If you ask Paula Abdul what she wants from her new dance talent show, “Live to Dance”, premiering this week on Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 PM ET on CBS, she’s quick to say, “I want different. I want new. I want amazing people to live in their unique ability.” CBS wants to stir up water cooler talk with its first foray into TV talent land. The network has had real success with new ventures since last season’s “Mike and Molly” and the reborn “Hawaii Five-O” as well as “Blue Bloods”, but nothing that keeps people asking “Did you see that?” through the week. “Live to Dance” is out to change that. Not everything needs to be different, though. Abdul will return to her middle seat among three judges, and is free to dole out all the nurturing contestants can handle, while also offering stories of lives she has inspired through her nearly 30-years on top, bottom, and in-between, always managing to reinvent herself, yet never losing her unique, quirky identity.
Paula’s story doesn’t need much embellishment to be a heart-tugger. She fell in love with dance at four years old, kissing her TV screen while watching Gene Kelly dance in Singing in the Rain, and proclaiming, “That’s my daddy!” Her own father creatively replied, “I’m your Daddy, but he can be your TV Daddy!” Only months later, she announced with both fists in unison, “I want to be an ENTERTAINER!,” and she hasn’t looked back. She literally beat out hundreds of other hopefuls in 1980 to become a Laker Girl, and within a year, was choreographer for the group. So creative were her dance routines that none other than the Jackson family spotted her in 1984 to work almost exclusively for them onstage and in video. Floods of offers inundated Abdul, and her skills were on display in dance routines for Coming to America, Jerry McGuire, and winning her a string of awards for choreography on “The Tracey Ullman Show”. Her first album, Forever Your Girl, released in 1989, sold more than 7 million copies and spawned hits that retained their height atop the charts for two years, including “Straight Up” and “Opposites Attract”. Her second album, Spellbound, came in 1991, selling 3 million. After disappointing sales of a third album, Head Over Heels, released in 1995 following her divorce from Emelio Estevez in 1994, Paula returned to her focus on choreography.
Abdul’s reign as the “nice judge” on “American Idol” from 2002-2009 endeared her to many, but also made her a favorite media target amidst ever-public clips of some of her more confusing, eccentric, and she defends, never substance-influenced, behaviors. “I’ve never been drunk in my life. I’ve never used any recreational drugs, not through any of my career”. She was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy in 2004, but now says she is free of the need for most medications used to treat the condition. “I am intelligent. I have a brain,” she declares, and she hopes to show her savvy can match her heart in her latest TV project.
“Live to Dance” will feature six of 18 acts weekly, with no age or style restrictions, and two will advance weekly, one being a judges’ choice, and the other determined by audience vote. The ultimate prize of $500,000 is considerably more than Idol’s winnings.
“I’m kooky” Abdul admits. “But what’s so bad about that?” Kooky, talented, and hoping to endear hearts again describe Paula Abdul in 2011.
Sunday Morning telecast, Jan 2, 2011 CBS TV