Last month, on the first "So You Think You Can Dance" live results show of Season 8, hostess Cat Deeley wished out loud that no one would be sent home. And, shockingly, she was actually granted her wish. With only a few minutes left in the telecast, executive producer and main judge Nigel Lythgoe controversially decided to save all 20 dancers. At the time, this was cause for major celebration: After all, the contestants were all so amazing it seemed a shame to cut any of them, especially the wonderful Mitchell, who was only in the bottom seven by default due to injury.
But now, just three weeks later, it's becoming more and more clear that this was a bad decision, one with long-reaching and possibly dire ramifications for "SYTYCD." Much ado has been made about this season's sinking ratings (last week it took a particularly catastrophic hit, a 20 percent drop in just one week), and while other factors must be taken into account--like the "Voice" finale on a competing network, the long holiday weekend, and the lack of any big-name musical guest on last week's results show--I do believe that the judges' one notorious decision, however spur-of-the-moment or well-intentioned, is at least partially to blame.
See, when the judges chose to save week one's bottom seven contestants (couples Jordan and Tadd, Jess and Clarice, and Robert and Miranda, plus Mitchell), it set off a chain of events that altered the course of the season and, understandably, irked viewers. First of all, many of those viewers were probably pretty annoyed that their earnest and enthusiastic speed-dialing for their favorite dancers that week had been all for naught, with the judges effectively vetoing all of their votes on what seemed like a whim. But more importantly, by giving the aforementioned dancers a second chance, Nigel galvanized the fanbases of those contestants, who apparently mobilized and voted in droves the following week--leading to a very different result.
Yes, that subsequent week, Jordan, Tadd, Jess, Clarice, Robert, Miranda, and Mitchell were ALL safe. Instead the bottom six comprised a whole new crop, and since four of those dancers had to be cut to make up for lost time (due to the previous week's pardon), some very popular hopefuls were sent home--namely tapper Nick, who was quickly becoming a heartthrob on the show, and his glamorous partner, Iveta, the only dancer of the entire top 20 representing the ballroom genre. Would Iveta and Nick (and the other two dancers cut that week, Missy and Wadi) still be on "SYTYCD" now if two dancers HAD gone home in week one? And would this have additionally domino-affected who landed in the bottom six the week after that, when the show quite controversially lost Miranda?
Possibly. And this makes viewers mad, and that means they stop tuning in. (Yes, I know there's such a thing as an official Judges' Save on Nigel's other show, "American Idol," but some "Idol" viewers were angry that it was used so soon, in the top 11 week...so just imagine how peeved "Idol" fans would have been if the Save had been used in the first week? Well, that's how some "SYTYCD" fans are feeling right about now.)
Additionally, accusations of favoritism on "SYTYCD" are nothing new, and many viewers couldn't help but wonder if that polarizing decision to save all 20 dancers was a way of ensuring that some of the judges' personal pets would stay on. Compound this with the recent saving of chopping-block contestants Ryan and Ashley despite their lackluster solos, and Miranda leaving last week despite performing the best solo among the girls, and the disgruntled-ness among viewers is aggravated all the more.
Don't worry. I have little doubt that "SYTYCD" can rebound from its recent ratings slip. We have a guest judging stint from Lady Gaga and the addition of 10 to-be-announced allstars to look forward to (please please please, let Robert Roldan be one of them), not to mention many undoubtedly amazing routines from the remaining top 14 contestants. I sincerely believe "SYTYCD" is the best reality show on the air, and that it still has legs (no pun intended). But the judges better make their elimination (or non-elimination) decisions extremely carefully from now on.