Is it a reality show? Is it scripted? Should I be laughing, or is this supposed to be serious? And how did they do that?!
Those were a few of my initial thoughts as I tuned in to Family Channel’s newest original series The Next Step. The meta dancing show is taking a page straight from MTV’s reality show handbook, combining the aesthetics of the network’s classic reality shows while openly acknowledging the fact that it’s a serialized drama, with actors playing each written character.
At first I wasn’t exactly sure what The Next Step was, but once I read the show’s synopsis and each character started introducing themselves, it hit me like a brick wall that it was all scripted. You’ve got to appreciate the open acknowledgement of its format, as I feel much more valued with the truth than the “Is it, or isn’t it real?” crap other reality shows pull on its viewers.
The show centres around the Next Step Dance Studio, with Episode 1 (“Get the Party Started”) focused on the auditions to make it into one of 10 open slots for the coveted A-Troupe, the section that gets to compete for regional and national dance titles. We’re also introduced to some classic conventional characters in Episode 1. There’s Emily, the power-hungry mean girl and A-Troupe dance captain for the past two years. Michelle, new to the studio, plays the sweet and kind dancer full of talent that threatens Emily’s power role, setting up some cattiness to come for the rest of the season.
Then there are the E-Girls, the clique of girls whose last names end in E sounds, including Riley, Stephanie, Tiffany, Chloe, and Giselle (they make hers work). The name game reminded me so oh so much of the Ashleys from Disney’s classic cartoon staple Recess, which taught me all I needed to know about elementary school. The E-Girls are supposed to be Emily’s besties, but the clique will be forced to face some friendship reevaluation after the tension grows between Emily and Michelle in the studio.
I’ve only danced recreationally, but I have seen enough dance-themed TV shows to be considered an expert on the format of dance studio drama, and it runs mighty thick at the Next Step Dance Studio. Emily’s little sister, Riley, seems much more level-headed than crazy big sis, and looks to potentially have the hots for break dancer James (which would be a frowned-upon romance by Emily). There will also be some tension in the romance department for Emily and Eldon, a dancer who has been in love with the Queen B since Day 1 at the studio.
The Next Step even has an after show, just like all the very best MTV reality series, like The Hills (I miss you, Dan and Jesse!). The Next Step After Show is said to break down the plots of the show, and give viewers a chance to learn some of the dances shown on the show.
Fans of other Disney dancing staples like Shake It Up and the High School Musical series will eat this show up. However, if The Next Step doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you HAVE to tune in at least to see the dolphin call they do in the studio to get everyone’s attention. Seriously. They lift their hands, wave them and make dolphin noises. They even show you how to do it. I nearly spit my water out the first time I saw it — it’s gold.
The Next Step premieres Friday, Mar. 8 at 7 p.m. ET on Family Channel, and check out The Next Step After Show after every new episode online at family.ca/thenextstep.