenger Hunt last night? That would be the only good excuse for her bizarre appearance, with her hair pulled back tightly along the sides and piled high above her forehead. Her 1980s style snake-skin dress weren’t any better. I don’t know what Simpson’s character she would have been impersonating, but maybe we were supposed to spot Lisa’s saxophone in her hair or something. Anyway, on with the show. This was a pretty mediocre night, which may be more to blame on the choreographers than the contestants. We were introduced to a handful of new choreographers, some of whom stood out more than others.

* I must confess that I was lazy and didn’t take the time to type up the list of contestants, styles, choreographers, and songs. I “borrowed” that info from TV Squad, where you can read another review of this week’s episode:

The Top 16 Performances

  • Karen & Kevin – Hustle (Maria Torres) – “Come to me” France Joli – When was the last time we saw the Hustle on this show? Not long enough, in my opinion. The Hustle is right next to Disco at the bottom of my dance preference list. Kevin looked very uncomfortable in his glittery ’70s costume, but Karen looked like she was having fun. The choreography was pretty dull. This performance was instantly forgettable to me.
  • Ashleigh & Jakob – Jazz (Mandy Moore) – “Relax” Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Hooray for my favorite couple! They have been excellent every week, and didn’t lose any ground with this performance. Adam pointed out the one cane mishap, which I also noticed, but who cares, when everything else was near perfect? Now that Mia Michaels is no longer on the show, Mandy Moore has a chance to gain more recognition, which she is much deserving of.
  • Pauline & Peter – Quickstep – (JT & Tomas) – “Hey Baby! (Shake Those Hula Hips)” Big Kahuna & The Copa Cat Pack – Um, I wasn’t feeling this one. Peter was completely concentrating on the quick stepping, leaving no room for him to stay in character, and Pauline looked frightened that she was going to get left behind, as she held on for dear life as Peter swooped her across the stage and she tried to make her feet move at lightning speed. I think these two will be in the bottom three this week.
  • Kathryn & Legacy- Broadway (Andy Blankenbuehler) – “I Wanna Be Like You” Swingin’ Fireballs – I was bored and confused during this routine – something about a woman wanting to steal the remote from her man because she felt neglected? Also, Kathryn’s shorts were too short and not very flattering, and this wardrobe problem distracted me throughout the performance. I was so impressed with Legacy and Kathryn the past two weeks that I am willing to overlook this week’s unfortunate mediocre work.
  • Channing & Victor – Contemporary (Stacy Tookey) – “Be Be Your Love” KCRW version – Rachael Yamagata – This newly paired couple had their work cut out for them, and they did pretty well. They were in their own style, which helped. The routine had some really nice moments but lacked the chemistry that would make a “toxic relationship” story come more to life. But still, I’m much happier seeing Channing with Victor, than Channing with Phillip. I’m still not finding Victor very memorable, but having Channing as a partner instead of Bianca should help – that is, if they stick around long enough to prove themselves.
  • Ellenore & Ryan – Hip-Hop (Lil’ C) – “Lost BoiZ Anthem” Tha J-Squad- Come on, Lil’ C, you can do better than this. I was quite bored with this routine. It seems like half of the time Ellenore and Ryan were just carrying around their loot bags or throwing money in the air. The actual dancing only took up a fraction of the routine. I agreed with Adam that Ryan did really well considering he was a ballroom dancer doing hip hop. And Ellenore looked pretty comfortable in the style, standing out more than Ryan. I still like this couple, but they drew a bad choice this week, in terms of the style and Lil C’s nondescript choreography.
  • Mollee & Nathan – Salsa (Gustavo Vargas) – “Quimbara” Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco – And the award for “most painfully awkward” goes to… Yikes! I could barely sit through this literally awful performance. First of all, Nathan looked horrible with greasy hair and a sloppy shirt, and Mollee looked like she was playing dress up in the high heels and yellow dress. There wasn’t an ounce of “genuine” in their performance. Nathan, who is normally so charming and pleasant to watch, was cheesing it up big time, with a huge fake smile and squinty eyes, and he was stressing me out with the way his shoulders were hunched over. Mollee had more poise than Nathan, but didn’t look like she was having any fun at all. Many times you could see a look in her eyes that said, “Is it over yet? Are we done?” But like Adam said, their avid fan base will most likely keep them safe this week.
  • Noelle & Russell – Afro Jazz (Sean Cheesman) – “Frog Dance” Mickey Hart and Planet Drum – Russell was definitely the star of this routine. As Nigel pointed out, it gave him the chance to move like a krumper, which is good since that’s his style. Kudos to Sean Cheesman for introducing himself to the show in such an impressive fashion. I look forward to seeing more of this style on the show. Noelle hung in there pretty well, but I’m still just not seeing much personality in her performances. I was impressed, however, with that one trick were they flipped over each other like three times in a row. Something about this routine reminded me of Hok and Jamie’s “Hummingbird” routine from season three. A bird and a flower, a frog and an African princess… Tonight’s routine isn’t an instant classic like the Hummingbird one, but it definitely falls in the category of interesting and creative.

Predicting the Bottom Three Couples

  • Karen and Kevin – I’m not convinced that America is as in love with these two as the judges are, and so I expect to see them dance solos tonight
  • Pauline and Peter – It’s always hard to be popular on the show when you are constantly getting paired with new partners. Pauline has already danced with Billy, Brandon, and now Peter. On top of that, neither of these two had much screen time before the top 20 was announced. I do like Peter, and he’s shown an impressive amount of versatility so far, and Pauline is adorable, but I’m not sure that’s enough to make people vote for them.
  • Channing and Victor – In another case of revolving door partners, these two have had a difficult time of it. And while they had a decent performance this week, other couples have more devoted fans. If they are in the bottom three, I am hoping that at least Channing will escape elimination, because she is still one of my favorite girls.

Predictions on who will be sent home:

  • Victor
  • Pauline
 

SYTYCD Season 6: The Top 20 Perform October 27, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance’s initial performance episode of the season left me feeling unsettled. The circumstances that have developed since the top 20 were announced last week seem unfair to so many people, that the way things went tonight just seemed wrong. Of course, you can’t prevent injuries and illnesses from happening to contestants, or networks from showing the World Series instead of a dance competition results show. But on top of all that, I am disappointed with many of the pairings. Do the judges hand pick the couples, or are they drawn randomly out of a hat, just like their dance styles? I just had a grimace on my face watching some of these couples dance. Maybe they just need more time to develop chemistry, or maybe we’re in for a long season. Enough of my complaining. Here’s a quick review of the performances:

  • Channing and Phillip – Quickstep – Channing looked very glamorous, and I thought she did a good job with the choreography. I’m just not a fan of Phillip, and his wardrobe and dancing didn’t do anything to change that. This is one of the couples that I’m not happy about.
  • Ashleigh and Jakob – Broadway (Tyce Diorio) – Tyce called this sultry Broadway, and that it was. I was amazed with all the praise that the judges lavished on Jakob, but I’m happy to hear it, since I am a fan of his after Monday night’s “meet the top 20” episode. I didn’t really get his clothing, but he sure does command attention on stage! Ashleigh really will have trouble getting noticed with him for a partner. I still can’t figure out who he looks like. It’s driving me crazy!
  • Ariana and Peter – Hip Hop (Tabitha and Napoleon) – This routine was a “miss” for me. It reminds me of that weird routine that Ashley (?) and Kupono did early last season, where they were supposed to be crash test dummies or something. Let’s just say I find gold and silver spandex very distracting. Plus, there really was no chemistry between these two. I thought Peter did pretty well – he looked comfortable doing hip hop.
  • Russell (and Melanie as a substitute for the injured Noelle) – Foxtrot – At the beginning it looked like this was going to be really bad, when Russell was way too deliberate about placing his hand behind his back. But then he loosened up some, and had fun with it. I wasn’t as disturbed watching him dance with Melanie as I was when Pasha danced with her a few seasons ago when his partner was out with an injury.
  • Bianca and Victor – Contemporary (Travis Wall) – I don’t like them as a couple. Again, no chemistry, in my opinion. Victor is a great dancer, but Bianca’s shoulder’s really distract me (I have always noticed that, so I was glad Adam mentioned it). There were some excellent moves in this routine, so kudos to Travis Wall for that. Even though I don’t like Bianca and Victor together, I did like the routine.
  • Karen and Kevin – Cha Cha (Tony and Meredith) – This was awkward for me to watch, but at least we heard a song from Glee (“Push It”). These two are just weird together, and Kevin didn’t seem too comfortable with all the gyrating. He seemed like he was just going through the motions. (Maybe he should have been in the bottom two guys instead of Russell…) Karen’s costume looked straight out of an 80s dance aerobics video.
  • Ellenore and Ryan – Contemporary Jazz (Sonya Tayeh) – It wasn’t a smart move for Ellenore to talk up this performance as one of the best the show has ever seen, and that she’s ever performed. I guess she was trying to compliment Sonya, but it came across as arrogant. I did enjoy the strangeness of the routine, but it was far from the best I’ve ever seen on the show. Ryan certainly is a manly man, though, and he had a chance to show off his strength during this performance. These two have the potential to be a strong couple, and they are probably one of the most satisfying pairings so far. But did anyone else notice how Ellenore had her hand resting on Ryan’s lower abs and the front of his pants during the judges’ comments? I expected Ashleigh to walk on stage and swat her hand away. Seemed a little too personal. Awkward…
  • Pauline and Brandon – Smooth Waltz – Too bad that Brandon has already been sent packing, because these two were a rather adorable couple. The dancing was far from perfect, but it was sweet.
  • Kathryn and Legacy – Hip Hop (Dave Scott) – This goofy routine was about cavemen experiencing hip hop for the first time, and they didn’t really know what was happening. This was probably my favorite performance of the night. The choreography was clever, and Kathryn and Legacy did a great job bringing it to life. I actually laughed and smiled, while also being impressed by their style. These two are one of the better pairings, as far as chemistry goes.
  • Mollee and Nathan – Disco (Doriana Sanchez) – “Inspired by Mexican wrestling…” I’m not a fan of disco, but this was a rather impressive routine. But, man, I’m disappointed that Nathan is paired with Mollee. Sure, they both have a teen fanbase, but I’d rather see Nathan with someone less goofy and hyper. Oh well, I suppose I should be happy that Nathan is in one of this season’s apparent power couples, since he’s one of my favorites.

The Bottom Four (as selected by the judges)

  • Russell – What was he doing in the bottom four? Sure, his foxtrot wasn’t superb, but the judges seemed rather impressed by him at the time, and have loved him since the moment they first saw him in Boston. Why single him out for the bottom guys tonight when he was at a disadvantage without his partner? Maybe they just wanted an excuse to see his solo, but I would have been irate if they had sent him home so early! He didn’t seem too happy about being in the bottom four either, as his solo was especially intense.
  • Brandon – Poor Brandon, we hardly knew him. He’s had quite a week: the jubilation of being called in to join the top 20, and the unfortunate circumstance of being sent home two days later, with words from the judges that he basically wasn’t quite good enough to be in the top 20. (It was nice of Nigel to say he wants to bend the rules to allow him to come back next season, but Brandon will have to do some more training and strengthening to actually make it further if that happens.)
  • Ariana – I’m not surprised that she was sent home. We barely got to know her, and I agree with the judges that she lacked a certain fire in her eyes.
  • Pauline – She’s very cute, but doesn’t seem to have much of a following. I guess she’ll be paired with Peter next week now that Ariana is gone.

Sent Home: Ariana and Brandon

So to return to my initial references to this episode making me feel unsettled: it is disappointing that Billy Bell had to drop out. It is also disappointing that Noelle will likely have top drop out next week (dancers don’t usually heal in one week from injuries that require a huge leg brace), which will leave Russell with a brand new partner. But even if Noelle can return to the competition, she and Russell will be a week behind the other couples. Pauline is also now at a disadvantage, because she has already lost two partners! So we started tonight’s episode with four dancers at a disadvantage: Russell, Pauline, Brandon, and Noelle. It’s unfortunate that the three of them who actually performed tonight ended up in the bottom four. If it were really true that the judges were making their decisions based on everything they know about the contestants, I think the bottom four would have consisted of a different group. Ultimately, though, it makes sense that they sent home Ariana and Brandon, but I’d imagine there are many fans who are disappointed that Ariana is already gone.

Hopefully next week’s show will have a more positive vibe!

  • My favorite routines of the night: Kathryn and Legacy’s cavemen hip hop, Ellenore and Ryan’s contemporary jazz, Jakob and Ashleigh’s Broadway.

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SYTYCD Season 5: The Top Four Perform August 5, 2009

Welcome to the Final Four! Cat wore a gold sequined dress with matching choker that made her look like a cross between a boxer in a warm up robe and a matriarch from Dallas in evening wear. That was an unfortunate turn of wardrobe, but thankfully the strong dancers and enthusiastic judges, including guest Adam Shankman, more than made up for it.

The Performances

  • Final Four Group Performance – “Boys Boys Boys” by Lady GaGa – Choreographed by Wade and Amanda Robson, this “cheerleaders and jocks” routine underwhelmed me. I’ve never thought much of cheerleader dances, which is the main reason why I didn’t like it. I expect more from Wade.
  • Evan and Jeanine – “Heartbreaker” by MSTRKRFT ft. John Legend – Choreographed by Sonya, this “fight” between Evan and Jeanine was clearly won by Jeanine. My eyes were drawn to her the whole time. Adam pointed out that he never saw Jeanine coming, but that she has dominated since the beginning. He added that Evan is like “the mole hill that became the mountain.” Nigel gave Evan a pep talk about stepping up to the challenge and hoping that it’s the last time tonight that he’ll be beat up on stage. Evan certainly is the underdog, but do the judges have to rub it in every time they comment on his performances?
  • Brandon’s solo – “Dies Irae” by Karl Jenkins – I would pay to see his dance recital. He’s always exciting to watch dance – especially when he propels himself toward the floor head first, and catches himself with his hands! Adam called him an extreme dancer and a super athlete. Nigel said he just “wiped out the competition” (an unfortunate reference to his beach shorts).
  • Kayla and Brandon – Broadway (Tyce Diorio) – “Bye Bye Love” from All That Jazz – I really enjoyed this rockin’ routine! In fact, it may be my favorite Tyce Diorio number ever. I really liked the song and the arrangement, the multiple shifts in mood, the dark and glamorous costumes… I probably liked it so much because it was edgier than most of Tyce’s stuff, which leans more toward the cheesy end of the spectrum. Brandon had a couple of amazing moves, and was constantly at the top of his game, and Kayla really came to life as this character. She should consider a career in theater. Adam stood up and cheered, Mary called them rock stars, and Nigel called them “absolutely superb together.”
  • Jeanine’s solo – “Por Una Cabeza” by The Tango Project – Um, Jeanine, you don’t need to rely on props. I wish she would have ditched the rose about 10 seconds in so she could show off her attitude and personality. It distracted me from her dancing. Adam agreed, saying she didn’t need a “stupid plastic flower.”
  • Evan and Brandon – Pop Jazz (Laurieann Gibson)“Nasty” by Janet Jackson – They are fighting over the #1 spot, but in the end there can be only one. I liked the song selection, but there wasn’t much nasty about these guys. The dancing was kind of namby pamby. Adam told Evan he “got a little dusted” at the crossroads. He said he couldn’t get rid of Evan’s “natural sweetness.” I agree with the judges that Brandon was more hard hitting and had more energy in this routine, but like Nigel said, “There isn’t a nasty bone” in Evan’s body. Laurieann Gibson should have known better and come up with a routine that better suited both of these guys.
  • Kayla and Jeanine – Contemporary (Mia Michaels) – “The Four Sections: IV” – Full Orchestra, Steve Reich – This piece is a journey that will take the girls from stage left to stage right, and with each step they shed another metaphorical layer. I don’t know. It came across as gimmicky. It was like a butterfly strip tease, or something. The girls have a lot more talent than they were asked to showcase here, and had to worry more about removing pieces of fabric than creating beautiful movement. Sorry, but I was more bored than inspired, and wasn’t emotionally invested at all. Nigel actually compared it to Mia’s finale piece from season three, Danny and Neil’s “Two Princes.” (In my opinion, the season three piece was far superior to this, and is one of my favorite routines ever on the show.
  • Evan’s solo – “The Best Is Yet to Come” by Michael Buble – The kid has charm, class, and charisma, but I think that the ultimate winner should possess more versatility than he has shown. Adam pointed out that this was a variation on his original audition, but it’s also a variation on every other solo he’s done this season. Nigel said Evan has the “ah” factor going for him – everyone thinks he is super cute. (And the judges continue rubbing in Evan’s underdog, strange breed status.)
  • Kayla and Evan – The Jive (Tony and Melanie)“T.R.O.U.B.L.E.” by Travis Tritt – They went old school country with this one – a style which suited Evan better than hip hop or tango. Kayla shook her way onto my radar. Between her and the blinding spotlight pointed at the audience, I hardly noticed Evan (but kudos to him for the lift sequence). Kayla has proven why she’s in the final four with all her performances tonight. She hasn’t missed a beat and has really shone. That being said, this was only a mediocre routine. Adam hated the country music, Mary criticized them technically, but said that Kayla “stole the show.” Nigel asked Kayla where this personality has been the rest of the season. Good question. Oh, boy. The crowd of 3,000 started to spontaneously shout “Evan, Evan, Evan!” (which seemed to bring tears to his eyes – that’s sweet). That spontaneous praise makes me worry that he has a chance to win. Everyone loves an underdog, after all, and the judges are totally selling that angle tonight.
  • Kayla’s solo – “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by the Eurythmics – I was still distracted by her diva-ish response to Cat’s question of whether or not she thinks she can win: “I don’t stop until I get what I want.” I’ve seen better solos from her. Adam distinguished between “best dancers” and “favorite dancers,” putting Kayla in the first category, along with contestants Travis, Danny, and Will. Hmmm, I don’t know that I’d put her with those guys (and what about Katee?), but she is pretty flawless.
  • Jeanine and Brandon – Paso Doble (Louis Van Amstel) – “Tetsujin” from The Matrix Revolutions Soundtrack Let’s hope that this paso doble makes up for the two less than stellar ones earlier this season. And it was definitely better than those. These are the two contestants to beat, and if they aren’t the final two, I’ll be disappointed. They are the most exciting dancers to watch, and have been for most of the season. I loved their in synch twirls and kicks, and as Adam said, the way they “filled out every single thing in between with the intensity and the movement… the movement never ended.” Mary put them on the hot tamale train – no surprise there. It certainly seems like the producers have set the scene for a final showdown between Jeanine and Brandon, by having them dance together to close out the final performance episode. Nigel proclaimed that they are in the lead, as far as he’s concerned.

My Assessment

  • Best Solo – Brandon
  • Worst Solo – Kayla (but really they were all pretty good)
  • Best Couples Performance – Brandon and Kayla’s Broadway, followed by Brandon and Jeanine’s Paso Doble
  • Worst Couples Performance – Evan and Brandon’s pop jazz
  • Ranking the Final Four (4-Evan, 3-Kayla, 2-Jeanine, 1-Brandon) – I’m basing these rankings on tonight’s performances, which gives Brandon a slight edge over Jeanine, but I would be thrilled with either of them winning.

So, who do you want to win? Do you think any of tonight’s performances will stick with you beyond this season? I’m off to vote a couple more times for Brandon and Jeanine now.

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SYTYCD Season 5: The Top 20 Perform June 10, 2009

I had been eagerly anticipating this episode of SYTYCD, the one where we find out who is paired with who, and what kind of start each couple will have as a result of their pairing and the style of dance they draw. Unfortunately, a massive storm hit the entire DFW area during the time the show airs, and as a result, the first hour was preempted by continuous weather coverage. Apparently, the news stations around here don’t understand the concept of weather updates in the bottom corner of the screen, which would allow the show to continue relatively uninterrupted. Oh, well. The storm passed, and I was able to see the final four performances. Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on the performances I missed, after I’ve watched the rest of the episode online. [I’ve now updated the post to include my thoughts on the other routines. See below.] Meanwhile, here’s what I thought of the final four performances:

  • Brandon and Janette – Foxtrot – “Come Fly with Me” by Michael Buble – They did a nice job, looked great, and made an often boring dance look like fun. I am rooting for Brandon, especially since Mia and Lil’ C gave him such a hard time. I hope he proves them wrong! The lifting and spinning at the end of this routine were a good start to that. The judges seemed to like their performance.
  • Ashley and Kupono – Jazz (Wade Robson) – “Felt Mountain” by Goldfrapp – According to Wade, the idea of this choreography is two crash test dummies “living life like you’ve never been hurt.” I couldn’t get past the costumes, though. I found them disturbing – first of all because they were very unattractive, and second of all because it dehumanized Ashley and Kupono. I realize that that’s kind of the point, since they were supposed to be crash test dummies, but I think that during a week when we’re being introduced to the Top 20 for the first time, hiding under spandex and white face paint isn’t the best idea. I suppose they did well with what they were given, but I didn’t get anything out of it except a “yikes.” As Adam Shankman said, “Wade, you are one sick puppy.” On the other hand, Mary said she was there and bought it 100%. Nigel skirted the issue of whether it was good or bad by rambling on about how it will get people talking about dance.
  • Melissa and Ade – Contemporary (Mandy Moore) – “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx – A routine about the moment when you first fall in love. I really enjoyed their dancing. It was light, flowing, and beautiful. The way Ade lifted Melissa in the air and swung her around, she looked weightless. Adam called it “so special.” I give Melissa props for coming on the show at 29 (then again, I’m in trouble if 29 is old!) and think Adam may be right that you can get better at dancing with age, at least in terms of the emotion and presence you bring to it. Mary called Ade a “gentle giant… quiet, powerful.” I agree with Nigel that it’s wonderful to have a ballerina on the show this season. Easily my favorite routine (of the ones I’ve seen) so far tonight!
  • Kayla and Max – Samba (Louie ?) – “Jum Bah Day” by House of Gypsies – Kayla looked great in all that fuschia fringe. Samba requires a LOT of energy! I got tired just watching it. It was a lot of fun to watch, even though Max isn’t my favorite contestant. Adam: “That was SO GOOD!” And he added, “Only God could have created this girl. (It’s like you were born in a ballroom.)” Mary put them on the hot tamale train. Nigel said it had “everything we could ever wish for.” He also said Kayla has consistently been one of the judges’ favorites. Mine, too! I appreciating Nigel pointing out that Max isn’t as sharp as Pasha and Dmitri – how could he be? That’s a tough standard to measure up to.

The performances I had to track down online (Fox really needs to post full episodes on its website!):

  • Jeanine and Phillip – Hip Hop (Tabitha and Napoleon) – Tabitha and Napoleon are my favorite hip hop choreographers. I love that they bring so much emotion and story to their routines. And this one was so interesting – it had me captivated from beginning to end. Jeanine kind of reminds me of Kristin Stewart (aka Bella), except she has a lot more personality.  And Phillip brings such interesting movements to any performance, plus he seems to do well with anything that’s thrown at him – I think the choreographers will love to work with him. Adam: “That was unfreakin’ real.” Mary: “You taught us a chemistry lesson.” Nigel pointed out that Phillip already has a following, but that Jeanine has made a mark for herself with this performance.
  • Asuka and Vitolio – Broadway (Tyce Diorio) – “Hot Honey Rag” from Chicago – Their performance seemed very wooden to me, very “going through the motions.” The video I tracked down didn’t include the practice session intro or the judges’ comments, but I can’t imagine the judges were wowed by this.
  • Karla and Jonathan – Cha Cha (Tony Meredith) – “Poker Face” by Lada GaGa – The guy is out to get the girl in this routine. They did an okay job, but I wasn’t feeling any chemistry between them. Adam praised them for their technique and lines and told Jonathan “you’re dancing less like a boy and more like a man.” Mary: “That was a whole lotta rockin’, a whole lotta fun.” Nigel disagrees with me about the chemistry, saying they exploded onto the stage with it.
  • Randi and Evan – Jazz (Tyce Diorio) – “I Only Have Eyes for You” by Jamie Cullum – Very steamy performance! These two had great chemistry, and they both seemed fully invested in the routine. I loved the contrast of the flowing and jerky movements. Adam: “You both danced like you were 8 feet tall… Evan, no one saw you coming – you are a beautiful, beautiful dancer.” (I saw him coming!) And I agree with Adam that this was one of Tyce’s best routines. Mary called it “smoldering, fluid, beautiful, and absolutely believeable.” Nigel: “I think you have just become a couple that people will recognize and talk about.” Yay! I certainly like them.
  • Paris and Tony – Hip Hop (Tabitha and Napoleon) – “Let the Beat Rock” by The Black Eyed Peas – I was surprised this was a Tabitha and Napoleon routine. It wasn’t as memorable as most of theirs are. This one seemed kind of gimmicky to me, with the headphones and whatnot. I agree with Adam that the costumes were distracting – kind of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Mary didn’t think it will be memorable. I agree. Nigel told Tony that he has room to grow, and that they were “just doing steps.” Yup. Paris and Tony seemed out of sync a few times, and for me, Tony’s lack of training was noticeable.
  • Caitlin and Jason – Bollywood – “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire – I didn’t even recognize Caitlin behind her elaborate costume. I liked her better than Jason in this performance, but they both did a good job with the fun choreography. I didn’t catch all of the judges’ comments (the continuous weather coverage ended and the show cut in right during their comments), but they seemed to like it.

So, now that I’ve managed to track down and watch the six performances I missed last night, I can give my overall assessment.

Favorite Performances:

  • Melissa and Ade’s Contemporary – Absolutely beautiful!
  • Randi and Evan’s Jazz – Great chemistry, captivating routine
  • Jeanine and Phillip’s Hip Hop – Interesting choreography, well executed by this in sync couple

Least Favorite Performances:

  • Asuka and Vitolio’s Broadway – I was bored, and they seemed to be, too.
  • Paris and Tony’s Hip Hop – I was unimpressed.
  • Ashley and Kupono – I was too disturbed to enjoy it.

I think that Asuka, Vitolio, Paris, and Tony are most in danger of going home tonight, and I’d even add Karla and Jonathan to that list. Ashley and Kupono’s performance, while far from my favorite, is memorable enough that I think they will be safe.

My favorite couples so far are Melissa and Ade, and Evan and Randi. Who are your early favorites?

 

SYTYCD 2009: Auditions in L.A. and Seattle May 28, 2009

Tonight’s first stop was Los Angeles, where Nigel and Mary were joined by Adam Shankman, who was for the most part in a toned down mood. The final audition city was Seattle, where Mia Michaels served as the guest judge.

Some of the highlights tonight had nothing to do with the contestants’ auditions. My favorite moment was when Katie, Joshua, Lauren, and Comfort sat down at the judges’ table and critiqued Adam Shankman when he did an impromptu “audition” with a lindy hop dancer. That was a fun. And how nice that last year’s top two have already made an appearance so early this season, when Danny and Sabra never appeared, and were hardly ever mentioned, last season! I also liked Mia’s pronouncement, “Absolutely disgusting!” during the bad dancer montage from Seattle.

On the other hand, the “Battle in Seattle” between Leo and Sex was unnecessary and unfortunate. One weirdo loser is already too much on this show, so two of them is just wrong. I would much rather have ended the episode with an inspiring, memorable audition. Seattle must have really been low on talent!

My favorite dancers tonight:

  • Nathan Trasoras – The judges loved this 17 year old dancer, and so did I! I was disappointed when I learned that he was one year shy of eligibility for the competition, but was relieved when Nigel signed a “ticket to Vegas” good for season six this fall. I look forward to seeing more of Nathan! He has a whole dark, brooding, Jacob Black from Twilight thing going on that will make girls of all ages his fans.
  • Arielle Coker – I thought she looked familiar when she came out on stage to dance with Philip Chbeeb. The judges didn’t mention it, but she auditioned last season in Dallas, and I had this to say about her at that time, when she stood out to me: “Although her partner, John, didn’t get to show much of what he could do, she was fascinating to watch. She’s exactly the type of dancer this show loves: fresh-faced, poised, and her movements seemed effortless. Actually, her style and presence remind me of another dancer from last season – Sabra!” I am glad she returned this year, and borrowed someone who was already a favorite of the judges to help her get noticed.
  • Kelsea Taylor – This “zany” dancer with the blue streaks and red flower in her hair was like a female version of last year’s contestant, Mark, with her herky jerky movements, and Mia’s description of her as a “beautiful, disastrous weirdo.” She’s been my favorite female contestant so far this year.

Can’t wait for Vegas week to begin!

 

Hairspray: A Hyperactive Musical September 9, 2008

I recently watched the latest version of the movie musical Hairspray, which was a remake of the original 1988 version written and directed by John Waters. I’ve seen bits and pieces of that version, starring Ricki Lake as Tracy Turnblad, but not enough to say which one is better.

One thing I can say is that the 2007 version, directed and choreographed by Adam Shankman, is a lot of fun. I don’t know how anyone could watch this movie and not smile. I especially enjoyed the first 30 minutes of the movie as we got to know the characters through a series of clever, cute songs, my favorites of which were “Good Morning, Baltimore” and “Ladies’ Choice.” I loved the constant references to hairspray, particularly the giant cans of it on the Corny Collins Show set and the commercials they would produce about it. I also was amazed by the all-star cast, most notably:

  • Nikki Blonsky – Her enthusiasm as Tracy Turnblad was contagious. She was perfect for the part of a “pleasant plump teenager” on a mission to teach Baltimore a social lesson. Her portrayal turned what could have been a super cheesy role into a fun, entertaining one. I loved how she was fully invested in the dancing, whether while in detention with the “negroes” or while making a splash on the Corny Collins Show.
  • James Mardsen – Speaking of Corny Collins, how great was it to see the very attractive Mardsen in such a charming role? I know him best from his work in the X-Men movies, where I couldn’t even see his nice eyes, so I was thrilled to see him, hear him sing, and watch him dance in this movie. He played a completely likable character, which I hear isn’t always the case for him (see The Notebook, for example).
  • Queen Latifah – It’s strange for me to see her playing the role of a mother to teenage children, since I still think of her as being in her 30s. Wait, she actually is still in her 30s, so she was playing older than her age. That makes me feel better. Regardless of whether or not she was age appropriate, she made the most of her character, Motormouth Maybelle.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer – This actress hasn’t been in too many movies this decade, so it was nice to see her again. She was great in the role of Velma Von Tussle, crazed stage mom to Amber Von Tussle (played by Brittney Snow). She created just the right balance of sultriness, self-centeredness, and misplaced ambition. Her character was very reminiscent of another crazy stage mom – Gladys Leeman, played by Kirstie Alley in Drop Dead Gorgeous. Both go to great lengths to help their daughters be winners, but in the end both fail miserably.
  • Amanda Bynes – I’ve never really paid much attention to this actress, but I really enjoyed watching her as Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s sheltered, yet apparently passionate friend.

Now to the things I didn’t like:

  • Some of the actors, or at least the characters they played – I wasn’t impressed by Zac Efron. I guess I’m too old to “get” what all the fuss is about. He was fine for the part, but it wasn’t a stand-out performance. Christopher Walken’s talents were also mostly wasted in the dull, jokester character Wilbur Turnblad. My guess is that Jerry Stiller, who played Wilbur in the 1988 version, was better-suited for this role. Incidentally, Stiller made a cameo in this version as a plus-sized clothing store owner. Ricki Lake also appeared briefly as a talent scout. One final role that didn’t wow me was Brittany Snow as the reigning Miss Teenage Hairspray. Her character didn’t require her to do much more than look annoyed whenever she wasn’t getting screen time on the Corny Collins Show, so it’s difficult to judge her acting.
  • John Travolta was SCARY as Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s mother. I understand that every other version of this musical also has a man playing the part, but seeing Travolta in a fat suit and makeup was just wrong. I found it completely distracting. Needless to say, any scene he was in was among my least favorite. The worst of all was the scene where Walken and Travolta danced on the rooftop singing “You’re Timeless To Me.” Whatever.
  • The second half of the movie dragged and got a little bogged down in the “after school special” style social message. It was a nice message about racial integration and standing up for what is right, but it took away from some of the fun that the first part of the movie exuded.
  • Some of the songs were a bit too hyperactive – High energy is usually a good characteristic for a musical to have, but “frantic” and “hyper” are words I would use to describe Hairspray. That is going overboard a bit. On the pivotal group song and dance, “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” is seemed like the music got faster and faster, out of control, and overbearing. I remember feeling that way when the finalists on So You Think You Can Dance performed to that song. Frankly, it was annoying then and still is now. Had they slowed down the tempo and turned down the volume just a bit, I would have had a more positive reaction. Louder and faster doesn’t always translate to better.

So is this a movie worth watching? Yes, I think so. Especially if you answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Do you enjoy musicals?
  • Do you like to see the little guy (or in this case, the big girl) have his (her) moment in the spotlight?
  • Do you like movies that put a smile on your face?

I’m looking forward to watching Mamma Mia (the movie version that was released this summer) when it comes out on video. I’d imagine it’s more feel good fun.