Just when I thought I had better things to do with my time during the non-summer months, along come the Aussies with their own version of So You Think You Can Dance.

The show is an exact clone of the US version, employing the identical formula for auditioning and eliminating dancers. Cat Deeley has been replaced by a woman with an impossibly long last name and a propensity for hugging people, Natalie Bassingthwaighte. There are three judges—a young hip hop type (Dan Karaty clone), Nigel Lythgoe’s wife Bonnie who has got to have made the greatest quantity of inane comments I have ever heard in my life (combo of Nigel and Mary), and some other guy with spiky blond hair who seems to be the only one who makes any true critiques of the dancers (male Mia Michaels).

The audition process and subsequent choice of top 20 dancers seems to employ the same formula as the US version as well—a preference for acrobatic types, blondes with endless expanses of abs, a couple sexy ballroom types, and some quirky b-boys and girls. There are some things unique to Australia, such as dancers that are influenced by traditional Aboriginal and Maori dance styles.

I don’t feel compelled to talk about any particular dancer or result thus far in the season (I’ve seen the first seven episodes so far). What I’ve really taken away, all other variables being equal since the show’s formula is exactly the same, is how similar Australian society is to ours. It’s like a control group study where all variables are equal, save one. You could do all sorts of interesting sociological studies based on your viewing of the application of the same TV show formula in different cultures!

It’s a multicultural society with a large influx of immigration from around the world and particularly the surrounding regions, resulting in multi-cultural and multi-lingual families and communities. The country is vast, just like the US, and from seeing the different auditioners in the various cities you could really get a sense of some of the regional differences. I know very little about Australia and have never been there, but based on watching this show I get the sense that Melbourne is their San Francisco/Austin (culture, creativity, arts, individualism, music), Brisbane is Orange County (or LA without the movie industry), Adelaide is Dallas (not too many cultural opportunities, perhaps), and Sydney is of course New York

Re-reading this, I feel like I’m just trying to impose my American worldview on Australia. However, as I start to get into the show and invested in some of the dancers, it is fun to find our areas of commonality. I think one reason many of us take guilty pleasure in these reality shows is that we can relate on some level to the people in them.

If you’re curious to see video from Australian SYTYCD and get more specific updates and commentary, Blogging SYTYCD is doing a great job of covering it.

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