03/11/2013 12:49 EDT | Updated 05/11/2013 05:12 EDT

<i>The Next Step</i> Steps It Up


I've been watching dance shows since childhood. Remember Dance Fever, Sha Na Na and Solid Gold? (No? Just me? Sigh. I'm old.) Times may have changed, but I still like me some Dancing With the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, America's Best Dance Crew and Shake It Up on a weekly -- sometimes twice-a-week -- basis.

DWTS may be back next week (with a Shake It Up star in the cast, FYI) but dance show fans can get a head start with Family's new serialized "reality" dance show, The Next Step. Serialized, you ask. Huh? Reality in air quotes? That's right, it's about as realistic as The Hills or any of those Kardashians shows, but that doesn't mean it's any less addictive.

I watched the premiere on Friday night (even though I had a screener of the first four episodes), only because I had just watched the Good Luck Charlie finale (easily, one of the funniest family sitcoms out there), and to be honest, I didn't expect much. But by the time the first episode, "Get the Party Started," had ended, I grabbed the screener and proceeded to watch the next three episodes. Yep, I'm officially a fan.

The Next Step centres on talented young dancers of the elite A Troupe of the Next Step Dance Studio. In the first episode, we meet the main characters and there are a dozen of them, from the skilled performers, to the studio's owner and head choreographer. But who cares about the grown-ups? It's the teenagers who are the stars.

There are the E Girls, a clique of smug, little bitches whose names end with an "e" sound (Stephanie, Riley, Tiffany, Chloe) and they are ruled by Emily (Alexandra Beaton), the resident mean girl, who makes Regina George and Quinn Fabray seem misunderstood. The only other character more annoying than her is her best friend and lap dog, Stephanie (Samantha Grecchi); and while I didn't mind Tiffany (Tamina Pollack-Paris) at first, she bugged me by the end of the fourth episode. Chloe (Jennifer Pappas) and Riley (Brittany Raymond) are, by far, the most normal but both girls are too afraid to stand up to Emily (who also happens to be Riley's sister), which gets a little maddening. Michelle (Victoria Baldesarra) is the new girl, all sweet, nice and naïve -- and completely clueless as to why Emily hates her.

The boys -- James (Trevor Tordjman), West (Lamar Johnson), Eldon (Isaac Lupien) and Daniel (Brennan Clost) -- haven't exactly made an impression, but Eldon is probably the most irksome, only because of his ridiculous crush on Emily.

The cast is comprised of dancers first and foremost, most of them newcomers to acting (which reminds me of the ensemble of the North American version of Skins, albeit much more family-friendly). The technical aspects of the show are done well, the music is fantastic (I can't get the theme song out of my head) and it's clear producers Frank van Keeken (Billable Hours), Ivan Schneeberg and David Fortier (Being Erica) are on the ball since The Next Step has already been sold to BBC Worldwide for syndication. And despite how the scribes have written Emily, the rest of the characters seem much more real and connected.

Clearly, I can't stand Emily, but that's merely because I hate bullies and she hasn't given us one reason to like or understand her. But The Next Step isn't about the characters -- at least, not yet. If you love dance shows and have an appreciation for skilled and dedicated performers, then you'll be hooked. The Next Step's structure may be reality-based, from their rehearsals, to their one-on-one interviews, even to their plotting and in-fighting, but like Glee's New Directions, even though some can't stand others, they have to find a way to come together and bond as a team. Right? RIGHT?! Is it Friday yet? Bring on episode 5!

The Next Step airs Monday to Friday at 7 p.m. ET this March Break, and airs regularly Fridays at 7 p.m. ET on Family.

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