It’s Season 8, you guys! But I worry Nigel may be losing his touch. He had the chance to bookend the year with two bubbly blonde teenagers named Lauren winning his two big reality competitions, but I guess the power of smirky little country munchkins could not be denied. Still, Nigel, notorious show-fixer that everybody thinks he is, must’ve been able to do something! But lo! Our long American Idol is now behind us, and we can settle in for a Summer of Dance. Best as I can tell, the season will go like this: back to the old Top 20 format to start, but when we get to Top 10, the all-stars element kicks in. Which seems to me like a great corrective for the ways last season — while full of some pretty fantastic dancing — felt ever so … off.
So the gorgeous and still somehow under-appreciated Cat Deeley welcomes us to Season 8, which kicks off in Atlanta with judges Nigel Lythgoe, Lil’ C, and a returning Mary Murphy. Aw, Mary. Look, I’m not going to pretend like I didn’t need a huge break from the Hot Tamale Train, but it’s hard to begrudge her that seat next to Nigel when she clearly loves watching these kids dance so much. Her ballroom expertise and, yes, her enthusiasm were definitely missed last year. And God knows I am fond of Adam Shankman, but while he’s off ruining the Rock of Ages movie, I’m glad that third chair is going back to a rotating cast of judges. Which means, yes, I am CALLING THE FIRE DEPARTMENT, HONEY in anticipation of Debbie Allen’s big return. Where were we?
Melanie Moore, 19, is a Fordham art student with Ginnifer Goodwin hair and the season’s first Dead Dad story. She’s super likeable with a very classic contemporary style, even though for long stretches of her audition all I can see is the band-aid hanging off her knee. Ew, but whatever, she’s got sick control of her body. I guess she’s also IRL best pals with Billy Bell? …Look, you don’t know who I follow on Twitter. Anyway, this could be shades of Janeane/Jakob in seasons 5/6. Nigel loves Melanie, loves her personality, but worries she’ll fall apart in Vegas; he says he’ll hunt her down if she does. Nigel, I know that’s just a figure of speech, but it’s one someone with your creepy-uncle leanings can’t really pull off. Lil’ C, for his part, thinks “Zeus himself would invite you to dance on Olympus.” I am so goddamned happy Lil’ C is back in my life.