I am often asked who the best reality star of all-time is. Those of you who are familiar with my work know that my answer is usually Survivor‘s Boston Rob, but in recent years I have decided that there are different definitions of what being the ‘best’ reality star truly means.
In terms of pure entertainment, there is absolutely no doubt that it is the star of Dance Moms, Abby Lee Miller. The controversial choreographer and dance company owner is known for her take-no-prisoners teaching style, often chastising and insulting her students in an effort to make them the best dancers that they can be as they compete in various competition shows against other groups, most specifically the Candy Apple’s Dance Center. Abby’s criticisms aren’t just limited to the children under her tutelage. She frequently butts heads with their moms (hence the title of the show) and the interactions between her and Kelly (herself a former student of Miller’s) are honestly jaw-dropping and absolutely hysterical. There are times while watching the show that you almost can’t believe what is happening front of you.
Consider some of Abby’s more poignant lines:
“Girls, what are you doing? Those legs are about as straight as Elton John”
“You save those tears for your pillow.”
“Whenever a kid screws up, I know there’s always a Dance Mom behind it.”
When watching the second season of Dance Moms, it’s clear that Abby’s favorite dancer is Maddie, much to the dismay of the other moms who feel like Abby is playing favorites. Most episodes revolve around each mom thinking that their child either isn’t getting enough attention from Miller, or is getting too much attention by being victimized. While the concept seems similar, it encapsulates everything that is great about reality television. You are promised at least 3-4 screaming arguments in every week, are sure to see at least one mom threaten to pull her daughter from the ALDC and more often than not, see Abby get the last laugh as her strict method usually works. The best part of the shows for me are when Abby uses a pyramid of headshots to tell girls that are all under the age of 14 how they rank before the next competition. If you thought adults reacted badly to being kicked off of talent shows, you haven’t seen anything yet.
It’s a similar story on Miller’s latest show, Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition. The show focuses on 12 dancers, 6 to 13 years old competing in challenges. The winners get to perform in front of the judges for a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School’s Young Dancer Program and take home $100,000. In short, different kids, different but the same Abby.
Both shows work because despite her incredibly tough exterior, you can tell that Abby is really trying to ensure that all the girls succeed. While I am not sure, I believe that Miller’s inherent philosophy is just like a tough football coach’s. If you can make it through practice, the actual game will be easy. It’s a similar story with the controversial choreographer.
I had the chance to catch up with Miller on Sunday as she was in town for a workshop.
Check it out!
Dance Moms and Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition air Tuesdays on Lifetime Canada beginning at 8 p.m. Tonight’s Dance Moms will be the first part of a two-part reunion show. The second part will air on December 4..
Murtz Jaffer is the world's foremost reality television expert and was the host of Reality Obsessed which aired on the TVTropolis and Global Reality Channels in Canada. He has professional writing experience at the Toronto Sun, National Post, TV Guide Canada, TOROMagazine.com and was a former producer at Entertainment Tonight Canada. He was also the editor at Weekendtrips.com.