At the very beginning of Superstars of Dance, when the announcer introduced host Michael “Lord of the Dance” Flatley as “the most popular dancer on the planet,” we knew immediately that something was amiss. (Baryshnikov, if you’re reading this, you know what we’re talking about.)
Touted as “the Olympics of Dance,” the show, which premiered last night on NBC, features competing teams from the U.S., Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Russia, China, India and Argentina. “We’re bringing class to NBC,” said co-creator Nigel Lythgoe, who also happens to be the mastermind behind So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol.
If by “class,” Lythgoe meant “totally lacking in excitement, personality and entertainment value,” then Superstars has succeeded. As intrigued as we were by the show’s premise, we’re sorry to report that we found it coma-inducingly dull. Michael “Flatline” Flatley looked and sounded as though he were on the verge of falling asleep most of the time. And as for the performers, except for a brief video introduction, we learned virtually nothing about who they are, which makes it very difficult to care what happens to them.
With a veritable U.N. of dancers lined up, it seems that Superstars is missing out on some good opportunities. How about throwing them together on their off time and getting some footage of them riding roller coasters together or arguing about nuclear proliferation? Or requiring them to take group classes in all the different dance genres represented in the competition. Wouldn’t it be fun to watch the pop-and-lock guy try to learn Bharatanatyam?
But alas, this kind of thing is more in line with SYTYCD, which is as successful as it is in part because all the behind-the-scenes stuff helps viewers feel invested in the contestants. While we’re on the subject, another virtue of that show is that the dancers are all actually quite talented.
Not that the contestants on Superstars are without talent, but you just have to wonder whether some were the best choice to represent their country (maybe all the really good dancers were busy). And by the way, what’s up with the American accents, Team “India”?
To be fair, the Irish step dance team that opened the show was quite entertaining. And though the 9s and 10s the judges awarded them seemed excessive at the time, we soon realized that that was pretty much as good as the dancing was going to get that night.
Unlike SYTYCD and American Idol, viewers don’t get to weigh in on the contestants’ performances; Superstars leaves the judging up to a panel of dance experts from the competing countries. As Lythgoe condescendingly explained, “It would be very difficult for someone at home in their living room to pass judgment on the prima ballerina from Russia.”
True as that may be, is the Shaolin Monk from China any more qualified for the job? Last night, the judges seemed to skirt the issue by sticking with 8s. The only judge who wasn’t afraid to dish out 6s and 7s was Harold Van Buuren from South Africa. We liked him.
The show continues tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, which will be its permanent time slot until it (mercifully) wraps up at the end of the month. We recommend skipping this snooze-fest of terpsichorean mediocrity and tuning in to TBS, where you can catch four consecutive episodes of Family Guy instead. It may not have “class,” but it’s a hell of a lot more fun.