The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: A Terrific Trio

It’s been a while since I’ve written from a dancer’s/choreographer’s perspective on here, and I’ve missed it. Few things in my life bring me more joy than combining my two passions: dance and writing. I knew it was only a matter of time before this season of Dancing with the Stars made its way into one of these posts—it’s been a phenomenal season with one of the most talented and charismatic casts in recent memory. I just needed the perfect routine to inspire me.

And then two Disney Channel boys teamed up with a creative choreographer, and I had no doubt what I was going to write about this week.

I dare you to watch that without dancing in your seat and smiling from ear to ear. It’s impossible. The joy this combination of dancers—Corbin Bleu, Lindsay Arnold, and Jordan Fisher—radiates is infectious, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen people look like they’re having more fun on the Dancing with the Stars dance floor.

I know it’s a weird thing to say, but this routine made me cry the first time I watched it. There’s something moving and magical about watching people having so much fun doing what they love. The joy of performing is something I’ve never been able to accurately describe, so I love those rare moments when I can point to a performance and say, “That’s it. That’s what it feels like.” This was one of those moments. It brought me back to my days as a competitive dancer, stepping onstage to perform a routine you’re 100% confident in with people you love dancing with. Every so often as a dancer, you’re part of a routine you know is special from Day One, and when you know you’re performing it well on the biggest stage, everything about you radiates happiness: your body language, your facial expressions, the sharpness of your movements, your eye contact with your audience…You can tell when a dancer knows they’re on, and I’ve never seen three people on this show as on as these three were in this routine.

I could go on and on about the technical brilliance of this trio—the way Lindsay’s choreography flowed and seamlessly utilized everyone’s strengths, the tricks, the rhythms—but what made this dance were the smiles all three dancers had the whole time. Dancing has always made me happier than anything else—yes, even happier than writing—and it warms my heart whenever I get to see other people find joy in it, too, and project that joy for everyone watching.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week? 

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NGN’s Best of 2015: TV Moments

Our latest entry in NGN’s Best of 2015 series is all about the magic of a moment. A great scene, a great line, or even a great shot can stay with us for an entire year and beyond, and 2015 gave us plenty of amazing television moments to analyze, talk about, and remember for years to come.

Don’t forget to share your favorite TV moments of the year in the comments! And check out the Best of 2015 lists our friends have made over at MGcircles and TVExamined for even more fun!

1. Basement Tooth Extraction (The Americans: Open House)
This might be the single best moment I saw on television not just in 2015, but in my entire TV-watching life. It was all the reasons I recommend The Americans to anyone who loves great television rolled up into one brilliant scene. On the surface, it was a moment showing the ugly realities of life as a spy—with Elizabeth needing Philip to pull out her broken tooth because dental offices were told to be on the lookout for a woman looking like her. But what could have been just a gruesome moment was actually a scene of remarkable intimacy—a look at what it means to trust your spouse enough to be completely vulnerable with them in the most brutal way imaginable. Thanks to brilliant performances from Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell (I’ve never seen eye contact express so much.) and stunning direction from Thomas Schlamme, a dental procedure became the best love scene I saw on TV this year.

2. A Parks Department Reunion (Parks and Recreation: One Last Ride)
All good things must come to an end. And if Parks and Rec had to end, this is how I wanted it to happen: one final scene in the Pawnee Parks Department offices, with every love of Leslie’s life getting its time to shine—her friends, her beautiful tropical fish, her husband, and her career. Whether it was Leslie dropping everything to hug Ann or Ben announcing that Leslie was running for governor because it had always been her dream, this was a scene filled with love, light, and everything that has always made Parks and Rec feel good. This was a scene designed to spread happiness on a show designed to spread happiness, and it was the perfect way to say goodbye.

3. “I am not nothing!” (Once Upon a Time: Nimue)
The best fairytales are meant to teach us lessons we can carry into our own lives, and that’s exactly what happened when Once Upon a Time showed us Emma Swan facing the call of the darkness. When she was tempted with power that would allow her to stop being “nothing,” something inside her snapped, and the strongest version of Emma rose to the surface. “I am not nothing! I was never nothing,” she told the darkness, reminding us all that we have the power to push back against the negative voices in our own head telling us we’re nothing; we can all be our own heroes by choosing to love ourselves and believe in ourselves. It was the most empowering moment on television in 2015, and it’s one I know I’ll draw strength from in my own life for many years to come.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (11/22 – 11/29)

I hope all of you who celebrated Thanksgiving this week had a beautiful day, and I hope the start of the holiday season fills you with joy, love, and peace. 

A relatively light week in television started on Sunday with a beautiful episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that introduced us to Terry’s new baby girl and Jake’s new goddaughter, as well as an episode of The Good Wife that featured Kelly Bishop coming to play with this talented cast of actors in a showcase hour for Diane. On Monday, big changes and huge revelations were in store for nearly every character on Jane the Virgin, and Castle and Beckett reached a place of honesty and understanding on Castle. In addition, Monday also featured the first part of the Dancing with the Stars finale, which concluded on Tuesday with Bindi Irwin being crowned the winner. Finally, Thanksgiving Day gave us the always entertaining Macy’s Parade, as well as one of my personal favorite holiday traditions: the National Dog Show.

It was hard to choose between the two most joyful moments I saw on television this week. On Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the birth of Terry’s daughter and Jake’s first time seeing her showcased just how much nuance and subtle emotional depth Andy Samberg has brought to this role. And seeing the way the whole team came together at the hospital reminded me of Parks and Recreation, which is the highest compliment I can give a television show. It made me cry, which is a true sign of a winning TV moment.

However, nothing could top the beauty and vulnerability (and the tears) on display during the first night of the Dancing with the Stars finale. While the lovely Gissane over at MGcircles honored Bindi Irwin’s strength and spirit better than I ever could, I would be remiss without writing about why her freestyle touched my heart so deeply.

For many years as a dancer and dance teacher, I’ve seen the way dance can help people express emotions that are difficult to reach with words. And that’s what’s so special about what Bindi and Derek brought to the stage in their freestyle: They showed the world the way dance can bring healing, express hope, and move everyone who experiences it. But even more than showing the power of dance, that routine showed the power of positivity in the face of pain. Bindi suffered such a great loss so young, but instead of using that loss to turn her into someone cold and afraid to open her heart, she became a beacon of light—a symbol that life can be beautiful again even after loss, as long as we choose to find the beauty.

Bindi has become a true inspiration for so many—myself included. Her big heart shines through in her dancing, and her generous spirit is mature beyond her years. And Derek’s ability to honor those things that make her special in her routines shows just how brilliant he is as a choreographer but also how attentive he is as a partner. It’s been wonderful to watch him grow from basking in her light, too. We’re all better for having watched Bindi Irwin dance this season, and I’m certainly going to miss having her on my television each week.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (11/1 – 11/8)

This was a slightly lighter week than normal for my TV viewing schedule, thanks to some World Series baseball, the CMA Awards, and my choice not to watch Saturday Night Live last night. That gave me some time to start Aziz Ansari’s Master of None on Netflix. I’m halfway through the first season’s 10 episodes, and I already want to go back and re-watch “Parents” about 10 more times. It also gave me a chance to watch the early streaming of the pilot of Starz’s new series Flesh and Bone, which was everything my high expectations were hoping it would be.

As far as my normal TV schedule goes, Sunday featured an episode of Once Upon a Time that put the focus on Belle (and Rumplestiltskin, but I was far happier to see the spotlight on Belle, to be honest), as well as an episode of The Good Wife that reminded me why I’ve had a crush on Jeffrey Dean Morgan for almost a decade. On Monday, Supergirl continued bring some entertaining action to the start of my week. Also, the contestants paid tribute to people they admire on Dancing with the Stars, and the dancing fun continued over on Jane the Virgin. (Although it was less fun to feel my heart break over the latest twist in what’s probably the only good love triangle on TV.) Finally, Tuesday’s episode of The Muppets brought Kristin Chenoweth into the mix, Fresh Off the Boat tackled the topic of representation in great way, and The Flash made me love Patty Spivot and her adorable relationship with Barry more than ever.

Looking back, there was a lot of dancing on TV this week, and I loved all of it. However, no dance made me feel more deeply than Nick and Sharna’s contemporary performance on Dancing with the Stars. Everything about it was beautiful: the song (“Can’t Help Falling in Love with You”—a personal favorite of mine), the choreography (Sharna is doing amazing work this season.), and the execution (Nick looked like a real dancer out there in those side-by-side sections.) But what I’ll remember most about that dance was the emotion Nick and Sharna poured into it. The dance was dedicated to Nick’s wife and the baby they’re going to have, and the love the came through in every moment of that dance was stunning. It was such a vulnerable, honest moment for Nick, and it showed me how much Sharna cares about her partner and telling his story. This performance is what dance is at its best—it’s an expression of all the things you feel but can’t say with words; it’s emotion and passion and total honesty. It’s a thing of true beauty, and I’ll never get tired of watching it.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/20 – 9/27)

This was the week Fall TV really kicked into high gear, and it was as fun and exciting as I’d hoped it would be. I already covered Sunday’s Emmys in last week’s Best Thing on TV post, but I’ll say that I’m still re-watching Viola Davis’s speech a week later. On Monday, Dancing with the Stars showcased the hometowns of its celebrities, and that was followed by a bold season premiere of Castle. Tuesday gave us a charming series premiere of The Muppets, a hilarious return for Fresh Off the Boat, and another strong episode of Dancing with the Stars—this time focusing on the stories behind its professional dancers. Tuesday also featured an episode of The Mindy Project that introduced an adorable new character and made me fall in love with Danny all over again. On Wednesday, Black-ish tackled a controversial topic in a great way, and Nashville balanced hope (Rayna and Deacon’s continuing love story) and heartbreak (all things Juliette) in its season premiere.

There were so many great moments on the scripted shows I watched this week—from Danny helping Mindy through her contractions to the introduction of the “three men and a baby” story on Nashville. However, my favorite moment of the week came from the world of reality television, and that was Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess’s foxtrot on Dancing with the Stars.

I love nothing more on television than good partnerships, and that’s what this dance was all about. During what was clearly an emotional dance for Sharna (She was dancing for her father and grandmother, who can’t ever travel to see her dance because of health concerns.), Nick was there for her every step of the way. From Nick’s little nod at the beginning to the solid, strong way he partnered Sharna throughout the routine, it was clear he was dancing this for her, and it elevated his dancing to new heights. It’s not often that a dance on this show genuinely moves me this early into the competition, but that’s exactly what this one did.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (11/23 – 11/30)

This holiday week in television began on Sunday with another fun episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and a very emotional midseason finale of The Good Wife. On Monday, a champion was crowned on Dancing with the Stars, and Esposito found himself in the middle of a hostage situation on Castle. Tuesday featured another Thanksgiving celebrated by the gang on New Girl and another exploration of Danny’s relationship with his mom on The Mindy Project. And, of course, with Thanksgiving comes the TV trifecta of the Macy’s Parade, the National Dog Show, and plenty of fun football games.

In a week that celebrates the things we’re thankful for, one thing I’m thankful for is the amount of dancing I get to see on TV. I don’t talk about my love for Dancing with the Stars a lot on here, but I’ve been a devoted fan of the show since its first seasons. And this season, Alfonso Ribeiro captured my heart like very few contestants have. His freestyle with Witney perfectly summed up everything I loved about watching him dance: his pure talent, his feel for the music, and his innate sense of joy. I love when you can see in someone’s body language and stage presence how happy dance makes them, and that kind of enthusiasm for dance was written all over this routine.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (5/19 – 5/26)

As this TV season continued to draw to a close, this week gave us more finales and episodes featuring big moments that will surely be remembered for a long time. Game of Thrones featured the first of many important weddings as Sansa married Tyrion, reminding us why Tyrion is such a great character, why Joffrey is such a hated character, and why Sansa is more than deserving of our sympathy and even our admiration for surviving amid such horrid circumstances. Dancing with the Stars ended with perhaps the strongest final four ever. Modern Family ended its season on a high note, with big laughs and big emotional moments. And Nashville‘s finale featured more cliffhangers and dramatic scenes than most shows have in one whole season. 

While there were more than a few fantastic television moments this week, my favorite came from the finale of Dancing with the Stars. As someone who’s been a dancer for 20 years, I watch shows like this (and So You Think You Can Dance) and wait for the one dance every season that moves me to chills and tears because of the raw emotion that mixes with sheer talent to create a truly wonderful example of the best that dance can be on national TV. For this season of DWTS, that dance was Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough’s freestyle performance. While the other choreographers chose to make their freestyle routines loud and splashy, Derek stripped this freestyle down to simply focus on Kellie’s gorgeous lines and wonderful technique. It was a gamble that paid off; the two of them created a true moment of beauty and grace that put tears in my eyes and made me feel proud to be a dancer.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?