Discussing the cast of this summer’s So You Think You Can Dance at a Sunday (July 22) TCA panel, several judges discussed the depth of talent, with Mia Michaels going so far as to say that this was the first year she didn’t have a favorite at this stage in the game.
Lythgoe, both a judge and producer on SYTYCD and a producer on Idol, notes that part of the group’s magic is the combination of talent and personalities, leading into …
"I think also we realize that we made such mistakes on Idol last season that we didn’t really show the personalities of the people," Lythgoe says. "We were so engrossed with the mentors that were particularly good last season, and we focused on their stories and not really on the Melindas. And we didn’t know them as much as we knew the Kelly Picklers from the season before. So this [SYTYCD] season, we’ve really gone out of our way to focus on the competitors’ thoughts, their feelings, their emotions, so that we’re all attached to them a little more than if they were just dance competitors, and I think that’s affected us all. We can hear them laugh. We can hear them smile. We can see what makes them tick and they’re just little emotional hooks that come out and pull us into them."
While Liguori tried to shrug off suggestions that the softer-than-normal second half of the season was just expected ebb-and-flow for a season in its sixth year, Lythgoe didn’t shy away from admitting that changes are part of the process.
"We always look and tinker with the program, as you know. We never sit on our laurels and think, oh, God, we were so good last year, we needn’t do anything," Lythgoe says. "We will certainly look at that. We certainly do want to increase the emotional hooks for the audience next year, yes. I’d like to know the contestants an awful lot better, and I’d like our top 12 next season to be extremely strong, as strong as the contestants on So You Think You Can Dance are."
Lythgoe wouldn’t go so far, though, as to say that producers would favor contestants with relatable backstories from the earliest audition stages.
"I hope not," he laughs. "I think there is enough talent with enough great stories to warrant the fact that we are basing it on talent. You know, there isn’t a Sanjaya here. That’s all."
He’s gesturing back at the SYTYCD cast as Sanjaya-free, but he’s quick to backtrack.
"Listen, I’m not going to knock Sanjaya," he says. "I think Sanjaya helped the last season very well when we were sort of going down and everyone’s going, "Oh, the talent’s not as good this year." Sanjaya came through for us. No one needs to alter their hair on this program for any reason."