Whether they're tuning in for the dance prodigies, the epic 'mom fights' or seeing feisty dance coach Abby Lee Miller lay down the law, people have become positively addicted to "Dance Moms."
The reality show about overzealous stage parents and their talented offspring is back for a third season, which premieres New Year's Day. "What a way to kick off the year, watching a bunch of moms fight with their dance teacher," says Miller. "It doesn't get any better than that!"
HuffPost TV Canada chatted with Miller to get her thoughts on everything from career-wrecking 'momagers' to what makes her want to "slit her wrists" to why she doesn't think you're ever too young to be on TV.
Why do you think people are so fascinated by "Dance Moms"?
I have no idea! I hope and pray it's the dancing. I hope it's not the moms fighting.
What do you think the secret to your own success as a dance coach has been?
Oh God, I don't know! [Laughs] I've been doing this for quite some time. I had a successful run before the television show. I have kids working on Broadway, I have kids in Tokyo, Vegas, LA, all successful, all working, all living a very nice lifestyle.
That's interesting. Some people may say dance is a fun hobby but it's not really a career...
Oh God, no, no, no. This is a career. There's a difference between just creating amazing dancers versus employable working dancers. There is a difference.
What are some of the biggest differences?
Well, it's a business. You have to be punctual. You have to have a great work ethic. You have to get along well with others. You have to remember and retain and comprehend the choreography quickly. You have to treat it like it's a job. It's not an after-school activity anymore.
It's interesting you mention that they need to be able to get along with others because we don't always see the moms getting along.
Nope! But the kids do.
Is that pretty typical of dance moms in general?
Well there's a lot of jealousy. I think any activity you have your kids in, you're all trying to live vicariously through them. And you're jealous of the kid that's naturally more talented or has the facility, the body, the genes or the God-given talent. People get jealous of that. And when you get jealousy, just think of it as a disease. They act out and they can't control themselves. I'm kind of the plot master, the puppeteer. I'm the one controlling things, making things happen and they don't like it. They want to be that person. Everybody wants to be me, what can I say? [Laughs]
What's the most ridiculous outburst you've ever seen from a mom throughout your career?
Oh my goodness, there's so many! I just think being jealous of the relationship between their daughter and I. Or moms thinking they can choreograph, 'momeographers.' Moms thinking they can manage their kids' careers. Mary Kate and Ashley [Olsen] have had the same manager since they were infants, and look, they're billionaires. And then you look at the other people whose mothers have taken over their careers and they remain nameless.
On the show, the moms are quite involved. Why do you allow them to be so involved? Do you ever want to tell them to go away?
Absolutely! But the TV show is called "Dance Moms." It was supposed to be about the moms, that was the format of the show. The kids were very minimal, and I was just an on-stage choreographer, I wasn't even on the show. So people ask if the show's scripted and if it's it real. Absolutely it's real. The only huge difference in my life is I don't travel with any moms. I've never brought moms along on any trip we've ever gone on. But because of the television show, it's part of the show. By all means, I tell them to stay out!
Do you think you would still be a dance coach today if you had to travel with moms all the time?
No! I would have slit my wrists years ago.
What's your biggest pet peeve about overzealous dance moms?
Usually the ones with the biggest mouths and the strongest opinions are the worst-paying customers.
Why do you think that is?
Who knows? They can barely pay their bills and they're in there telling me how to do my job.
Even now that you've seen it all, do the outbursts by the moms ever get to you?
They always get to me! Of course. They get to me because they don't know what they're talking about! Some of them can count on one hand how many Broadway shows they've seen. Talk to me, talk to a kid who went to New York how many times and saw a show Friday night, Saturday matinee, Saturday night, Sunday and then went home. I have other kids in my studio that are avid theatergoers, and families that spend $5,000 in a weekend seeing shows. And then you have the moms on the show who are drinking their wine out of a cardboard box and they have never seen a show.
I love that the group has this nemesis of sorts in the form of Cathy. What's the funniest thing Cathy has ever done?
Yeah, she's goofy. I don't think she's really funny. I'm kind of angry with the whole thing because she gets to create her own team. I didn't pick the kids on the show. They've all been in my studio since they were two and a half or three years old. That's non-disputable. But maybe they wouldn't have been the kids that I chose. Maybe I would have switched it up a bit. Who knows? I think the kids are great, and they've been doing a wonderful job and they all get along well, but I also have 13, 14, 17-year-olds that are amazing and should be dancing on national television every week.
How has your life changed since you've become a TV star?
It takes me about two hours to run into Target. People always want a picture. They hem and haw and they can't spit the words out so they waste about five minutes of my time just standing there getting ready for a picture. Just do it! But stalking me all over the mall, that's weird.
We're seeing a lot more shows these days with younger stars. What do you think is too young to be on TV?
Oh man, I don't think you're ever too young. If I could have worked from the time I was born until I was 18 and never had to work again, I would have done it.
Season 3 of "Dance Moms" premieres on Lifetime and Lifetime Canada on Tuesday, January 1st at 9 p.m. EST/PST.