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?