"What I wanted to try and do this year was to please everybody," he explains. In Season 8, the show will return to the Top 20 finalists format, but introduce the All-Stars partners once the competition has moved to the Top 10 portion. There's no guarantee though that favorites Allison Holker or Twitch will return since the All-Stars won't be chosen until they see which finalists are in the Top 10.
Last year, Fox's reality dancing show narrowed the final competition to a mere Top 11 dancers, who were then partnered with Dance All-Stars. Unfortunately, audiences — and probably judges, too — spent more time watching the All-Stars than focusing on the task at hand: Crowning the Season 7 winner of So You Think You Can Dance.
"A lot of people said they didn't buy that," Lythgoe says of introducing the All-Stars last season. "They wanted to see the interconnection between the — we'll call them amateurs for the sake of the name — but the people had never been in competition before and [viewers] didn't want them just going with an All-Star."
Still, Lythgoe insists pairing the All-Stars with the competitors really "lifted their game immensely" and that "it gave them confidence because they were working with somebody in [their] genre."
Among the other changes this season include bringing back "Hot Tamale Train" screamer Mary Murphy to join Lythgoe as a permanent judge. Murphy battled thyroid cancer and was replaced by choreographer Mia Michaels at the judges' table last year. "I think she's going to be a little quieter this season," Lythgoe jokes. "Evidently, she is only as loud as a small hairdryer now, and not the jet engine she used to be."
Meanwhile, the third judge's seat — filled last season by Adam Shankman, who is now busy directing Rock of Ages — will be a revolving door of guest judges.
Why all the change? "I certainly feel as though I like to keep everybody on their toes," Lythgoe says. "And more importantly, keep the show up-to-date, keep it relevant and keep it entertaining. And if you can continue to do that then I think you maintain a successful show."
As for the dancers, Lythgoe notes there are less formally trained dancers, who he describes as "very, very interesting characters." "We're much more of a street nature. The kids that have come this season... are absolutely brilliant, and they are picking up ballroom and they are managing to do the Viennese Waltz — or the Vietnamese Waltz, as so many of them call it. We want to see something exciting, something that makes us go, 'Wow, that's great.' So, I think that we're delivering this year."
Will you be watching So You Think You Can Dance's return?Watch a sneak peek of the new season: