All things considered, that wasn’t such a long preliminary process for Season 9 of “So You Think You Can Dance.” I guess I’m only thinking relative to “American Idol,” which took 13 episodes to get to the Top 24 this season. In contrast, this will be our sixth episode of the “SYTYCD” season and we’re about to meet the Top 20.
Click through and join me for the entire protracted process.
8:01 p.m. I forgot that there was the potential of a wacky format for this. I’m intrigued.
8:02 p.m. This is the 200th episode of “So You Think You Can Dance” and our judging panel includes Mary Murphy, Nigel Lythgoe and… ZOOEY DESCHANEL! Cat Deeley calls “New Girl” TV’s top new comedy, which it isn’t. By any measure. At all. But anyway… Zooey!
8:02 p.m. Nigel Lythgoe announces that we’re going to have two winners this season. We’re going to have America’s Favorite Girl and America’s Favorite Guy. Zooey’s got to be figuring that she’s got America’s Favorite Girl in the bag.
8:09 p.m. OK. After that commercial break, we’re getting some results, followed by some dancing.
8:10 p.m. Astoundingly, Alexa Anderson is up first. I can’t believe we’re not saving Robo-Alexa for the very end. We spent all of last week with the judges begging her to show emotions and saying stupid things like that Alexa could win. Whether or not that’s the case, ALEXA ANDERSON is the first person in our Top 20.
8:11 p.m. The first guy to face judgement is George Lawrence II. You remember him because he moved Debbie Allen emotionally at his audition, but you may have forgotten, because he wasn’t seen in Vegas at all. But since Debbie Allen is giving him his results, there’s no doubt at all. GEORGE LAWRENCE II is in the Top 20. As is some guy named WILL THOMAS from LA.
8:13 p.m. Uh-oh. Our first sad person is Megan Branch, followed by Colin Fuller.
8:14 p.m. Amber Jackson came close last year. Will this be her lucky year? Yes. AMBER JACKSON is in the Top 20. I wish they were showing chyrons to give me names in case I didn’t type fast enough.
8:15 p.m. They have to rush through the announcement, because Amber, Will, Alexa and George have to do a routine by Toasty Oreos. They’re not especially synchronized, this group of four. I can’t tell if that’s entirely intentional, partially intentional or completely unintentional. They may not be together, but in individual isolation, nobody seems immediately out of their depth.
8:17 p.m. “As far as I’m concerned, all of the Top 20 are superstars,” Nigel says, praising Tosty and his choreography. Nigel tells Will he has to move his body faster. He tells Amber that she’s a star now, but that she was unattractive when she said last year that she wasn’t going to come back. Nigel tells Alexa that she found herself and needs to keep herself. And finally, Nigel says George is shiny. Mary was happy. “It’s far for me to even think of anything to say,” Zooey says. Ask Siri! She praises their teamwork.
8:25 p.m. Our next group is our ballroom group, led by the Salt Lake City powerhouses. Up first is Nick Carter. He has a hyphenate name, but if “SYTYCD” don’t want to identify him for me, I can’t be bothered to record it. In any case, tear-prone NICK BLOXOM-CARTER is in the Top 20. But what about Whitney Carson and her less sexualized buddy Lindsay Arnold. They’re both called in together and… uh-oh. There’s only room for one Ballroom Girl. One of the best buddies is about to be sent home. This is very sad. It’s WHITNEY CARSON in our Top 20. Lindsay smiles contentedly, but disappointed. “We just can’t think of a Top 20 without both of you,” Mary cackles. Oh. So LINDSAY ARNOLD is also in the Top 20. Watching their Latin trio, I’m feeling like Nick is a very lucky man at this moment and he probably doesn’t appreciate it. Whitney and Lindsay should be encouraged to dance together frequently this season.
8:32 p.m. The men in the audience are very pleased. “I think the train just pulled up at the Sizzle Station,” Mary squeals. She’s proud of them all. May does, however, want just a little bit more from Nick. “You guys are two of the hottest tamales we’ve had on the show for sure,” Mary says. Zooey calls Lindsay and Whitney “twins” and “firecrackers.” Nobody’s wants to hear Nigel slobber over Whitney and Lindsay?
8:38 p.m. Daniel Baker, Eliana Gerard and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp are up next. They’re all classically trained. ELIANA GERARD is in the Top 20. But what of the two ballet boys? I’m rooting for Chehon, even though I’m not sure I’m ever going to learn to spell his name. DANIEL BAKER makes the Top 20. The judges praise Daniel’s consistency and make it seem like Chehon isn’t in the Top 20. But they’re just being stupid. Again. You can’t pull that fake-out crap two segments in a row. CHEHON WESPI-TSCHOPP is also in the Top 20.
8:43 p.m. Their routine is dynamic and exciting and marvelously choreographed. All three look like potential superstars. Kudos to choreographers Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson.
8:45 p.m. Nigel praises both men for giving up careers to do this, celebrating their bravery. Nigel also calls Eliana a wonderful dancer. Mary calls Eliana “a ballet warrior” and the guys make her shriek. And Zooey? No time for Zooey. You bring in Zooey Deschanel and you don’t let her be banal about the ballet dancers?
8:50 p.m. We’ve got some jazz dancers. We’ve got Tiffany Maher and Audrey Case. They’re basically interchangeable, so they think they may not both make it. TIFFANY MAHER makes the Top 20. Does that mean that arm-farting Audrey is out? Adam Shankman gets to break the news that AUDREY CASE is in the Top 20. “Wait. Are you for sure?” she asks. Reassured, she calls her mother and cries. A young woman named Abigail doesn’t make it, nor do three people I don’t really recognize. Oh. One of them is Kaitlyn, who I liked in a brief, unnamed appearance last week. Will bellydancer Janelle Issis make it? Yup. JANELLE ISSIS makes the Top 20. She owns the moment until she does a graceful faceplant into the door celebrating.
8:56 pm. Janelle’s sick. So she isn’t dancing. But Tiffany and Audrey get to share the stage for a Sonya Tayeh routine. It’s intriguingly messed up, because they’re costumed and styled the same and they’ve got some serious Dead Ringers action going on. “I look like the BFG,” Cat says, standing next to the tiny pair. Oh, Cat. How I love you. Zooey loved the choreography. “I love seeing ladies supporting one another,” Zooey says. She praises Tiffany as “strong” and Audrey as “graceful.” Melanie Moore is in the audience with a very, very problematic hat. “You look like two dancing Pebbles,” Nigel says, predicting good runs but tough competition for each.
9:04 p.m. Joshua Alexander is very emotional. Me, I’m just relieved he’s alive, since we weren’t updated on his condition after he flipped onto his head and was hospitalized. “Come and do a back somersault for us,” Nigel says, mocking him. Joshua is alive, but he isn’t in the Top 20, nor are a few people who I can’t identify.
9:06 p.m. What will be next for the allegedly Ryan Gosling-esque Matthew Kazmierczak? Well, MATTHEW KAZMIERCZAK is in the Top 20. Also making the Top 20 is DAREIAN KUJAWA, who has “lousy feet.” I don’t think I’ve seen Janaya French before, but she’s cute and a bit twee. She goes to face the judges, leaving even-more-twee Amelia Lowe and Jill Johnson sitting and waiting. We’ve seen tons of Amelia and none of Jill. But first… JANAYA FRENCH is in the Top 20, which means either Amelia or Jill is doomed. They approach the judges together. Toasty Oreos tells them that the judges are looking for “star quality,” which means AMELIA LOWE is in the Top 20. Jill’s a good sport.
9:10 p.m. Stacey Tookey choreographed a contemporary number for Matthew, Dareian, Janaya and Amelia. Neither guy makes much of an impression on me. Probably Amelia is the stand-out. I bet Zooey’s gonna love her.
9:12 p.m. “It was so delicate and beautiful it felt like I was watching a painting move,” Zooey says, before telling Amelia that she really stood out. Zooey suggests, however, that Janaya didn’t exactly fit into the routine, but she was still good. Mary loved the routine. She says that Dareian may look small, but he dances big.
9:19 p.m. There are only seven guys left and three spots remaining. We didn’t see any of Cole Horibe in Las Vegas, but his martial arts-infused dancing was memorable in his audition. That’s why COLE HORIBE is in the Top 20. Tappers Aaron and Zach, however, are sent home. It’s down to four. Steppers Brandon Mitchell and Devon McColluch. I don’t know if we’ve seen much from either of them so far. They’re both proud that no matter what happens a stepper will represent in the Top 20. BRANDON MITCHELL is in the Top 20. Devon is marvelously supportive of Brandon. Feliciano Turk and Cyrus Spencer are our last two. Cyrus has been one of the season’s most featured dancers. Feliciano? Never seen him before. To his credit, Cyrus is a great admirer of his less exposed competition. Because Nigel has never seen anybody like him in his life, CYRUS SPENCER is in the Top 20. Dragon House represent.
9:25 p.m. Chris Scott choreographed a very weird mixed genre number built around baseball. I get tht FOX televises the MLB All-Star Game, but this is profoundly strange. It’s hypnotically bizarre how many things Chris Scott has squished into one routine. I don’t have a clue what it proved about our three dancers. Not a clue.
9:27 p.m. Nigel and Mary plug the All-Star Game, wearing baseball caps and begging for a Season 10 order. “Guys, you are going to be a challenge for the choreographers this year. I don’t mind that, but they probably will,” Nigel says. “You definitely hit that out of the ballpark,” says Mary, who knows a piece of baseball idiom. “Zooey. Let me guess. Speechless?” Cat tells Zooey. ZING. Cat Deeley just called Zooey Deschanel worthless.
9:34 p.m. National Dance Day. It’s coming. July 28. I will not be dancing. But I’m sure I support DizzyfeetFoundation.org.
9:36 p.m. Travis Wall choreographed the 10 Women for their first group number. The routine asks the dancers to make their way into the light. Or something. The show is the light? Travis added harder and harder material because the girls this season are so hot. I mean “talented.” OK. Fine. Talented *and* hot.
9:37 p.m. I’m trying to count to see if Janelle is performing. Nope. It appears to be our Top 9 girls. I wonder if this’ll hurt Janelle in the weeks to come that she didn’t get this exposure. It’s a terrific group number and I think it does what it was designed to do, which was make everybody look collectively good, rather than causing me to fixate on any one dancer. Nigel loves that Travis’ choreography flows. He tells the women to enjoy not being judged. “What a beautiful routine for such beautiful girls,” says Zooey Deschanel, who need never be invited back to “So You Think You Can Dance.”
9:45 p.m. The Top 10 Guys are being put through their paces by Sonya Tayeh. She says that it represents the fight they’re going to have to go through to stay on the show. “Having a pack of men is like releasing the wolves to the masses,” Sonya says. Out of curiosity, how can Will be a dancer at this level and be so [relatively] out of shape? I mean, he’s in VASTLY better shape than I’m in, but… Yeah. This is tremendously funky and awesome and even better than what Travis did with the women, this is showcasing that almost all of these guys are tremendous. You can still sense Sonya working around the fact that Cyrus has extreme dancing limitations. He’s in the back through most of the number and the couple times I can isolate him, he appears to be slightly off. He’s gonna have to get a really lucky draw to last more than a few weeks. The number ends and Will is, once again, sucking air.
9:49 p.m. “I smell man around here,” Cat says. “Sonya has given birth to an incredible routine,” Nigel raves. Mary also loved the routine. Cat prods Zooey to get her to come back to life. Zooey reflects on how difficult it must be for them to lift each other. “I have no upper body strength,” Zooey reflects.
9:56 p.m. No “So You Think You Can Dance” next week. And there’s a strong possibility that when we return in two weeks, Liane Bonin-Starr will be back on recapping duty. If that’s the case, I thank you for spending these few weeks with me as your fill-in tour-guide.
9:57 p.m. Mia Michaels has choreographed a number for the full Top 19. There are a lot of talented dancers on the stage. I’m just impressed she fit everybody on the platform.
How does the Top 20 look to you? Quick! Predict the season’s winners. NOW!!!