Long ago we were watching American Idol and thought to ourselves: Why isn’t there a reality show with all the drama and competition of Idol, but with contestants doing something I actually want to watch, rather than warbling their way through bad impressions of Mariah Carey doing karaoke? And then, God bless MTV, for along came Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew, the finale of which airs live tonight at 10 p.m. If you somehow haven’t been watching, the premise is simple: Real-life dance crews from across the country compete against each other. Yes, it’s that simple — and that awesome.
It’s like You Got Served or Step Up 2 the Streets, except without all the interludes of terrible acting. Or Dancing with the Stars, except without Emmitt Smith doing the waltz in a tuxedo. Instead, you get moments like this one, when the mask-wearing crew Jabbawockeez faced elimination and responded with a high-energy street-dancing master class that ended with a 25-second head spin that had us slack-jawed and rewinding our DVR three times.
The show still has some wrinkles to work out: For starters, it’s been obvious from the beginning which two or three crews were the best, and unlike solo singers, crews aren’t going to improve dramatically in a few weeks. Plus, judge JC Chasez needs to step up and fill the nasty, tell-it-like-it-is Simon role, as adorable fellow judge Shane Sparks has already claimed the Randy Jackson say-the-same-thing-every-time role (“Y’all killed it”) and rapper Lil’ Mama is perfectly cast in the what-in-the-world-is-she-talking-about Paula role. If you missed this season, catch the two best crews square off tonight (our money’s on the Jabbawockeez, after rival crew Status Quo choked out this ill-considered circus performance), and take heart: The show’s been successful enough — the number-one Thursday night cable draw among ages 12-to-34, for what that’s worth — that MTV’s already ordered a second season, to premiere this summer. —Adam Sternbergh