Spoilers ahead for So You Think You Can Dance Season 17 through June 29.
So You Think You Can Dance finally returned back in May after more than two years off, but it wasn’t exactly the same show in Season 17 that fans last saw in September of 2019. Although host Cat Deeley was back, judges Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Laurieann Gibson, and Dominic Sandoval were replaced by Stephen “tWitch” Boss, JoJo Siwa, and Matthew Morrison before Morrison himself was replaced by Leah Remini. The change in judges might not be the shift that packs the most punch, however, as seems clear by this point in Season 17. The biggest possible game-changer for choosing “America’s Favorite Dancer” this time around? The audience vote.
Or more specifically, the studio audience vote. For the first time in the history of the series, only the studio audience is able to vote for which dancers should get to stay in the competition and remain in the running for the title of “America’s Favorite Dancer.” In previous seasons, viewers could vote from home, similar to the format used in hit competition shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent, making SYTYCD fandom an interactive experience and guaranteeing that the winner truly earned that title.
But with only the people in the studio audience voting, is it really fair to say that the winner is “America’s Favorite Dancer” compared to the voting system in the first sixteen seasons? I’ll admit that I was undecided about the change in voting when it was announced, as The Masked Singer proved that selecting winners via studio audience votes works well enough, and it was possible that SYTYCD‘s changed format had to do with pandemic production challenges, so I gave the benefit of the doubt.
At the same time, other shows – including the aforementioned American Idol and America’s Got Talent – have gone back to viewers voting from home, and even another dancing show went more or less back to normal, as SYTYCD judge JoJo Siwa can attest after her time on Dancing with the Stars! After some episodes of the new voting system, I’m ready to join those who already decided that they weren’t the biggest fans of only the studio audience getting to vote. This show isn’t The Masked Singer, after all, and when the title of “America’s Favorite Dancer” is up for grabs, it feels like more people than those who get to attend a taping should get to vote.
Season 17 has been pretty divisive among longtime fans on the whole once the show finally returned after its extended hiatus. Viewers questioned new judge Leah Remini’s dance expertise after she was brought in to replace experienced dancer Matthew Morrison, with fellow judges tWitch and Siwa coming out to praise her. Siwa also had to respond to questions about her dance expertise, resulting in a truth bomb from the former Dance Moms star.
tWitch – who is the only Season 17 judge with actual SYTYCD experience after appearing as a dancer on the show – had to respond to fan complaints as well. With all the changes in the season before the reveal in the 300th episode that the voting would be in-studio rather than in the hands of viewers from home, perhaps it’s not surprising that fans have had some strong opinions. I’m willing to wait and see how the rest of the season goes, and whether changes will be made again if the show is renewed for Season 18.
Tune in to Fox on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET in the 2022 TV premiere schedule to catch new episodes of So You Think You Can Dance. The top ten dancers have been whittled down to the top eight as of the latest episode, and the competition is fierce.