Fox’s dance show waltzes into fall

Katie Holmes will appear in a pre-recorded routine on the 100th episode of “So You Think You Can Dance.’’ Katie Holmes will appear in a pre-recorded routine on the 100th episode of “So You Think You Can Dance.’’ (Dan Steinberg/AP/File 2008)
By Richard Rushfield and Claire Zulkey
Los Angeles Times / July 25, 2009

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HOLLYWOOD - Thursday night’s “So You Think You Can Dance’’ celebrated the dance competition’s 100th episode, a fact that executive producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe is still digesting. “Who would’ve thought?’’ said Lythgoe in an interview this week. “When (co-creator) Simon Fuller said ‘We’ve been successful with “American Idol,’’ do you think this would work with dancing?’ I said, ‘No!’ ’’

After this season, its fifth, ends early next month, Fox will be, for the first time, segueing the show directly into a fall season instead of waiting until the summer to air it again. Lythgoe credits the show’s judges - the panel is Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and a third spot that rotates each week - with part of what makes the show unique. “It’s the only program whose judges have been through every aspect that they are asking the contestants to go through,’’ he said. “We’ve all been dancers, we’ve all been choreographers, so we know what those kids are going through and therefore can translate that into our critiques.’’

Still, the judges like to have a good time during the tapings. “We’re still there to entertain, and Mary Murphy and I are like an old married couple.’’

Lythgoe said he is excited about the 100th episode, which, in addition to the best routines from all the previous seasons, will feature a pre-recorded performance by Katie Holmes doing an “homage to Judy Garland in that iconic outfit from ‘Summer Stock’ where she did ‘Get Happy.’ ’’

“It’s just the kind of good, fun television routine that used to be done in the golden age of television,’’ Lythgoe said.

Looking forward to next season, Lythgoe addressed the question of whether, at three hours a week and two seasons back-to-back, audiences may feel overloaded with “So You Think You Can Dance.’’

“Of course, you’re always concerned about that, but I’ve long ceased worrying about ratings: that is not my job,’’ Lythgoe said. “When I was an executive in the UK, I worried every single day about ratings. I had something like 240 hours of television to churn out per annum, and my best shows were fantastic but we only worried about the shows that were losing ratings. And so it was a horrible job because you could never pat yourself on the back.’’

Mike Darnell, Fox’s president of alternative entertainment, said that the show will move to the more competitive broadcast season because of its “ridiculously consistent’’ ratings. It has drawn an average of 8.9 million viewers season-to-date. “This show has earned its trip to fall,’’ Darnell said. “It’s done incredibly well in the summer, and its fan base is very loyal, so I think people will follow it there. We’re also hoping there’s a new audience that will find it in the fall.’’

One more burning question for Lythgoe. Will he ever tap dance again on the show, as he did last season, surrounded by a gaggle of kids?

“I don’t think so,’’ he said. Lythgoe, who was an executive producer of “American Idol’’ for its first seven seasons, continued: “I firmly believe that we should be in the background: The focus should be on the kids in the competition. Last year on ‘American Idol,’ the judges went into the spotlight a little bit. Thank goodness Adam Lambert and some of the other kids were talented enough to wrest the spotlight back onto them at the end of the season.’’

And Lythgoe added, referencing his recent honorary doctorate from the University of Bedfordshire, “There aren’t many dancing 60-year-old doctors.’’

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