Monday, January 25, 2010

From Ninjaboi: Open Letter to MTV on ways to improve ABDC

Here's the rest of Ninjaboi's letter:
"In Season 4, a ton of people  seriously pissed with you all for going for “diversity” if it meant sacrificing some talent.  Case in point: Neverland being passed up in Season 4. As an entertainment company, (emphasis on the company part), you want to make the most money from the most people.  So you do put in crews that “stand” for a certain ideal, or several crews with whom many types of people can identify with.  I understand that you want to tap that market.  But what happens when there are too many of these crews?  What happens when you get a crew that very well represents an ideal and can draw in viewers because they associate with that crew, but then they don’t deliver the same talent?  Well, you get something like Season 4. There were moments that shone, but it was what many consider a huge embarrassment.

How to fix this?  Quite simply, be more objective.  A lot of people don’t like how the judges are somewhat subjective (Case: Lil Mama on Boogie Bots, or Shane’s “ya’ll smashed it!”).  Objectivity would be a big boost to your credentials.  Granted, it’s hard to be truly objective, especially when there are a load of differing opinions in dance.  But if the method in which the crews were chosen was made a bit more public, then perhaps people would be more willing to understand why their favorite crew didn’t make it.

Another possible idea is to incorporate how well a crew is known.  Barring We Are Heroes, a vast majority of the top crews across the show’s history have been together for a few years before auditioning.  They’ve been competing in competitions and performing at shows.  They have the repertoire of moves and the presence on the stage.  I’m not saying to a crew solely on what they did in the past.  But consider it, if you’re not already.  Maybe assigning point values to certain events, such as World of Dance, Elements X, or Hip Hop International.  Plus, hyped crews by fans on sites like this one already have a strong fanbase.  Think about how we’re all pissed how it’s likely Neverland, Poreotics, and other big crews didn’t make the show.  If you wonder “what about crews that are just trying to get a start?”  True, part of the show’s ideal is to highlight talent that mainstream America may not know about, and seriously help out crews.  Think of how much Jabbawockeez has benefited, and who knew of them before the show?  But think of crews like Illmatic.  Given the time since their season 3 audition, they’ve improved.  A lot.  And are now ripe for the picking as a crew that’s been around.  But if you really want to get an “up and coming crew,” at least make sure they’ve got the talent, not just the potential, of established crews, and more or less just need publicity. And then, take some well-known crews, mixed with some newer crews, and you’re one step in the right direction, so long as they all have talent.

Another thing you need to fix is how you present certain groups.  We’re getting tired of the same old stories, or of playing up drama and such.  I’d rather know about what the crew thought about their routine as they practiced (and only what they practiced) for that week. Maybe you can do it the first week, to show what drives them.  But don’t keep on going back to it. Think to the lash back regarding Vogue Evolution’s behind the scenes video the week of the dance craze challenge.  Also, don’t put crews into stereotypes, it boxes them in.  The drama of ‘It’s a west coast crew thing.”  Or “We’re winning it for the ladies.”  Or something needs to go. Oh – and Quest crew IS NOT A B-BOY CREW.  They may have B-boyers, but they have other stuff too.

And then, there’s the question of the challenges crews receive.  First off, make sure they’re all balanced.  A crew that has to use a prop will have an infinitely more difficult time than a crew that has to dance a certain way, especially if they dance that way already (see Beyonce challenge).  Don’t favor crews with songs that favor them specifically.  If you’re going to do that, at least make it so each crew gets favored one week or something.  Don’t give us challenges that are just, as Shane likes to put it “wack.”  Why not open up the show to suggestions from the fans?  If we can’t directly pick what the next challenge is, at least let us nominate them and credit us with that challenge, or pick a few and have us vote a few weeks in advance.  Heck, why not make a challenge where we vote for the song each crew gets to dance to, to even things out?  If one crew is pushed beyond their comfort zone, push everyone. If one crew more or less gets a bye, then give everyone some slack

Another issue that I said I’d talk about is judging and eliminations.  Like I said, we want some semblance of objectivity and expertise from our judges.  We don’t want vague phrases like “ya’ll were dope.”  Why not do what JC does and critique them more?  Praise them for what they did well.  But then also point out things that they did that could use improving.  Would we have had the mastery that was the Decathlon challenge if Quest didn’t realize they needed to fix their transitions?  Would Massive Monkees have rebounded from the Martial Arts challenge without the judges getting on them?  Had Beat Freaks been more critiqued, could they have avoided their only sloppy performance?  Who knows, but I’m willing to guess that things would turn out differently, for the better, if the crews get constructive criticism.

Going with this, I think that the manner with which we pick which crews go home is flawed.  Yes, we want the decision to lie with America.  And it should.  But consider when crews like Status Quo get past Kaba and Jabbawockeez.  When Rhythm City and Massive Monkees needed to duel it out a week earlier than many thought they should have.  When Southern Movement and Rhythm City had the two best performances when they were in the bottom two. When Afroborike and Beat Freaks gave lackluster performances but were saved because they were in the top by our votes.  Something needs to change.  And what of crews that in the first episode captured some of our hearts but never really had a chance to capitalize on that due to the judge’s decision?

Yes we should still vote every week.  But I don’t think crews should be totally safe from elimination, even when they are voted high by America.  Perhaps instead of the judge’s opinion deciding the fate for the bottom two, we can use a points system… have the judges base their decision on various factors, such as how well they met the challenge, the smoothness of the performance, how well they amazed us, and other factors such as doing what they do best while taking on new risks, given the nature of the challenge.  It may not be much of an improvement, but it’ll at least let us feel a little bit better about the judge’s thought process.  Taking these points for the performance each week, have them accumulate.  Maybe not for the whole season, as crews could get complacent after racking up loads of good performances and slack a little bit.  But maybe for the past two or three episodes or so.  America’s vote can give bonuses to that running score, or remove from it, based on the overall vote totals.  Don’t eliminate anyone the first episode, instead start with the second.  At the end of the night, release the scores for that night for each crew, and the lowest running total for so many episodes has to walk it out, as it shows they haven’t improved, or they really didn’t deliver.  And then, for the final episode, please please please make sure that the results make sense.  No more tricks like cumulative voting.  Don’t try to set something up for an epic showdown between East and West.  And make sure the results make sense for the final two.  Once they’ve completed the last chance challenge, then America can vote how they wish based on that last performance, and that will finally determine the winner.

So that’s it.  Maybe my ideas are flawed because I don’t know enough about running a major media entertainment corporation.  But frankly, I was a very disappointed with the slip-up with last season.  Hopefully it won’t happen again.  Here’s to a better season than any before!"

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