You can tell, just from the title, that Fuse TV’s “Pants Off Dance Off” achieves a Zen-like level of simplicity and stupidity that many TV shows strive for, but few truly attain.
Boasting a concept reductive enough for a weekly community access cable show, “Pants Off Dance Off” recruits people off the street to, well, take their pants off. While the show’s single camera remains locked down and wide-eyed, contestants (such as they are) perform amateur stripteases in front of a blue screen upon which is projected a booty-shaking music video of their choosing. The best (or scariest or most entertaining) stripper wins some cash. That’s pretty much it. No set. No studio audience. No script.
Contestants run the gamut: young, old, fat, skinny, male, female, midget, whatever. Some wear costumes to jazz things up. Some wear masks to hide their identity. All give running commentary about how liberating it is to get naked on television. In true “interactive” fashion, viewers (who vote on the show’s nightly winner) are encouraged to send in their comments via the show’s online chat link or through text messaging. The comments scroll CNN-style across the bottom of the screen. Occasionally, the show’s “weekly host” (normally some sort of sarcastic blonde babe) pops in with a snarky non sequitur.
If you think about it (not something “Pants Off Dance Off” encourages), there is a certain egalitarian spirit to the show’s sexuality. This ain’t like spending an afternoon at the Peppermint Rhino. Most of these folks aren’t particularly coordinated, and few are Maxim cover material. Still, there is a freshness to the show’s “anything goes” spirit and an underlying naughtiness to its celebration of the girl/boy next door. “Hey, everybody’s sexy in their own freakish way!” the show seems to say. Of course, it does occasionally cross over into the realm of terrifying, as when a chick shows up in a clown costume and shakes her balloons to some ’80s-era hair metal.
Perhaps disappointingly (or maybe gratefully), the show cuts off the routines before anyone actually takes off their BVDs. Viewers are encouraged to log on to the show’s website (www.fuse.com/pants) to see the “full monty.” Rabid perverts with cable connections are cautioned that even though the dancers do doff their skivvies online, the videos are still blurred to PG-13 standards.
Watching “Pants Off Dance Off” is a similar experience to watching the soothing blue scroll of the TV Guide Channel or zoning out to the “Little Giant Ladder System” infomercial for the third time or sitting slack-jawed as CCC 27’s “Rock ’n Roll & Country Music” occurs before your unbelieving eyes. It is, on a certain fundamental level, perfect television--a synthesis of all things dumb and reductive and mind-numbing and inexplicable and somehow addictive. It is, simply put, the Idiot Box in all its naked glory.