Reality check: Abby Lee Miller's show starts Tuesday


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 As usual, Abby Lee Miller was on the move.

Ms. Miller, whose status as a reality television star extends to the Southern Hemisphere (“Dance Moms” has an online following in Australia), was riding a bus to New Jersey en route to yet another competition.

Though she has formed a new, second elite dance group to represent Penn Hills’ Abby Lee Miller Dance Company, most of the original girls who have grown up over four seasons of the Lifetime docu-series are still the planets revolving around Ms. Miller’s sun.

"I can see Chloe [Lukasiak] and Nia [Frazier] and Mackenzie [Ziegler] in the back and Maddie [Ziegler] .... and Kendall [Vertes] is right over there now,“ she said.

New Jersey was a mere hop, skip and jump, compared to the trips Ms. Miller has taken lately. Besides having shot two seasons of ”Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition“ in Los Angeles in less than the past two calendar years, she recently wrapped yet another series.

"Abby’s Studio Rescue” debuts at 9 p.m. Tuesday on Lifetime. The series plays out over seven weeks, and Ms. Miller, who has a book, “Everything I Learned About Life, I Learned in Dance Class,” out July 15, joked that the only free time she has any more is from 2 to 6 a.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

"I feel this new show is my way of helping people now that I’m in a position where I can, and I know a few things about business and studios and dance competitions,“ she said. ”I know the whole deal and I could go out across the country and help people with these problems or help them get a fresh perspective.“

As for mistakes, Ms. Miller admits she’s made a few. She once filed for bankruptcy, was saved by becoming a reality star, and said she learned some hard lessons: ”Don’t put anyone else in charge of the money. Only handle it yourself. Pay all your own bills, yourself. Don’t rely on a family member.

"The mistakes I made as a young teacher [stemmed from being] more concerned about the artistry and not about the business. All of those things were advice I could give to every one of those teachers.“

Episode 1 visits a studio in Warwick, R.I., where the owner of a dance studio is both financially and emotionally tapped out. The building is falling apart, the dancers’ moms are squabbling with her and each other. Enrollment is dropping and the owner -- who has begun avoiding her own studio -- declares, ”The gossip about me amongst the moms is toxic.“

Abby comes to the rescue, arriving not on a white horse, but in a Mercedes-Benz.

Like Fox’s ”Kitchen Nightmares“ with Gordon Ramsay, the script follows a tried-and-true format. Show what’s horribly wrong with a business, bring in an expert and team to fix it, go for the big finish with a grand re-opening or event.

The crew spent about a week in each town for the series.

Ms. Miller said Lifetime has chosen well, noting that viewers might like competition programs, but make-over episodes have a much longer lifespan. They can be watched out of sequence, and repeatedly.

The studios were geographically far flung, from coast to coast.

"In one studio, it was a mother-daughter situation. It wasn’t financial at all, just a power struggle. In another, it wasn’t financial but the dance teacher-owner just could not handle the moms. They were destroying her studio, and I know all about that.

"I could tell her how to nip it in the bud, how to protect herself.”

Ms. Miller‘‍s late mother, Maryen Lorrain Miller, was herself a longtime dance instructor and owned her share of studios over a 60-plus-years career. Ms. Miller said she drew on her mother’s experiences in trying to help the “Studio Rescue” owners.

"I’ve been teaching for 33 years and my mother owned the [Pittsburgh] dance studio prior to that. She was a life member of Dance Masters for over 60 years, so we’ve seen it all, we’ve heard it all, we’ve been through it all, we‘‍ve survived it all.“

Super Mike on ’‍America‘‍s Got Talent’‍

 Although Mike Super has done illusions on network television -- he won NBC‘‍s ”Phenomenon“ competition in 2007 and has appeared on ”Ellen -- auditioning for NBC’‍s “America‘‍s Got Talent” was a new experience.

“I do more than 200 shows a year, so I don’‍t really get nervous. But this was invigorating,” said Mr. Super, who grew up in Clairton and now lives in Peters.

Billing himself as a “mystifyer,” he tried out at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center earlier this spring. His audition episode will run on a special night, Sunday, 9-11 p.m. Should he be favorably reviewed by the judges, it‘‍s possible his segment would run again on a repeat episode of audition highlights two nights later.

Calling from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, where he is performing on a Disney cruise, Mr. Super would only say that he involved Heidi Klum in his act, and “scared the pants off her.”

Fat cars

 Discovery Channel is carrying the fat joke over to the name of its new addition to “Motor Mondays.” Submitted for your approval, “Fat N’ Furious: Rolling Thunder.”

According to press materials, the series that debuts at 10 p.m. June 23 “follows the antics of the hilarious, large-and-in-charge car junkies of Christmas Automotive as they boost business by hunting down left-for-dead cars and bringing them back to life.”

It stars Youngstown, Ohio, owner/operator Tommy Christmas “with a waist size that rivals the Rust Belt itself ...”

Enough already.

Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.


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