Here’s a holiday surprise I never expected: Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance is returning for its 18th season this spring, dusting off an old judge and debuting yet another new format.
After the 2019 season, the pandemic seemed to have killed its chances of returning, but it was back in summer of 2022, with a new format and new judges Stephen “tWitch” Boss and JoJo Siwa.
In the third judge chair, Leah Remini replaced Matthew Morrison, who was fired two episodes into the season because of his interaction with a contestant.
tWitch died last December at age 40.
While Cat Deeley is once again returning as host, SYTYCD 18 will have new judges.
Back at the judging table will be co-creator Nigel Lythgoe, who didn’t want to leave when he was booted off the judge’s table for season 17.
He will be joined by former Dancing with the Stars pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy and So You Think You Can Dance alum Allison Holker. Allison married to tWitch in 2013, and they had three children.
So You Think You Can Dance alum and all-star Comfort Fedoke will also join the panel for auditions.
The prize for the new season, which will debut in early March, remains $100,000.
SYTYCD 18’s new format
Fox’s reality TV president, Allison Wallach, said “So You Think You Can Dance is television’s preeminent dance competition, and we are thrilled to bring the beloved show back.”
While Cat and Nigel are returning, the show’s format is not. It also has a new showrunner, Daniel Martin, who’s also showrunner of Fox’s I Can See Your Voice and The Real Dirty Dancing, a show I really liked.
Fox describes So You Think You Can Dance’s new format as “reflecting the authentic experience of building a successful career in dance, as so many So You Think You Can Dance alums have.”
Here’s how the season will play out:
Each week, contestants will compete in new, intense dance challenges that will give them a real taste of the career, from performing in a music video or a football halftime show to going toe-to-toe on stage with a Broadway performer. In the end, it will be up to the judges to decide their fate. Eliminations will take place weekly, with the Top 3 finalists competing in the season’s spectacular finale, but only one will win the $100,000 grand prize and the highly coveted title of So You Think You Can Dance champion.
This is definitely a big shift away from the show’s choreographed performances of the past. So many of SYTYCD’s performances were just stunning works of art, and it’ll be sad to lose those.
Then again, that clearly wasn’t working to sustain the series, and I like the idea of putting dancers in real-world scenarios and testing them.
What matters is if the format allows them to showcase their talent and artistry.
The reality TV show itself will change, too, adding what Fox called “new storytelling elements to further capture the authentic ups and downs experienced by professional dancers.” Here’s what we’ll see:
For the first time ever, in addition to the big spectacle dance numbers that So You Think You Can Dance has long been famous for, viewers will get a documentary-style inside look at the contestants’ dynamics, following them throughout the competition as they go through their personal and competitive journeys, including the daily struggles, new relationships, personality clashes and more.
Fox says these changes “reflect and celebrate its consistency in launching illustrious dance careers for its contestants, who can be found in the dance troupes for superstar musical acts, on Broadway stages, on every dance show on TV and beyond.”
While that may be a lofty ambition, the show certainly has produced an impressive group of alumni.
The promise of backstage drama is a little worrying, especially considering Fox’s recent talent competitions have been less interested in the work and more interested in the people (see the increasingly disappointing Lego Masters and the flat Hot Wheels: Ultimate Challenge for examples).
That said, I’m actually excited to see SYTYCD try to shift into a competition that gives us a sense of what those professional dancers’ lives are actually like while also showcasing their talent.