SYTYCD ends up with a final 11 instead of 10 after lying to finalists, viewers

One of So You Think You Can Dance‘s big changes for this season, a top 10 instead of a top 20, was changed for the sake of drama, as the judges added an additional spot. The finalists are Alexie Agdeppa, Billy Bell, Kent Boyd, Lauren Froderman, Ashley Galvan, Robert Roldan, Jose Ruiz, Cristina Santana, Melinda Sullivan, Adéchiké Torbert, and Alex Wong. Tonight, a “meet the top 10″ (er, 11) episode airs, and the live performances start next week.

The judges visited finalists in person, mostly at their homes, to tell them whether or not they made it and generate some additional tears, because if the episode was lacking anything, it was additional crying. And of course, they had to attempt to fake out the finalists, pretending they hadn’t made the top 11 (“I’m so sorry–to tell you that I can’t think of a more creative way to tell you that you’re in the top 11 OMG SCREAM AND CRY BECAUSE I TRICKED YOU HAHAHA STUPID EMOTIONAL CONTESTANT!”). I wonder how long the actually rejected contestants sit and imagine that they’re being tricked. Eventually, we’ll get to the point when the crew packs up and leaves and then shows up the next day to say, “Just kidding! You made it!”

Anyway, the producers also decided that we in the audience should also experience the emotional roller coaster of being lied to. Nigel Lythgoe got a speeding ticket on his way to tell Kent that he made it (“oh, shit,” he said, before the cop asked him for his license), and during that segment, never mind during the audition episodes, he and host Cat Deeley maintained that there would be just 10 finalists, five men and five women. “With only two spots, and three guys still waiting to find out,” Cat said, and Nigel repeated that, telling Kent’s family, “With only having 10 there this year, and five guys we’re looking for.”

Elsewhere, the other two waiting were Billy Bell and Rob Roldan, and on crutches, Adam Shankman told them together that there was only spot left for the men and “the fifth guy’s spot is going to Rob.” After giving Billy sufficient time to die inside, he added, “and we really really struggled with this, so what ended up happening is we added a sixth guy.” Ugh.

This deception extended to the media, where Nigel Lythgoe actually lied in an interview. “We can only do 10, so one of them will not be in,” Nigel Lythgoe told Zap2it in an unnecessary video interview (Why do web sites insist on doing this? We don’t want to see the interview; that’s the fun of print journalism, masking how awkward we are.).

Nigel said that at the end of May, at the May 28 premiere, and when I talked to Mary Murphy on May 18, she’d already filmed her home visits, meaning producers had already decided on the finalists and final 11.

It’s not that big of a deal if they changed their minds and decided to add another finalist, even if it somehow was at the last minute, but was all the deception necessary? It’s such pointless emotional manipulation, both for the finalists and for viewers. This show certainly doesn’t need to construct fake drama, considering the judges burst into tears starting when they put on their mics.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.