Case Study 62: Dance Academy, Episode 32–“Like No One’s Watching”

Original Airdate: March 20th, 2012 on ABC3

Someone put Fame, Center Stage and Degrassi in a blender and what came out was a teen drama with the appropriately bland name of Dance Academy. Sydney’s National Academy of Dance is the prestigious art school this time around. I watched four episodes for this review, and while Academy manages to jettison its cliched roots early on, that doesn’t mean it gets more interesting. Let’s keep this brief, shall we?

Strengths

  • Alicia Banit. None of the characters are particularly distinctive, though the late addition Ben “Benster” Tickle (Thomas Lacey) possesses a not inconsiderable amount of well-observed douchiness. Despite this, Banit manages to set herself apart and successfully creates the illusion that her character Kat Karamakov has a personality. Here, she gamely tries out for a role as a cheerleader for a rugby team, managing to convey that she’s not super into it despite doing a credibly good job at the audition. She also manages to manufacture some chemistry with the otherwise questionable Ben. Pay those dues, girl!

Weaknesses

  • Too many plots. I blame Seinfeld, Friends, and other hip 90s sitcoms for this. Time was that you’d have at most two plotlines in any given episode of television and if that meant every single character didn’t get an equal share of screentime, too fucking bad. At least in the light-hearted, dynamic world of a sitcom you can still get plenty of laughs if the plot is gossamer-thin, but this doesn’t work so well for a 30 minute drama. With an hour long format you could hammer out a more soapy vibe, but if you were writing a soap opera you’d have to write better plot lines than these. Our heroine Tara (Xenia Goodwin) is feeling insecure about herself because she thinks she’s dating out of her league by hooking up with Christian (Jordan Rodrigues.) Kat’s been chucked out of the Academy and is trying to figure out what her next steps are. Sam (not that Tom Green, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn) is waging an ongoing war about his future with his father (Anthony Cogin, Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga’hoole) and his proxy for this battle is his younger brother Ari (Narek Arman, Tomorrow, When the War Began.) None of this is really very interesting, and like the other episodes I watched, the oxygen-starved gasps of interest that occasionally emerged were quickly muffled with the reemergence of a different boring plotline. My advice here is to take one storyline and let it breathe. I don’t care about Tara and Christian because I have nothing invested in their relationship. I don’t buy for a second that they’re in love, because much as in The Secret Diaries of a Call Girl, the show hasn’t bothered to put in the work. That’s probably because it doesn’t have time to put in the work if we have to worry about two other plot lines. Kat and Sam’s stories are pretty perfunctory, but in other episodes I saw their more interesting plotlines got handled in the same way. Kat’s parents are both successful, experienced professional dancers who bring plenty of baggage to her life as a dancing student. That could be a fascinating angle on the ambitions and futures of the main characters, but there’s no space. There’s also no space for a story about Sam struggling with his sexuality. It’s all the more frustrating because you can see the show fighting to get these stories out in about as much time as a commercial break. It doesn’t work.

Final Judgment: 5/10. Dance Academy is a glass of plain water. It’s beige Soylent sludge. It’s something to fill the gaps between the advertisements. I can’t say I hate it, though—what’s there to hate? Readers, I challenge you to have a feeling about Dance Academy.

NEXT TIME: Did you know Aaron Spelling made a TV adaptation of Vampire: The Masquerade? Come back soon to read about Kindred: The Embraced!

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Case Study 62: Dance Academy, Episode 32–“Like No One’s Watching”