Well, I for one, was not impressed with Katie Holmes. Her singing is average at best, and the routine consisted more of posing than anything else. It's a stretch to call it dancing - she had guys dancing around her in yet another rip off program by Tyce DiOrio, but the most she did was to wiggle her hips. A waste of time - I sat there thinking of how much more they could have done with a real professional dancer. To be blunt, I think she bought her way into the program with the donation to the new charity.
What attracted my attention were the former contestants returning to perform some of the Emmy nominated routines. Those were intriguing to watch and fascinating to see how the dancers had improved (or not) since their time on the show.
While that has been on TV in the US, we've been fortunate enough to have another reality program up here called "Triple Sensation". It involves dancer/singer/actors from 16-26 (though I think all the finalists are under 24) or so, and is all up to the decision of the judges. I find it much more watchable because, thought he performers are much less polished, we don't get all the pretentious fluff off SYTYCD and other mainstream reality shows. They started with auditions, then the top 12 got to work through master classes, with the performers ranked twice in each show and the bottom two eliminated in each show (there are only 6 episodes on CTV, but CTV's cable channel is showing 16 more in depth episodes).
And the coaches are top professionals from dance and theatre, so we get to see real, serious work going on, and the clips don't have the totally made-for-TV feel of SYTYCD. It feels like it's about the performers, not about the coaches/judges going for Emmys and stroking their own egos. Best of all, because there's no silly audience vote, the true talent gets to keep going, not the prettiest or the most popular.
They've also worked on choreography with Desmond Richardson and Sergio Trujillo, opera with Marlena Malas (Julliard), Shakespeare with Andrew Wade, and other coaches have included Cynthia Dale, Adrian Noble, Marvin Hamlisch, Donna Feore, Jeffery Huard, Gillian Lynne, Brian Bedford (Stratford Festival), Mick Napier (Second City Improv), Leah Cherniak (circus), Deborah Lapidus, Thomas Morgan and Larry Moss. The finale will include Jason Alexander and John Kander with numbers from Chicago and Cabaret (so yes, that John Kander).
Many of the final contestants are in or just graduated from the prestigious theatre three-year course at one of the colleges near Toronto. So they are professional in their approach to criticism, but you can see the growth through the process and can see how this show could really propel one of them into professional musical theatre.
Even the host has a joint college degree in education and theatre, and runs an acting studio, so he's knowledgeable and interesting, not another bobble head in high heels.
The top prize, incidentally, is a $150,000 performing arts scholarship. with $25,000 going to the runner up. I think that's actually more than the prize money for SYTYCD, not including any contracts.