Dance instructor Abby Lee Miller is the most appalling personality on TV.
Sorry, Abby — but that’s not an unreasonable reaction for anyone to have after watching you brutally exhort your little-girl dance pupils to shape up or ship out on Lifetime’s “Dance Moms.”
This series, which introduced Abby and her tyrannical teaching practices to the world just last summer (to dispense now with the device of addressing Abby personally), returns for its second season Tuesday night (Jan. 10) at 9/8c on Lifetime. It’s a new night and time for the series, which last summer aired Wednesday nights at 10/9c, facing off against another show covering similar little-girl territory — TLC’s “Toddlers & Tiaras” (which remains in its Wednesday slot).
Now Abby, her students and their over-the-top stage moms have the kiddie-doc arena all to themselves on Tuesdays, which means you don’t have to be conflicted by trying to decide between “Dance Moms” and “T&T.” (I don’t know about you — but that was a big problem for me last summer!)
As Season Two of “Dance Moms” gets under way, there’s no rest for the weary as Abby’s girls — who were crowned national age-group champions last season — return to the grind of preparing for another competitive dance season.
What’s new this season: As a result of open auditions Abby conducts in Tuesday’s season opener (which I just watched, thanks to Lifetime) for one open slot in the troupe, we get a new dance mom and daughter who will be challenged this season to fit in.
And there’s another storyline that begins to take shape in the season premiere: Dance mom “Cathy,” who clashed so seriously with Abby last season that she and her daughter left Abby’s Pittsburgh dance studio, has opened her own dance school over the border in Ohio. And Cathy herself suggests that she’s gunning for Abby as the two schools are positioned to compete against each other later this season.
So what’s so appalling about Abby? It’s in the way she talks to her students and also what she says to them. For example, in Tuesday’s premiere, she lectures young Nia about Nia’s mother’s work schedule, which results in her absence at dance school and at the competitions, as if Nia, who’s something like 8 years-old, can do anything about that. The lecture seems especially cruel, as does much of the lecturing Abby does.
As for Abby’s shouting matches with the moms, those are over-the-top too, though you can’t blame Abby entirely for these outbursts since the moms are pretty appalling too.
But describing a TV character as “appalling” is not really a statement that’s going to raise any concerns at a TV network or among a show’s producers or stars. In TV Land, “appalling” is almost a compliment, in a way, because it’s a character trait that gets people watching and talking about your show.
It’s also one of those words that demonstrates why TV criticism is a lost cause. Quick story: I once declared in a column that Fox’s “Family Guy” was “the most appalling series on television” and they immediately used the quote in on-air promos and other ads for the show.
Despite its appalling nature — or perhaps because of it — we urge you to check out “Dance Moms,” starting its second season Tuesday night at 9/8c on Lifetime.