'Dance Moms': Episode 2

Wednesday, 20 July 2011 12:00 AM Written by 

Follow Sharon Eberson's coverage from Comic-Con in San Diego at the POPi blog.

dance_moms2After last week's debut of Lifetime's "Dance Moms" (10 tonight), people came out of the woodwork with claims about the local women featured on the shot-in-Pittsburgh TV train wreck.

Among the assertions:

-- Much of what viewers see was staged.

--The show is selectively edited to show people at their worst.

-- Dance Mom Holly, seemingly the most sensible and least objectionable of the moms, used to work at the Ellis School! And now she's at Winchester-Thurston!

Viewers weighed in here on the blog after the series' premiere last week, mostly lambasting teacher Abby Lee Miller and the mothers who subject their children to Abby, an emotional terrorist whose nasty demeanor brings to mind Ursula the Sea Witch from "The Little Mermaid." (Although I will say, a few of the histrionic comments on last week's post were as over-the-top as the show itself; some viewers seemed to take the show as a personal affront. But if a show has no personal impact, it's not worth working yourself into that much of a lather.)

Ratings-wise, "Dance Moms" doubled the ratings for the time period in some key demos but a Lifetime press release buried the "Dance Moms" ratings beneath news of the performance of "Roseanne's Nuts," its lead-in. While the Roseanne Barr reality show drew 1.6 million viewers, viewed as a disappointment by one ratings guru, "Dance Moms" dropped to 1 million viewers. (One has to wonder what Roseanne would think of "Dance Moms" given all her condemnation of bad mom Casey Anthony.)

My response to a couple of the assertions and a preview of episode two after the jump. ...

To the first assertion from viewers, my response is: Duh, that's what reality shows do. We've long known many reality shows are not real, that producers coax the participants and set up situations for maximum drama. It's entirely possible that Abby Lee Miller is actively involved in plotting such conflict with the show's producers.

As for the selective editing, again, this seems obvious -- up to a point. Participants' dialogue can be spliced together and taken out of context but when you're watching one long take, as in the case of the Minister Dawn's rant last week, there's only so much you can blame on the editing. When a person screams and chases the owner of the dance studio around her own building knowing perfectly well that a camera crew is in tow, that person is only contributing to the coarsening of the culture. That person has to take responsibility for her actions. CGI isn't so good as to make it appear that someone is ranting like a lunatic; she did that on her own.

To the larger issue that anyone might feel tricked by the producers of "Dance Moms," I can only wonder, have you been living under a rock? Do you not read the Post-Gazette or any other source of information? Are you purposefully media illiterate? Given the scrutiny reality TV has received in the past decade, a person can't claim to be surprised by how the shows are edited unless they acknowledge they've had their head in the sand.

So just to make it perfectly clear: NEVER sign a reality show release waiver. The moment you do, you relinquish all rights to claim you've been duped.

Does "Dance Moms" enhance American culture? Of course not. It recalls the ick factor of Jon Benet Ramsey and makes everyone involved look awful. It sets the children up for ridicule, not so much for their behavior, but for the behavior of their mothers.  Dance Moms, the onus of your childrens' psychological trauma is on you.

That said, "Dance Moms" may be TV junk food, but it's well made and addictive trash. It's not boring -- except when the show spends too much time on the dancing and then you want to say, "Get back to the fighting already!" -- but it is absolutely contrived and you can see the seams of the evil-eliciting producers all over the show.

That's especially true in tonight's episode when Abby decides her dancers must wear the skimpiest outfits imagineable to their next competition -- in Lancaster, Pa., Amish country. There's even talk of the girls, some as young as 7, using double-stick lingerie tape. It's difficult to imagine Abby came up with this gambit without some encouragement from producers who wanted to get the reactions of the Dance Moms:

Christi: "They look like prostitots!"

Holly: "I think it's too sexy."

Abby responds to this remark saying, "Can we not use the word sexy? Can we use the word skimpy?" This makes no sense. Is she trying to protect the children from the word "sexy" while dressing them as pedophile bait? Really?

What's more amazing is that the moms, after seeing these outfits, don't pull their children out of the school right then and there. Instead, they allow them to go to Lancaster and perform and then act is if they're surprised with the result.

"This is definitely not a dance I want anyone at my school to see my daughter performimg ever," says Holly, who's identified as a school principal. Does she think saying such a thing to a camera will somehow prevent them from airing the footage? Of course not, it ensures they'll air it.

"When I make decisions for my children, I really try to make it based on what I think is best for my kids," says Christi in the ultimate parent fail moment. Being on a reality show is not in the best interest of anyone's child.

"When a parent opens their mouth, they are ruining their child," Abby asserts. On the contrary. When a parent opens her mouth and says I will not allow my child to be used as a pawn in a television network's attempts to entertain using my bad behavior, that's when they protect their child.

Come back her after tonight's episode. Sign in (or register to sign in) and post your reactions to the show below.

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