A few weekends ago, a Philadelphia station aired a four-episode marathon of Dancin' on Air, a teen-oriented dance show that aired from 1981-1987 (it was Dance Party USA's predecessor and then sister show). Before and after commercials during this string of very special reruns, they'd cut to various dancers who kept this show going back in the day. One of them said that this was "the reality show of the '80s." That claim sat alongside ones of them still being recognized, 30 years later, in supermarkets, so I was ready to dismiss it along with those. But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed. Many of the ideals present on Dancin' on Air have become reality show dogma. Already strange-looking people have clearly gone out of their way to make themselves look stranger. No discernible talent is necessary to participate. There's a palpable struggle for camera time that is rewarded by outlandishness. In its polite and simple way, Dancin' on Air predicted our cultural adoration of extreme human behavior.
It was also run really weirdly, although I'm not complaining: pop curios (like Taffy's Italo "I Love My Radio") were featured alongside smash hits. Also, concepts the cut-in dance above certainly introduced layers missing from your standard kids-dancing-in-a-room programming. And who doesn't want to know what turns underage children off?
Also, check out this intensity:
Most of them look like they want to rip into each other (or melt each other's faces with their laser eyes). And why are Rich and Peaches so miserable?
Anyway, there were a lot of good people on. Here are my Top 25 people that I saw in those four hours:
This guy brought a basketball! Score!
Someone brought a baby! No score! Unless a trampled baby counts as a score. In that case: score!
"And you're a moonchild!" "And you're a Dancin' on Air dancer...bitch."
Somewhere between the color of her dye job and her roots is the color of her shirt. That is coordination.
That hair never looked good, I assure you. It was enough to make the '80s embarrassed of themselves.
The Carreras are almost enough to do it for me, regardless of braces and legality.
If you grew up near a beach in the '80s, this is what every single person, including the moms, looked like. A bunch of Stepford waves, it was.
It's all about the sunglasses, but I have faith that he was well aware of that.
I just hope that Mike was accepted back then. It couldn't have been easy growing up in more conservative times as a black man with a blonde streak.
16., 15. & 14.
I respect his hustle more than her hair mane, and I really respect her hair mane.
13. & 12.
Look at them, tighter than two smokes in a fresh pack of Virginia Slims.
It would be pretentious of her not to show off braces that were clearly visible, anyway.
How do you even comment on this level of perfection?
That puff had to serve a function, and I just may spend the rest of my life pondering what it was.
I know she's really standard '80s, but her haggard spunk is impressive.
I really wish that Samantha Fox's influence were still as palpable as it was back then. The world would be so much more interesting to look at!
When Jeanne Bice died, so did half of the world population that still wears headbands in this manner. And even though I know how very far apart we are, it helps to think that Maria is still holding it down as that other half.
I'm not even kidding: this is a look worth replicating. I am now in the market for a dancin' coat.
Look, he brought a phone:
But more importantly...
...he brought his head.
I literally cannot tell if the one on the right is a little person or a child mom.
Dig, if you will, a picture. But even if you won't, there's no ignoring Calvin!
One person I did not like was this blonde cheerleader, who went a little too far with the camera hogging:
You know she did whatever they asked of her. I hope she's since grown a backbone, otherwise she's probably carrying around resentment where the pompoms once were.
Oh, and I have gifs. How could I not? I'm not going to be all, "Do you know who I am?" but do you know what I do?
And this is just a really good "Into the Groove" lip-sync:
You know that at least half the "practice and hard work" was devoted to the "At night I lock the door where no one else can see" move.
Finally, you should know that Kelly Ripa was on this show (you can see her in a few of the videos above, too):
I'll never get this image out of my head:
It's totally insane, by the way, that there isn't a show on like this today, given how popular dance music is. People are willing to be more outlandish and weird-looking for the sake of being on camera than ever. Pop culture, what the hell are you thinking?