Reality Check: 'Dance Moms' new season begins with usual battles

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It was a new year, a new season and a new hairstyle for Abby Lee Miller when Lifetime's hit reality show "Dance Moms" premiered on Wednesday. It resumes its regular Tuesday night spot next week.

If this show had a subtitle, a la FX's "American Horror Story" (which in itself could be a subtitle for "Dance Moms"), it would be a phrase Ms. Miller drove home to her young charges: "Everyone's replaceable."

That isn't precisely true, however. In the season four opener, the girls get back to work in the Penn Hills studio, fresh off a group win at nationals. The first pyramid reveals that national solo winner Maddie Ziegler is again at the top, and in the course of the next 60 TV minutes, the other moms are told several times that Maddie is irreplaceable but their children are not.

True, tryouts were held in three cities across the U.S. during the summer, but it seems unlikely Lifetime would be willing to support a wholesale ditch of the personalities who have driven the show. Previews for next week's show hint such changes are forthcoming.

Meanwhile, the season premiere follows the Abby Lee Dance Company to Sheer Talent in Wheeling, W.Va. Amid the usual bickering and infighting among moms leading up to it, Holly Hatcher-Frazier says, "Can't we just have a nice start to the season?"


Faithful viewers will recall that in last season's finale, two of the moms got into a drink-throwing fight and were sent home from nationals. In Wheeling, Ms. Miller decides to stir the pot with the group number "Girls Night Out."

Well into the number, she choreographs a brief interlude that features Payton Ackerman and Chloe Lukasiak in a mock fight, echoes of their mothers' tussle in New Orleans. Its relevance is lost on 99.999 percent of the audience and the moms are none too pleased.

Worse, the girls don't perform well and finish third. Ms. Miller is furious: "I haven't groomed these girls since they were babies to get third place!"

Then she announces that next week's competition is in Ohio, which can only mean: Candy Apples.

Thank goodness.

Also on reality TV ...

■ Round 3 of the shot-in-Pittsburgh episodes of Esquire Network's "White Collar Brawlers" featured a Christmas Eve bout between car salesmen Kyle Stewart, 29, and co-worker Cameron McDowell, 25.

At the start of the episode, Mr. Stewart jovially proclaims, "We're going to get killed. We're so out of shape."

The joking dies quickly. Unlike other matchups in the limited-run series, both combatants are pretty unfit when they walk into Jimmy Cvetic's 3rd Avenue Gym. The crusty boxing trainer spares no feelings in telling them they're fat, that they need to do "push backs" from the dinner table, and tells the camera "the only exercise they've ever done is running to the refrigerator and getting a beer."

Mr. Stewart cannot do a situp and while Mr. McDowell does marginally better at the first workout, both have to walk during a run around the block.

"This is a terrible decision," notes Mr. Stewart.

Although neither appears to commit wholeheartedly to the regimen, they make their way through six weeks of training. Both boxers get their licks in, but Mr. McDowell has better stamina and wins the bout.

It's not pretty, but it impresses Mr. Cvetic. Mr. Stewart in particular had been a concern, he said. "Kyle, he surprised me. I expected him to walk in, see the ring and call a taxicab."

This was the final new episode of the series, which ran on Tuesdays.

■ Auditions for Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance?" begin Jan. 13 in Atlanta, with others in Philadelphia (Jan. 20), New Orleans (Jan. 31), Chicago (Feb. 27) and Los Angeles (March 23).

For details and eligibility requirements, go to Applicants must be age 18-30 on the first day of audition registration.

Maria Sciullo: or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.

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