01/05/2011 AT 9:30 AM ET
No night is a complete waste if you can bask for a few moments in Paula Adbul’s magic. It comes beaming right out of the television screen, like the white light in Poltergeist. She is a dancer, singer and choreographer, but her real talent – uncovered in seven seasons of American Idol – is as a pearled dispenser of wisdom and comfort. If she sat in a carnival booth I would drop in a gold coin to hear her talk.
Now she has returned as one of the judges and mentors on a new CBS reality competition called Live to Dance. The show, a cross between America’s Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance, is no Idol – in fact, its two hours of auditions Tuesday didn’t add up to much of anything.
Live to Dance, which awards a prize of $500,000, places no limits on age or apparently number of dancers, which allows for a range of talents and styles that is both liberating and rather demented. A trio of former Solid Gold Dancers, now well into the cougar years, was a fun concept. A children’s group costumed as little urchin ghouls was morbid. They looked like the cast of Oliver!, but dead.
Maybe this will all work better once the competition moves into semi-finals and the blur of feet is reduced. Until then, the show gives Paula ample opportunity to be Paula, and if this isn’t as rich an experience as Simon Cowell being Simon Cowell, still I was glad to see her back on TV. To the first contestant, a 9-year-old boy named Jalen, she said, “You are an amazing bright light to this show … You have so much joy coming out of that little face of yours … I just want to squeeze it!” How much more edifying than the praise offered by co-judge Kimberly Wyatt, formerly of the Pussycat Dolls, who said, “You have mad skills, little man.”
Listen to Paula, Kimberly! Gush! Glow! Give!