Yes, we've all heard about Peak TV this and Peak TV that, but guess what? Suddenly, there sure seems to be nothing to watch these days. The Handmaid’s Tale has come and gone and those of us without self-control have greedily binged the new seasons of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black (both somewhat disappointing). The Leftovers has left for good (sheds single tear) and while the Twin Peaks reboot is everything we could have hoped for, waiting for it to air each week is agonizing.
This would be a good time for some easygoing summer escapism. There's this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race (which in my opinion has been a little spotty) and, of course, The Bachelorette, a dependable pleasure that now, because of its scandalized sister series Bachelor in Paradise, tastes a little off.
But I urge you to consider another option. Be warned: It’s a show with a premise so hokey and judges so vanilla you’ll be embarrassed to admit you enjoy it, but enjoy it you will. I’m talking about World of Dance. Yes, the same NBC dance competition fronted by Jennifer Lopez whose posters you saw wheat-pasted onto a grimy subway wall, but hear me out.
There are many reasons why this show is mindlessly enjoyable, not least of all the actual dancing.
It’s worth watching for J. Lo alone.
Here's a woman whose face deserves to be on television at any given time of year. (I don’t watch her other NBC show, Shades of Blue, but my mom seems to enjoy it). J. Lo isn’t just delivering face and star power. She cries, she stands up and shakes that famous booty, she offers words of wisdom (this week, she told a child dancer to “stay in touch with that little girl with all the hope” and I nearly lost it). Sometimes she even critiques the Latin dancers in Spanish.
The judging panel is rounded out with Ne-Yo and Dancing With the Stars’ Derek Hough, two dudes that would illicit a “meh” but who actually really know what they’re talking about when it comes to dance. All three judges are charismatic without appearing to try too hard, and seem genuinely invested in the competition they’re judging, which raises the stakes.
Speaking of stakes: the stakes are high.
The winner of this thing doesn’t just get 15 minutes of fame and a bogus title, they get a million dollars, and a million dollars makes any reality series more interesting.
Now let’s talk about the dancing.
The judges, as well as host Jenna Dewan Tatum, who showed off her own moves opposite husband Channing in the generational classic Step Up (sidebar: Step Up should definitely have made the Times's top 25 movies of the 21st century list), repeatedly remind us that this is “The Olympics of Dance,” and by god it is. These aren’t just nobodies hitting a televised dance floor for the very first time. These are winners of other dance competition shows (So You Think You Can Dance winner Fik-Shun and America’s Best Dance Crew winner/Master of None guest stars the Jabbawockeez), YouTube sensations (that couple who did the bed dance to Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”), and Beyoncé backup dancers Les Twins. This means that the caliber of dance is unlike any other dance competition show, and, at the end of the day, who doesn’t love watching super-talented people dance?
But the most embarrassing reason to watch World of Dance is the emotional catharsis.
On this program, pretty much every dancer comes with a harrowing backstory—an emotional trauma that only dance can free them from. And because there is a “junior” category, some of these dancers are children. As Dewan Tatum clutches their parents’ hands backstage and the judges tally their scores, it’s impossible not to feel emotionally involved.
So watch it alone, watch it in secret, or watch it with your mom, but just watch this show. Trust us on this one.
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