One of the most heavily hyped premieres of the summer was Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" (Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET), hatched by the producers, cheesy-patter enthusiasts, and viciously perky mentality of "American Idol."
Here, the prize is a Manhattan apartment and a $100,000 cash haul instead of a recording contract. Other than that, it's pure "Idol" redux, with "Idol" producer Nigel Lythgoe as Simon Cowell, only with less wit, less slice-and-dice accuracy, and more unctuous ogling of belly-baring Britney impersonators.
The premiere peaked — or bottomed out, depending on your perspective -—with Lythgoe's handling of a Juilliard-trained male dancer who minored in rhythmic gymnastics. Or so it appeared, when after an impressive opening sequence, he pulled out an expressive ribbon, which he proceeded to twirl.
Lythgoe complained about the ribbon, which struck him as rather a girly implement, and by the end of the day, Juilliard Guy was sent packing, informed that he wasn't "masculine." Perhaps Lythgoe wanted more belching.
Unsurprisingly, there was an embarrassing sequence in which Juilliard Guy first defended his masculinity with fiery passion and then cried in the lobby — get it? It's irony! His snooty attitude was easy to dislike, but considering the cavalcade of booty-shaking hotties who specialized in sultry lip-licking and were chosen anyway, it seemed a little absurd that inadequate masculinity was a good reason to toss a guy with actual dancing ability.
So, was Juilliard Guy robbed? Or was his self-importance brilliantly deflated? The show will sink or swim based on how successfully it exploits this delicate balance between extreme cruelty and delicious schadenfreude, just as "Idol" does.
After all, as a friend of mine said halfway through the premiere: "It's sort of hypnotic, watching dubious dreams die."
Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.