I've noted recently that reality TV on cable seems to have run out of ideas. "Pawn Stars" is a lot of fun, but - and nothing against the South - do we really need "Cajun Pawn Stars", as well as seemingly several loud "Pawn" rip-offs from generally loud TruTV (whose reality shows, we are reminded on the channel's website, are not reality, but "actuality." Oy.)
A particularly unfortunate sub-genre of reality is the "stage parent" genre, popularized by shows like "Toddlers and Tiaras", a train wreck of a series that had parents "coaching" (if one wants to call it that) through beauty pageants.
"Dance Moms" is just as bad, but it's at least so bizarro-world that I found it rather fascinating. There's so much that's so wrong about this series that it's difficult to know where to begin. I'd say this would make a great "Saturday Night Live" skit, but I'm not sure anything could replicate the twisted reality that these people live in, where dance takes priority over EV-ER-Y-TH-ING else.
The series follows a group of adults (again, if one wants to call them that) and their children who go through what one could call a "dance boot camp" run by harsh (to put it lightly) instructor Abby Lee Miller, who has a temper and whose view is to make the children cry if they're going to cry now instead of when they get out in front of a large audience.
The mothers are a horrifically shrill bunch, pushing their daughters to the point where I have to imagine that there's a volcano of resentment building up within a few of these children - a mother talks about how she doesn't hear appreciation from her children about forcing them to dance, and they don't look like they're overjoyed at the opportunity to go get yelled at when they miss a move in the dance studio.
The adults are a horrific bunch - when they're not being outright pushy to their children, they're being passive-aggressive and remarkably insensitive. They fall all over themselves to get into Miller's dance school, then make comments about Miller or worse. As for Miller, she's no better - she makes Simon Cowell look pleasant by comparison. The young children are presented with no less than a performance pyramid every week - the girls at the bottom are the ones that need to improve.
The ones at the top are the ones that are lucky enough to be yelled at and pushed and bullied by Abby and their parents for a week. Finally, it's not as if these girls are training for classical dance, it looks like some of their dances are to prepare to be a backup dancer for Britney Spears, despite being probably around the high single digits. It's just ... yikes. Very yikes. A child tells their parent that they are hurting, and the parent looks irritated and tells the child to keep practicing. In another scene, a doctor tells a mother that he doesn't think it's a good idea for her daughter to perform that weekend. She looks at him, practically rolls her eyes, and snips, "We have to."
The parents may have different reasons for how they act, but none of them seem remotely aware of how badly they come across. They think they're doing what's best for their children, but they're not - and the way they act even outside the dance school is terrible from the perspective of being a role model to these children. It's hard not to watch this series because these adults are so demented, but it's also not hard to feel sorry for these kids.
I'd say that "Dance Moms" has no positives, no redeeming qualities, but it does - I'd highly recommend parents watch it in an attempt to look at how bad ultra "Stage Parents" look - and how parents desperate to make their kids a star should let their kids go out and find what they want to be a star at, at their own speed.
The set provides the entire first season.
There's Only One Star
Original Airdate: October 5, 2011 The girls audition for the lead in a major music video, but only one girl will have what it takes to fill the role of video starlet.
It All Ends Here
Original Airdate: September 28, 2011 After competing all season, it all boils down to this -- the National Talent Competition.
Cathy Brings It On!
Original Airdate: September 14, 2011 Kelly has had it with Abby not giving her daughters enough rehearsal time, so she covertly hires choreographers to teach Brooke and Paige new solos.
From Ballerinas to Showgirls
Original Airdate: September 7, 2011 Chloe is placed on top of Abby's infamous pyramid for the first time. Not only must she try to remain on top, but she's also under pressure to come in first place.
Love on the Dance Floor
Original Airdate: August 31, 2011 Abby pairs Brooke with a former boyfriend for a big duet number in Orlando, but playing Cupid and choreographer proves to be a tricky combination.
She's a Fighter
Original Airdate: August 24, 2011 Time after time, Holly watches Abby cast her daughter Nia in roles that are uniquely ethnic, from Latin to African American.
Dying to Dance
Original Airdate: August 17, 2011 As a big competition approaches, Christi is determined that her daughter Chloe will do well this time.
When Stars Collide
Original Airdate: August 10, 2011 It's Abby's annual Showcase, an exhibition in which she shows off her accomplished dancers.
Stealing the Show
Original Airdate: August 3, 2011 Abby gives each girl one solo dance for the next competition. However, she gives two solos to her star dancer, Maddie, clearly providing her with an advantage over the others.
Original Airdate: July 27, 2011 Abby's dancers need to win this week's competition to stay in the fight to get to nationals, but chaos ensues when one of the girls threatens to quit.
Original Airdate: July 20, 2011 Abby's attempt to turn up the competition heat blows the audience away with revealing costumes and an inappropriate dance number.
The Competition Begins
Original Airdate: July 13, 2011 Abby reveals big news to her young dance girls -- they'll be working all year to get to the big national competition. If they want to win, they've got to work harder than ever.
VIDEO: "Dance Moms" is presented by Lifetime Home Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is broadcast quality, with reasonable sharpness and detail. A little bit of artifacting occasionally is seen, but the picture otherwise looks smooth and clean. Colors appear bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The series is offered with a crisp, clear stereo soundtrack.
Bonus footage and "Most Outrageous Moments". A word of advice to Lifetime, please, PLEASE have psychologist commentary on the second season set. I bet a team of psychologists would have a field day with this series.
Final Thoughts: "Dance Moms" is yet another series showing the worst side of stage parents. It's a train wreck in the manner of "Toddlers and Tiaras" and in this case the children are pushed by insensitive parents (who also are shrews to each other - that's a whole other level) on one side and a dictator of a teacher on the other. The DVD offers a few minimal extras, as well as fine audio/video quality.