Penn Hills-set popular reality show 'Dance Moms' enjoyed a crazy first year

TV Review


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Lifetime's "Dance Moms," largely set at a Penn Hills dance studio run by Abby Lee Miller, has its first-season finale at 10 p.m. Wednesday on the heels of the show's renewal for a second season.

In many ways, the series front-loaded the drama, especially with scenes of crazy "Minister Dawn" chasing Abby around the dance studio, making a fool of herself, and even coming back for a second episode later in the season. Producers must have been over the moon with that development.

"Dance Moms" didn't really give Pittsburgh a bad name. Sure, there were a few beauty shots and an episode where some of the moms were shown trying to recruit an audience for a dance show while wandering Walnut Street in Shadyside, but mostly the only Pittsburghers who looked awful were those on the show. We're talking strictly self-inflicted wounds, from Abby's stubborn inability to see beyond herself and her own desires to the mommies who sometimes get drunk at a hotel bar while their children hoof it up.

'Dance Moms'

When: 10 p.m. Wednesday, Lifetime.

Starring: Abby Lee Miller.

Wednesday's season finale -- mostly set in Hollywood with one quick shot of a graffitied face of Andy Warhol on the side of a building (what do we think he would make of this show and reality TV in general?) -- is more of a ho-hum affair.

Melissa continues to be the pushiest stage mom ("I will do anything to help Maddie become a star!" she declares on behalf of her daughter) and the other moms continue to get annoyed that Maddie gets all the attention and their daughters are left on the sidelines.

"We are a bunch of moms with kids from Pittsburgh, how did we end up here?" Christi marvels after their girls are selected to appear in the music video for a supposed rising pop star named Lux. It's obvious how she got there: It wasn't luck or talent, it was the "Dance Mom" producers pulling strings in order to create a story line.

"Here we are in Hollywood and there's all these wonderful opportunities we don't get in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania," Abby says. Without the "Dance Moms" producers, they may not get these opportunities in Hollywood either.

What's most shocking about "Dance Moms" is just how contrived it quickly became. You can see the producers' fingerprints on everything in the show, especially the manufactured conflict involving the Dance Mom from Ohio, Kathy. Where the Minister Dawn drama felt at least a little real, the Kathy subplot felt completely manufactured. And that's not good reality TV. (To be clear, when I say "good reality TV," I mean entertaining bad TV with no socially redeeming value.)

Other highlights/lowlights from season one:

• Abby appears to have no self-awareness whatsoever. She listens to no one around her and loves to rule through yelling and intimidation. But her most aggressively annoying trait is this weird double take she does whenever she's angry or confronts something she sees as outrageous.

• Dance Mom Kelly looks a little bit like KDKA-TV morning anchor Jennifer Antkowiak. It's most amusing when she gets angry and her inner yinzer accent comes rushing out.

• It was shocking to learn last week that ALL the Dance Moms will be back for season two. It really seemed like Holly, the seemingly smartest and most self-possessed Dance Mom, would have the intelligence to flee once she realized how the show's "characters" would be made to appear on TV. Perhaps she must have missed the sign on the wall of Abby's studio that says, "If you make a mistake, admit it, learn from it and never repeat it."


A version of this story first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.


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