Outlook & Opinions

TV dancing competitions

by Amelie Gillette

This was the TV decade of the real and the grotesquely unreal - of "Real Housewives" and "The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off," of Real World/Road Rules Challenges and the Duggars and their outsize brood. But worst of all was the dancing.

In 2004, news of a strange new TV show called "Strictly Come Dancing" - a British program where C-list celebrities left the safety of a laugh track to cha-cha in front of an audience - trickled across the Atlantic. "What is this 'dancing'?" America wondered. "Why must everyone arrive strictly doing it?" When "Dancing With the Stars" premiered in the summer of 2005, we found out: "Dancing" describes the hideous movements that lesser characters from beloved sitcoms, former boy-band participants and even a former House majority leader make with their bodies in response to music in order to win back a tiny sliver of the sliver of fame they once had. It is a terrible, dignity-demolishing spectacle - so you would think it would be pretty entertaining.

Oh, but it isn't. "Dancing With the Stars" is a glitter-drenched, rumba-strewn, spray-tanned bore. Naturally, the show is preparing for its 10th season over six years. Thanks to its success, a number of other dance competition shows have sprouted (Bravo's mercifully short-lived "Step It Up and Dance," Oxygen's "Dance Your Ass Off," Fuse's "Pants-Off Dance-Off.") Some have even taken root in the television landscape, including "So You Think You Can Dance" (in which average people move their bodies in response to music in the hope of winning, and one day attaining has-been status), and "America's Best Dance Crew" (in which groups of average people move their bodies in response to music in the hope of winning, and one day attaining has-been group status).

Sure, dancing's been on television before - "Solid Gold," "Dance Party USA," MTV's, gulp, "The Grind" - but never like this. Never with the guy who had one line in the "Sex & the City" movie as a spandex-clad headliner, tangoing his way to an In Touch photo spread about how he decorates his home for the holidays. Never with the brother of the guy who was once married to Jessica Simpson bathing himself in sequins and talking to "Access Hollywood." These dancing shows are tedious, meaningless fame factories (and obviously a huge boon to the decorative feather industry).

Dancing-to-win on television is a trend that shows no signs of stopping. Unfortunately, it also shows no signs of getting interesting.

Amelie Gillette writes "The Hater" column for the Onion's AV club.

Live Chat

Dahlia Lithwick and Reihan Salam will be online Monday to chat with readers about the torture memos, compassionate conservatism and other bad ideas from the decade that was.

© The Washington Post Company